Time is a four letter word. After every international trip, especially the ones where the husband accompanies me, the one thought that used to hit me as a refrain – I wish I had more time to explore more.
Slow travel as a concept is something that most of the Indian travellers do not understand, yours truly included. We want to explore every bit of the destination. The entire day is almost seized as we visit every attraction mentioned in the trip advisors of the world, photographing monuments or taking selfies and profile pictures. If its not the monuments, then it has to be cruises. And then there is the food, the shopping and the night life. And in between somewhere, we holiday !
During my first trip to Europe, I realized that I was falling into a similar trap. Thankfully my holiday was all about small towns nestled in river valleys rather than the big cities. But when I landed in the latter, I was caught in a tug of war between museums and monuments, cruises and beaches and other attractions. And that is when I discovered slow travel.
And I realized that if one wanted to soak yourself in a destination, then you dont need to see all the sights and hear all the sounds. All you need to do is explore a couple or more based on your interests but chill in a street or a square in the town.And you can discover a city through its streets.
Streets to me, especially have been the window to every destination. It tells me so much about a place that no museum will be able to do so . I spend hours on the streets in every town I visit – in India or abroad. I walk as much as I can or sit in a square and absorb the life around me. In every destination – the streets tell a different story. And you can discover a city through its streets by your observations. Here is what I have seen.
Each street has a different colour. There is grafitti everywhere – some historic like the ones in Belfast, Ireland which have a political flavour or artistic as the wall in Adelaide where everyone can paint. I found interesting ones in Spain as well, but in India, too the paintings on the streets these days have taken a more artistic turn.
Humour in street corners
Tired after a long walk or you feel a bit lost in a new city ? There is plenty of humour in every street. All you need to do is look for sign boards. In India, I can do an entire volume on them. I have found for instance “Hamlet” being offered on the menu in a small eatery in Tamil Nadu. And this one had me in splits in Australia after a long day
Sights and sounds
Walk along a street and each of them is a mini microcosm of the country. Some are wrapped in a leafy fabric, while others show you buildings glittering in the heat. Walk along the streets of Amsterdam and you will get a feel of both.
The tiny streets in Venice are silent as you walk along the cobbled stones while the colourful tiled streets of La Ramblas are bursting with life. The narrow lanes in Melbourne are so filled with charm while the larger than life streets in Manhattan are just that – larger than life. One of my favourites are the streets in Krakow, Poland that burst into a world of nostalgia.
Walk along the streets of Thailand or Cambodia, Turkey or Jordan, London or Paris, Mumbai or Chennai – each of them has a unique sound that echoes with the country.
Statues and fountains
You will never be at a loss for stories in a street. Lores and myths surround every fountain or statue in a town. In Barcelona, i heard that if I drink water from a particular fountain in Las Ramblas, I will be lured to the city again. But this story around the statue of Neptune, the lord of the seas in Gdansk in Poland was so fascinating. The symbol of Gdansk is said to have turned the famous liqueur Goldswasser golden. According to the legend, Neptune, tired of people throwing gold coins in the fountain, hit it so hard with his trident that the gold broke into pieces and formed flakes that filled the liqueur.But what really fascinated me is this – at Mebourne
Markets and stalls
Vegetable markets, souvenir markets, night markets and farmers markets – take a pick. Markets and local stalls run shoulders on these streets with mega malls.And if you still want more colour, walk along Las Ramblas, the street turned boulevard in Barcelona or along the romantic river in Paris, where artists court you. Colour is synonymous with Poland while dark humour is the theme at the German Christmas markets.
You need free entertainment – the streets will showcase some of the most awesome talent available. Magic, music, gags, street plays and acrobatics – I have been simply amazed by the variety of talent that is available on the street. I have seen a few performances in India, especially in Fort Kochi but nothing comes close to the ones abroad. The American artists win hands down
However I heard one of the most romantic songs sung in a street in Spain..see the video here
These are some of my experiences of discovering a city through its streets. What about you ? Have you had any favourite observations ? Or would you prefer exploring the museums to the streets ? If you ask me the man on the street has the last word !
My travel limits are currently limited to south India and wandering across streets is what i do for absorbing the flavour of any new town/city. Sometimes they do reflect stories sometimes define lifestyles of people. I liked the way you narrated and what person in last pic said .
haha..thanks Sayi..Indian streets, especially South India are a treasure house of stories..
Your last image left me with a smile! So agree with you Lakshmi… streets all over the world are fascinating and mirror the cities/towns they belong too in the most interesting manner.
A friend and I backpacked in Morocco for a good 12 long days with no fixed agenda. We had the luxury to spend as much or as little time as we wanted in a city or town. We spent many hours just sitting in cafes watching the world go by. We would be the only women in these street side cafes. 🙂
That sounds like a dream holiday Chaitali..I hope to go to Morocco sometime
Indeed…streets r d mirror of the cities n towns dey belong to. Especially d Indian streets are so full of life, dt one cn spend hours looking at dem n leave with a feeling of experiencing sumthing new. Loved ur post.
Thanks Lalan..yes, Indian streets are a world by themselves
Excellent post and how true! In these times of “Sightseeing trips” we lose out to look for local nuances especially in those areas where tourists seldom go. We miss out to look at the local culture, talk to locals, understand the surroundings. Streets are the best examples. After all, true travel is not sightseeing but to enrich ourselves from what we we see, what we encounter and what we experience in our own way!
Very well articulated Poorna..I couldnt have said it better. Thanks for sharing
I second that! There is no point visiting each and everything in a hush. Rather what one should do is to stop right there and enjoy the bliss at fullest. The world out there is immense; even if we try, we cannot cover the entire world and this is a proven fact. I prefer that kind of subtle journey 🙂
I so agree..