Is Delhi a friendly city
Arrival in the 11 million city of Delhi: It is approaching midnight, but there is still insane activity at the exit of the international airport. Hundreds of taxi drivers vie for the newcomers from Europe.
It's still very warm, and stuffy air is entering the building from outside. Next to the airport entrance, people torn by poverty and disease lie on boards and sheets. The man from the hotel pick-up service asks you to move on quickly to the parking lot of his minibus. Then it goes towards the city center.
On the road, the right of the fittest applies: truck drivers stubbornly block the outer lanes, every overtaking maneuver has to be announced loudly with the horn. In between, mopeds and motor rickshaws squeeze each other out in terms of noise and emissions.
Backpackers and Cows
The potholes are increasing, the streets are getting narrower. From the side window you can see people sleeping on the dusty floor and on carts, the outlines of cows stand out against the gray-brown walls. Finally the minibus turns into Main Bazaar Road. We have arrived in the Pahar Ganj district. Most backpackers in Delhi end up in the cheap hotels here.
It is already late afternoon when we venture into Main Bazaar Road for the first time in daylight. A tightly packed mess of people, animals and vehicles pushes past countless shops and stalls. After half an hour we are exhausted from the many strange impressions. This is what a culture shock feels like.
Retreat to a restaurant: The conversations of other travelers at the tables next to you can be seen that you feel the same way. For some, the first few hours during and after their arrival were so stressful that they wanted to flee to quiet beaches as quickly as possible. But what is a trip to India without a visit to Delhi? A city in which life pulsates in the midst of a diverse urban landscape in which entire ruling dynasties have left their mark?
We decide to get involved in Delhi. The Namaskar Hotel staff are patient and willing to provide information. They advise against excursions in overcrowded city buses or the time-consuming approach to individual destinations in auto rickshaws.
The feeling of importance
Instead, they recommend renting a tourist taxi including a driver. The excursion destinations can be determined by yourself. The price and the scope of services are of course negotiated in advance, this iron rule must be followed everywhere in India. For around $ 20, you can have a full day cruising all over Delhi.
Early in the morning an elderly man with a mustache and sideburns is waiting in the hotel lobby. He smiles friendly and leads us to his small white car. It is not without pride that he proclaims that in earlier times as a chauffeur in government services he had already brought the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi safely to her destination.
Does he tie us up with a bear in order to still be able to charge a higher price for his services?
He must have read our thoughts, because as proof he shows a photo with a slight yellow tinge, on which he is shown in a snow-white uniform next to a limousine and a number of serious-looking men, some with high turbans, some in officer's uniforms. The photo definitely makes us feel like important personalities from now on. The fact that the driver keeps calling us "Sir" and "Madam" also contributes to this.
The journey first takes us past the famous Red Fort, which was built in the middle of the 17th century directly on the banks of the Yamuna River. The huge outer walls, made of red sandstone, bear witness to the rule of the Mughals of Delhi at that time.
From there it goes north to the Muslim Old Delhi. Old Delhi emerges as an almost inevitable logical consequence of the clash of an oriental city of medieval design with the traffic and population pressure of modern times.
The function of chaos
Some buildings show signs of decay. Life and traffic rage in the narrow bazaar streets. It goes without saying that every niche, no matter how small, is used by a shop, workshop or warehouse. Despite the chaos, everything seems to be working fine.
With the car it only goes at walking pace. Our driver remains astonishingly calm and even hums, while tinny horns are heard everywhere and traders loudly advertise their goods.
In the middle of the labyrinth of houses and narrow streets stands the largest mosque in all of India, Jamia Masjid. Its minarets soar up to 40 meters into the hazy sky of Delhi. Hundreds of pigeons flutter their lanes between them. A large number of people can be found in the interior of the mosque outside of prayer times. It seems as if the sacred building serves as a living room for them.
The further route leads south from Old Delhi to New Delhi, the official capital of India. It forms the greatest imaginable contrast to Old Delhi. Its British builders made every effort to underpin their claim to colonial rule in the truest sense of the word. The layout of the streets even allows Delhi's traffic to shrink to what appears to be normal.
The extremely spacious administration buildings made of yellow sandstone also serve as the official residence of today's Indian government. On the surface, the district looks barren and empty. He lives mainly from his tense story.
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