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Let's add some colour to our travels!

11 mins. read

...This royal tradition dates back to 1876, when Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II had the entire city painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales, as pink is considered the colour of hospitality...

Published in the Sunday Indian Express Magazine - Eye on 14 April, 2024

To me, travelling is more than just going from one place to another. It's about seeing the world in all its different colours and cultures. Picture walking through cities where every building has a story to tell, and towns with fields that are stunningly beautiful with their vastness or bright colours. It's like a treat for our mind, body, and soul. So today, let's explore some of the most colourful places in the world.

Cinque Terre, Italy

My first pick is Cinque Terre in Italy. Mainly because we just completed a 2000 piece puzzle with the colourful houses of Cinque Terre staring at us all week. Nestled along the rugged coast of the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is perhaps the jewel of Italy that dazzles visitors with its array of pastel-hued houses. This cluster of five villages- Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore seems to tumble down the cliffside to the Ligurian Sea, creating a assortment of colours against the backdrop of steep vineyards and wild, rocky shores. The vibrant shades of yellow, pink, turquoise, and red adorning the buildings are not just a treat for the eyes but rather speak of a history deeply connected to the sea, where fishermen once painted their homes in bright colours to spot them from afar.

The architecture of Cinque Terre, with its narrow lanes and steep stairways, reflects the communities' adaptation to the challenging terrain. The villages are connected by scenic hiking trails and a reliable train service, making it easy to explore the entire coast without needing a car. But here’s where my first travel tip comes in. Remember to pack comfortable walking shoes, as the beauty of Cinque Terre is best experienced on foot, wandering through its streets and trails, and soaking in the breathtaking vistas that have inspired artists and travellers for generations.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

In the heart of Morocco's Rif Mountains lies Chefchaouen, a captivating town famous for its buildings washed in various shades of blue (similar in many ways to India’s blue city: Jodhpur). This striking palette ranges from sky blue to deep indigo, covering everything from the walls and doors to the staircases and alleys, creating a serene and dreamlike atmosphere. The origin of Chefchaouen's blue hues is subject to various theories, from practical reasons like repelling mosquitoes to symbolic ones, representing the sky and heaven, encouraging a life filled with peace and spirituality.

The impact of Chefchaouen's blue streets on visitors is profound. Many describe feeling a sense of calm and peace as they wander through the town, the blue acting as a visual cooling agent against the heat of the North African sun. When visiting Chefchaouen, my travel tip will be to not miss the Kasbah Museum in the heart of the medina for a dose of history and culture. For a local experience, explore the local markets where you can find an array of traditional Moroccan goods and crafts.

Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa

Bo-Kaap, nestled at the foot of Signal Hill in Cape Town, South Africa, is renowned for its brightly coloured homes and cobblestone streets, painting a vivid picture against the backdrop of Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain. The colours here tell the story of Bo-Kaap's rich history, dating back to the 17th century when it became home to a diverse community of freed slaves, artisans, and merchants from Malaysia, Indonesia, and various African countries.

The multicultural heritage of Bo-Kaap is alive in its architecture, cuisine, and traditions. Walking through Bo-Kaap offers a glimpse into the soul of Cape Town and visitors can really learn about the area's history and culture. Sampling traditional Cape Malay cuisine is a must here, with local restaurants and street food stalls offering dishes like bobotie (fruity cottage pie), koesisters (spiced donut), and boeber (sweet milk congee). The Bo-Kaap Museum is another must-visit spot, providing deeper insights into the community's past and present.

Lavender Fields, Provence, France

From South Africa, let’s now move to one of the most visited countries on the planet, France, specifically to a region called Provence in southeastern France. Every year, from June to August, the countryside of Provence, transforms into a sea of purple as the lavender fields bloom, offering a sensory experience unmatched anywhere in the world. The sight of endless rows of lavender, the soothing fragrance permeating the air, and the gentle hum of bees collecting nectar create a soothing symphony that captivates all who visit here.

Lavender has been cultivated in Provence for centuries, deeply ingrained in the region's agricultural traditions. It's prized not only for its beauty and scent but also for its essential oils, used in perfumes, soaps, and culinary creations. For the perfect lavender experience, travellers generally head to the region’s Valensole Plateau, where the fields stretch as far as the eye can see, making it an ideal spot for photography. Early mornings or late afternoons here offer the best light for photos and fewer crowds. And when you do end up in Provence, don't miss the chance to visit a local distillery to learn about the oil extraction process and pick up some lavender souvenirs, from essential oils to dried bouquets.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef, a natural wonder stretching over 2,300 kilometers along the coast of Queensland, Australia, is our planet's largest coral reef system. This underwater world is a treasure trove of colour, teeming with diverse marine life, from vibrant corals to myriad species of fish, turtles, sharks, and dolphins. Diving or snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the stunning beauty and complexity of life beneath the waves.

The ecological significance of the reef cannot be overstated. It provides essential habitats for a vast array of marine species and plays a crucial role in ocean health. Speaking specifically about scuba-diving, the outer reef provides some of the best diving spots, known for clearer waters and a greater diversity of marine life. As travellers, protecting the Great Barrier Reef is a responsibility we all share. When visiting this natural wonder, it's crucial to minimize our environmental impact. So remember to look but not touch the corals, as even small disturbances can cause significant damage to these delicate organisms. Use reef-safe sunscreen to prevent harmful chemicals from polluting the water and for the last one, which I cannot stress on enough, always take your trash with you to keep the reef's waters pristine. By following these simple guidelines, we can ensure that the Great Barrier Reef continues to thrive for generations to come, offering its breathtaking beauty to future travellers just as it has for us.

Wroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw, Poland's fourth-largest city, is a vibrant mosaic of colours and creativity, most famously showcased in its Market Square (Rynek). This historic centre is framed by colourful facades, ranging from Gothic to Baroque and Renaissance, each telling a tale of the city's rich past and vibrant present. Adding to Wroclaw's unique charm are over 300 whimsical gnome statues scattered throughout the city, each with its own story, turning a simple stroll into a delightful treasure hunt.

The city's architecture and art reflect a deep historical tapestry, woven through periods of Polish, Bohemian, Austrian, and German rule. This diverse heritage is visible in the eclectic mix of building styles and the resilience and creativity of its people, notably during the peaceful resistance movements of the 1980s, from which the gnome statues originated. Today, these figures serve as symbols of Wroclaw's playful spirit and its citizens' freedom and defiance.

A walking route from the Market Square, through the Cathedral Island (Ostrw Tumski), and onto the Centennial Hall (Hala Stulecia) offers a journey through the city's architectural marvels and hidden gems. And if you do end up in Wroclaw, be sure to download a gnome-finding app or pick up a map from the tourist office to discover these enchanting statues along the way. Each corner of Wroclaw is a burst of colours and history, promising an unforgettable exploration of one of Poland's most picturesque cities.

Jaipur, India

For the final destination on our list, I wanted to come back to Incredible India. As we all know, Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan, is globally renowned for its pink-hued architecture, earning it the affectionate nickname, the ‘Pink City’. This royal tradition dates back to 1876, when Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II had the entire city painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales, as pink is considered the colour of hospitality. This distinctive colour scheme has since become a symbol of Jaipur's heritage and identity, reflecting its rich history and the royal legacy of the Rajputs. The colour pink in Jaipur is more than just an aesthetic choice; it represents the city's welcoming nature and its deep-rooted cultural traditions.

When visiting Jaipur, the majestic Amber Fort, the iconic Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), and the regal City Palace are must-see landmarks that encapsulate the essence of the city's pink architecture. For a taste of local life, I love wandering through the bustling Johari Bazaar and Bapu Bazaar, where you can find a variety of traditional Rajasthani crafts, textiles, and jewellery. To truly immerse yourself in the local culture, consider timing your visit to coincide with one of Jaipur's many festivals, such as the Jaipur Literature Festival or the Elephant Festival, for an even more unforgettable experience.

As we get to the end of today’s piece, I just want to reflect on the fact that every place you visit has its own palette to explore and story to tell. The colours we've seen are just a drop on our world's vast canvas. So, which are some of the most colourful cities you have been to? I’d love to know, so write to me at neil@veenaworld.com Share your stories and suggestions with us, and let's continue to celebrate life every day in this beautiful colourful world of ours.

April 13, 2024

Author

Neil Patil
Neil Patil

Founder & Director, Veena World

More Blogs by Neil Patil

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