German bakery at Laxman jhula, Rishikesh
Rishikesh has been a stopover for previous trips to Badrinath, Srinagar, Chopta and Ukhimath, therefore quite familiar. Yet, the German bakery, near Laxman jhula was quite a find this time.
Devraj Coffee Corner, comprises of the German bakery and restaurant, plus a well stocked book shop. This book shop turned out to be a great place for me to pick up books on Indology, Ayurveda, spirituality and travel.
The option to pay by credit card further spurred my buying decisions. If customer is king, convenience is magnet for a customer, I say!
Overview from German bakery
A seat by the window, overlooking Laxman jhula, Ganga, and colourful rafts on its currents, found me happy with life. These rafts came from Beasi, Shivpuri and Brahmpuri, some kilometres upriver. My previous stint as a rafter on Ganga from Beasi to Laxman jhula with a lunch break at Shivpuri was still fresh in my mind.
I mean, it is impossible to be up here in the Himalayas (the Shivaliks at Rishikesh, you would correct me) and forget any part of the stay here amidst nature's lap. The rates for rafting are very reasonable, Rs 450 for a 16 km stretch, Rs 350 for a 12 km stretch. No bargaining is neccessary, really.
Rates for rafting at Rishikesh are reasonable - Rs 450 for a 16 km stretch, Rs 350 for a 12 km stretch. No bargaining is neccessary, really
The rafters that I saw from my window seat, tarried a bit as they neared the finish point at Laxman jhula. This was the end of a most wonderful brush with Ganga. Swimming, diving, rafting or bathing in the ice melt of Ganga leaves one nostalgic, no doubt. And nearing the finish line at Laxman jhula does make one want to prolong the stay with Ganga, be the rafters from any country of the world! I checked while chatting up foreigners here at the German bakery.
Vegetarian, of course: Apple Strudle and Cinnamon Roll
My reason to drop in at the bakery was a random check if they had vegetarian goodies. To my delight, every item in the eight-paged menu was completely vegetarian!
Munching on a Cinnamon roll for Rs 20 and later an Apple Strudle for Rs 15, paired with lemon tea made for a perfect midday snack, big one at that! Big mistake too, when there were eight pages of menu items to choose from. Time though was not an issue here. I could wait right here amidst multinational folk and multi-interest books till my stomach rumbled to announce that it was ready for some more great, reasonably priced vegetarian food.
Pizzaz, burgers, pastas, grilled brown bread sandwiches, but all so different from the fast food chain variety... Even yak cheese was available for Rs 30.
Settling for a plate of mushroom chow mein, with a sprinkling of freshly ground pepper I continued my rendevouz with the new Rishikesh that I had found this time. It was admittedly strange that having arrived in Rishikesh hours ago, I had still not walked across Laxman jhula to go down and greet Ganga, my first love. Probably my window seat at the bakery didn't allow me to feel distant from Ganga. Yes that was it.
Old, familiar Rishikesh
Even so, a walk down the Laxman jhula was mandatory. And so was window shopping :-) I went looking for pearl and gemstone jewellery, old coins, handmade shawls from Mana village near Badrinath, books at Gita Press's bookshop, and a lot more.
More vegetarian food
Gita Press is a subsidiary of Gita bhawan, an old haunt famous for desi ghee puri and potato curry, dalmoth, gulab jamun and other piping hot vegetarian food. The place had lost its dark dingy feel to a steel and PVC look.
The food on the other hand had lost its desi ghee I guess, or some items had at least. Too much chilly in the potato curry, good for most people, but sadly, not me. Besides I was quite satiated by the mushroom chow mein feast at the German bakery. Had walked quite a bit since then yet couldn't relish the old, familiar food at Gita bhawan.
Just before Ram jhula came around the corner, Chotiwala restaurant, whose namesakes are easy to find elsewhere too, showed up at just the spot where it has been since my childhood visits here with family. The difference? Grander looking chotiwalas.
Chotiwala mannequins with a Marwari thali, phulkas et al, real life chotiwala, painted pink, floral tatooes, you name it!
I was eager to touch the icy waters of Ganga by now, and not hungry after a handful of juicy peaches picked up from a fruit vendor. Therefore, didn't check on Chotiwala other than clicking photos.
The day had been hot, and it still was so at 4 O' clock. Not that it mattered, now that I was with the divine mother, Ganga. One splash, one sip did it. I could sit there watching the sun move closer to horizon, but there's never much time to do everything when the day is near end. Reluctantly I had to bypass the Ganga arti at Parmarth ashram.
Ram jhula, single span bridge
Ram jhula as Laxman jhula kind of swings to the beat of commuters on it. A bit scary, especially when the wind joins the game. This single span bridge, is the first of its kind as one moves upstream with Ganga to Srinagar, Devprayag, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Ukhimath, and other places nearer the river's source.
On this swinging bridge, ten year olds sold flour balls for feeding the fish. I bought a leaf bowl full of them and threw them down in ones and twos. Just then, as if by magic a school of fish appeared, each about a metre long!
When I had almost picked up the last ball from my leaf bowl, the kid who had sold it to me, pitched in a request to return the leaf bowl to him. He could refill the bowl and sell it to another person. This was recycling at its best!
Rishikesh remains the same. Except that exploring it differently brings up rich experiences each time. I may have missed the Ganga arti at Parmarth ashram this time, and not been white water rafting either, but the new find: German bakery and restaurant, right next to Laxman jhula turned out to be an equally rich one.