It’s already New Year’s Eve, and we’ve made our way to Varanasi. Varanasi, on the Ganges River, is a holy city that people come to for religious ceremonies and to cremate their family members.
After strolling along the Ganges all morning, we stopped at the Brown Bread Bakery for some lunch… you can’t miss the signs as you walk along the Ganges, as they are posted every five feet… but once you climb the stairs up into the city from the ghats and actually try to find the bakery, it’s a bit harder… you pass peoples’ homes (clothes drying in courtyards, next to chained-up buffaloes) until you finally get to a busier road, that has has signs for hostels, yoga classes and… there we go, bakeries.
The Brown Bread Bakery’s claim to fame (apart from a nice rooftop restaurant) is that it has a huge cheese list, of many cheeses made nearby (South Asia, from Nepal, the Himalayas, Auroville near Pondicherry). So, of course, we looked through the two pages of lists of cheese and ordered!
And, well, they basically didn’t have anything that we asked for. So after a few tries, we gave up and asked if they would give us a selection of cheeses that they do have available…
When it came, it was clear that we had three similar cheeses, one plain, one with chili flakes, and one with herbs…. okay… so not exactly the variety that we were expecting! And when we ordered our bread, same thing, they didn’t have the multi-grain or the rye bread on the menu, but would give us the bread basket, a mix of their best breads, which they thought that we would enjoy…
And it was all fine. I enjoyed the cheese with the chili flakes and the salty, meaty texture of the black olives. The brown bread in the bread basket was also pretty good… the rest we could have taken or left.
And then came our pizza… we got one with mushrooms, Italian ham and mozzarella… when it came, I’m not sure it was really mozzarella, but hey, it did the job. Not the best pizza I’ve had, but it filled us up and was a change from the curries and tikkas we had been eating for the past week.
The cool thing about the Brown Bakery, really, is that you’re sitting up on a rooftop. You’re caged in, as there are many monkeys that like to rooftop hop and would be only too happy to come share your food, but sitting four flights up above the city really is a cool view. You can see people out on their rooftops as well, hanging laundry, hanging out and playing, or shooing monkeys away.
And the kites… it seems like there are at least forty of them in the sky at any time… We spent a while watching the kids on the rooftop next to ours try to launch their kite into the sky, a patient give and pull to get the kite up and weaving through the air…
Then, we headed back to the river for en evening cruise, to see the same city we’d seen from land and during the day at night, which culminated with us spending in time of the same funeral pyres we had seen up close during in the day, but now by night.