The following morning I asked around for Lucky and he was happy to take us to the Amber Fort (pronounced Amher) and back for 125 Rupees, about $3. As it is early in the morning, the traffic isn’t too bad and we were able to have a relaxing ride to the fort.
As we near the mountain pass where the fort sits, Carol notices elephants on the side of the road. She’s a real sucker for all animals, and the bigger the better. She convinced the driver and I to pull over to feed them. We negotiated with the banana vendor, bought a few bananas, and then fed the huge grey creatures.
I remember a joke that I heard in the 3rd grade. She’s from England so I’m sure she’s never heard it:
Why do Elephants have so many wrinkles?
I don’t know, why?
Have you ever tried to iron one?
She laughs heartily, probably because she didn’t expect such a corny punch line. The elephants are very gentle with their trunks, delicately taking the bananas and then guiding them to their mouths.
Further up the road, we pull over at the base of the mountain to take pictures of the fort we are approached by a junior magician. This little boy is able to make a rock disappear before our eyes. We ask him to do the trick again and again and I was still not able to figure out where he put the rock. He certainly has crafted his trade. We tip him 20 Rupees and continue down the road.
At Amber Fort, the tourists pay a few dollars to ride the elephants to the top of the hill. I don’t like the idea of keeping these majestic creatures around as taxis and Carol agrees so we decided to head up the trail on foot.
The hills around Rajastan are covered in forts and hilltop castles. It reminds me of the coast of Oman and Yemen where every hilltop is covered by a Portuguese fort from the 16th or 15th Century. These forts were built by the Raj, known for their fierce warrior tradition.
The Raj were rarely subdued by the Muslim Moguls or later, by the British rulers. Most of the Raj princes were allowed autonomy within a confederation of states in India. To this day the Raj princes exist in some form while their castles and forts serve as museums. The photo above is shot above the main Palace complex but is still part of the Fort’s defenses. Further down the hill along the hill ridge I could see fortifications that reminded me of the Great Wall of China (below).
At the top of the hill we were able to tour the palace and its gardens. The cool breeze blew through the palace as we enjoyed the view from the top of the hill. Below we could see down into the town and I imagined the Raj Prince as he looked down on his subjects during his reign.
The Palace was decorated in a similar style as the White Palace inside of the Red Fort; small pieces of glass and mirror were embedded into the plaster. This decorative effect is quite beautiful and I imagined what it must look like when it is illuminated by hundreds of candles. Inside the courtyard near the Palace stood lush gardens. The weather was dry and warm and with the brown hills, it reminded me of the hills in California.
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