At last, we cruised into the city of Cochin after about 3 hours’ drive from Kottayam with a couple of stopovers on the way. It was an exhilarated feeling as I was getting back to the city after about a quarter of a century. When I look back now, indeed an era has gone by from the time we visited last. Frankly, though, the roads looked familiar but I could not recollect anything or resonate with any milepost or surrounding landmarks. When we had visited last, we were 3 of us i.e. me, Deepee and Shekhar. We had stayed in a hotel at Ernakulum and we used to take a boat to go to the bank branch in Mattancherry daily. There were only a few things which I thought that I clearly remembered one of which was about a Church around beach area that had a grave of Vasco Da Gama on the right side when you enter the church on the extreme corner.
This apart, I did not remember much except for the fact that there is a Synagogue in that area and 25 years back this area was a major spice trade center. In fact, the bank branch whose audit we went for was located right in the middle of various offices of spice traders. The whole street had many godowns from where shipments would be getting loaded or unloaded most of the time. As we would walk through the area, the whole street used to be full of the aroma of various spices. I was now keen to test if my memory has measured up to the test of the time.
As we reached the Jew town, we left the car and decided to explore the area walking. Anyways, most of the explorable places in that area are located on walkable distance. The alleys of Jew Town mostly have antique shops which have an eye-catching collection. It is worth to take a walk through these alleys. If you stop at a shop, I am sure it will be an absorbing experience and you can spend hours. Words of caution, though, if you are running short of time, do not stop and keep moving lest it lures you into opening the purse strings.
Our first destination was Police Museum and International Tourism Police Station both of which are located in the same building near the Jew Street crossing. It did not exist at the time of our earlier visit as it was inaugurated in 2010. The museum has a vast collection of uniforms and many other artefacts like antique pistols, binoculars, rifles, etc. through the history of state's police since the time of Travancore kings. Apart from just being a museum, the tourist police station is a unique one in the country and I presume it is the only one in the country. It offers various services and facilities to foreign tourists. If you are a foreign tourist in India around that region and in need of any help, please reach out to them.
After that we headed towards Jew Street. At the dead end of the street is the Jews Synagogue which is also known as Paradesi Synagogue or Cochin Jews Synagogue or Mattancherry Synagogue. It is the oldest active synagogue in the erstwhile British Empire or the Commonwealth of nations. It was constructed in 1567. In 1968, it had celebrated 400th anniversary which was attended by the then Indian Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi. The synagogue has rich collection of antique items going back to 10th century. Unfortunately, we could not go inside as it was closed being a Sunday.
We spent some time around in the market and moved towards Mattancherry Palace. The Palace is a Portuguese Palace and is also known as Dutch Palace. It was built by Portuguese around the year 1555 and gifted to King of Cochin. The palace now is a museum and houses a huge collection of Kerala mural paintings. These murals are reflective of Hindu Temple art and reflect various scenes and stories form Ramayana. The museum also has a huge collection of portraits of various kings of Cochin as well as artifacts of that era.
After spending an hour inside the museums, we decided to move towards exploring Vasco Da Gama church or St.Francis Church at Fort Kochi. At least, I left the place well contended with a good feeling that I cleared my 1st memory test. However, the most critical test lay ahead.