The Mathura Jn. station turned out to be completely different to the one in Mumbai. The only word that came to mind when I saw it – rural. Mad monkeys, a bull eagerly eating something out of the station trash can, a crowd of beggars, vast amounts of people and us, squeezing in between the sitting, lying, entraining and detraining passengers. However, the worst was about to come.
Rikshaw drivers. We have’t yet seen this big of a wave of drivers quoting prices from outer space. To make it worse, we couldn’t reach our host (we still had only our Polish number), and the drivers certainly didn’t make it easier. Eventually we hid on the station and found a young, helpful Indian who called our host and wrote down the address of the guest house we were supposed to stay in. He tried to help us get a tuk-tuk in a reasonable price, but he also drowned in a wave of drivers. You should also know that the notion of ‘privacy’ is nonexistent and the Indians (especially those that want to make money on you) very intrusively eavesdropped on every word spoken and written by our hero. Luckily, competition worked in our favor and we found a good offer. Thankfully we got into the tuk-tuk and headed toward Vrindavan. It turned out that our driver didn’t have a clue where to go, but after stopping and asking random people for directions every step of the way, we reached our destination.
After getting some rest, we went do the ISKCON (Hare Krishna) temple for breakfast. The temple itself is beautiful, but the accompanying restaurant, Govinda, isn’t very cheap. For example, a simple chai (tea with spices) costs 7-20 Rs (rupees), whereas here it cost around 50 Rs. FYI, the rate is approx. 1 euro = 70 Rs). Other dishes had similarly cranked up prices. It isn’t suprising though, since the temple is visited by many foreigners who can afford paying these prices. We also visited the new Krishna temple (not built by ISKCON) called the Love Temple (Prem Mandir), which was completely made of Italian marble and cost about 2.5 bln Rs (around 35.8 mln euro). The temple is truly amazing. The interior is awe-inspiring, especially the beautiful marble carvings. We recommend visiting it in the evening, when you can watch the wonderful, smoothly color-changing luminating lights and a half-hour multimedia fountain show (which starts at 7:00 PM).
Aside from the many temples in Vrindavan, there isn’t anything interesting here.You can cross the Yamuna in a boat or see the ghats that are still on the riverside (the Yamuna is narrowing and most of the ghats are now on dry land). As for the boat ride across the river, the boats never actually make it to the shore, so you have to take a 10 meter hike through knee-high water. But every cloud has a silver lining – the Yamuna is regarded by the Hindus as a holy river, a dip in which cleanses you of sins and may grant your wishes. That said, during Holi you can often see bhanged-up (on bhang – a kind of milk drink with a nifty amount – a few grams – of cannabis paste) people swimming in the river and singing songs to praise Krishna.
We recommend Vrindavan after Holi season (it’s supposed to be very peaceful) for those who want to relax, and for those of you who’d like to go crazy, feel invited to Holi, where Holi is most loudly celebrated (the town’s population becomes several times larger in that time), and smaller celebrations last for a whole month.