When I was in Kasar Devi & Binsar for leisure and pleasure, Almora was visited numerous times. It was a cold evening when the actual process of seeing the ‘cultural capital of Kumaon’ finally began to work itself out. I was in the middle of a fabulous summer that was progressing well in Kumaon Himalaya.
Me and Bhishma (the guy with whom I would trek to Milam) had come to Almora for breakfast. I had earlier savoured desi ghee jalebi in a sweet shop in the market and had lured Bhishma with the promise of the same! Haha, we weren’t disappointed.
We had literally smashed all eating records and ate like 10 samosas between us and perhaps 300 grams piping hot jalebi to go with it, literally with cups and cups of chai.
It was to stand us in good stead when we rode to the Sun Temple of Katarmal. I don’t exactly remember how I ended up in Almora one afternoon and started exploring the temples and the old market. Almora is located at approx. 1700m asl and has excellent bus and shared sumo connectivity to other parts of Kumaon.
Local boys had been using the rhyme for Almora ‘Baal, maal and pataal‘. The explanation for the same goes like : Almora is famous for three things, Baal for baal mithai, maal for the gorgeous and stylish ladies of Almora and pataal for the stone tiles used for roofs. The pataal seemed to be long gone, it was all concrete now.
At first glance, Almora had appeared like another bustling city in the mountains – Growing too fast and akin to a concrete jungle. There were hospitals and new buildings being arranged on the narrow ridge at a frenetic pace. I had then been thrown the gauntlet, upon random conversations with old locals when they had mentioned ‘Lala Bazaar.’ Lala Bazaar is the old market in Almora.
It was a sleepy morning when I had ended up at Diwan Jalebi wala and walked around the clock tower and the colonial post office when I actually thought of exploring the old part of Almora.
Dont zip past Almora on your next trip, let this historic town work its culinary magic on you instead.
The Chand Rajas of Kumaon established Almora as their summer capital in the 16th Century. I was walking in the streets and found myself in the Nanda Devi Temple when it started drizzling.
Then some time was spent chatting up with the founder of Baal Mithai & Singodi sweets – Lala Jogalal Sah, a shop in Lala Bazaar with the most genteel owner. He first made me taste the sweets, told me a few lovely stories and anecdotes behind them and finally packed half a kilo of Baal mithai for me to enjoy!
I was immediately fond of this old part of Almora and had a sudden desire to see more. As if on cue, the rain stopped and chai and samosas beckoned.
The crowds had disappeared too with the rain and that gave me a chance to appreciate the beauty of this cobbled walk-only street. Then I happened to glance up and for a moment thought I was back in Jaipur. A pair of eyes peered at me from the windows on the first floor! The design was intricate and beautifully carved in wood which was quite similar to the 300 year old pink city part of Jaipur.
There were windows in green, various shades of brown, blue and other colours too. On the ground floor, shops made rousing business. It was a delightful hour or so of people watching while sipping chai at many places where the locals were huddled. The weather had suddenly started getting colder.
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Although I was recommended another place for jalebi in Lala Bazaar, Almora – it didn’t come even close to Diwan’s Jalebi near the post office. Ahh, and the post office was a delight in itself; its a colonial building mostly built in the early 1900s. I have more memories of seeing Almora from a distance from Kasar Devi, where I spent considerable time.
Kasar Devi is hardly 10 kms away from Almora and is located much higher among nature and lovely pine trees. Swami Vivekananda is said to have meditated here. I highly recommend it as a must see place in Almora and spend some quiet time away from the city at a quaint homestay.
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