Aurangabad is famous for a little Taj Mahal, the giant Ellora Caves and an Indian delicacy called Pan. Guess where we headed – into an Aurangabad adventure!
We were sure of stopping in Aurangabad and due to the Couchsurfing contact our friend Amol gave us, we had a wonderful place to stay. A little house filled with life and a homely atmosphere. The inhabitants Nitin and Pooja, their daughter Sneha, their adopted son Vibaug and an old granny with a toothless mischievous smile were so kind and welcoming to us that we formed a true family bond with all of them. Not to mention their super cuddly dogs…
While writing this, I actually miss them a lot and I wish I could be back there in Aurangabad together with them. Laughing at the dinner table, sharing tales and discussing philosophies until very late at night will stay in my memory forever.
A freaking birthday party!
The same is true for the adoptive sons birthday party. India is a bit crazy sometimes and here one could witness it. Around 30 children playing cricket and football outside together with us, screaming and shouting, tense with emotion with every goal. Then those same kids filling up the living room chattering, laughing, joking and celebrating Veibaugs birthday. The whole living room was vibrating with sound.
At one moment Pooja announced the dinner and we helped to serve all those hungry children. Quietness spread. It only lasted for a few moments, while everyone was eating though. We enjoyed self-made Dal, Curry, Gravy, lots of Bathura and a giant chocolate cake. Even though it is hard to say “the best”, this feast might have very well been it – the best food I (or we?) ate in India.
Attention: Flavour bombs!
The original Tara Pan Center and the Pan they offered was definitely among the most unique food we ate as well. Sneha took us there on the last night and introduced us to the world of Pan. Pan is a herb leaf, filled with all manners of sauces, pastes, and ingredients, and thereafter rolled together and foiled with a piece of eatable silver.
Those little rolls are really a mouthful as you are supposed to eat them in one bite. As soon as one starts to chew them, they unleash a fury of different flavors, all competing for attention. I think the faces people make when they first try Pan will range from sheer amazement and surprise to pure disgust. It is definitely special because of its intense and entirely uncommon mix of rich flavors. Sweet, sour, spicy, mint, tea, chocolate, toothpaste – a Pan somehow has it all… crammed into this one punch of a bite.
Another typical Indian “delicacy” we came to love in Aurangabad was freshly prepared sugar cane juice. We had already noticed the hundreds of machines pressing some sticks at the side of the road but we never figured that the stuff they were juicing there was fresh sugar cane. I thought it was some form of oil, nothing eatable at least, so we never asked. Luckily Sneha told us to try some and we got addicted almost immediately.
Sugarcane oh sugarcane…
It was this sweet and cold and simply refreshing drink that one craves for on a hot Indian day. Plus it only cost a couple of cents, so the coming days, we always looked out for the next little hut by the street feeding our addiction. Even better than drinking sugar cane juice though, was getting the whole stick. One could chew on it for hours, got it for free on top of the drink together with an irritated smile of the vendor and it tasted just like the drink. Sweet!
A little Taj Mahal
Venturing out from our home with the rickshaw to the attractions of Aurangabad was definitely memorable as well. The little Taj Mahal with a name (Bibi ka Maqbara?) I could not remember for longer than a few minutes, was really cool. This white building looks deceivingly like the real Taj but has only a fraction of its size. Therefore it is kind of unknown and definitely overlooked by tourists. We had some fun, capturing Taj-Mahal-like pictures – without a giant crowd obstructing the view.
The UNESCO-world heritage site of the Ellora Caves had been closed the first day we came there. It turned out that they close those ancient temples carved into the stone every Tuesday for maintenance purposes. Waiting another day, just to see them seemed worth it and so we came back the next morning. There are actually over 30 different caves – all part of the huge complex but only a few famous ones.
Number 17 is by far the biggest and craziest of them all. Standing there next to a giant temple carved directly out of the stone was just insane. I could only imagine what this ancient structure must have looked like when it was at its prime. When it was still painted in strong colors with people praying all around…
Sadly our Aurangabad adventure came to an end the next day because we needed to continue towards our final destination. Saying goodbye to our family was really hard… I felt sad when we were leaving them in just the same way I felt sad when I left my real family. Sitting in the rickshaw and driving towards another Indian city and more adventures brought back my smile though. I guess that is the crux of traveling. The sadness that comes when leaving loved ones in search of new adventures.