Hi,




The previous trip report part:
India 2012 - 3: Gwalior - Dusty Train to Dinner Train (50 p.)
http://railroadforums.com/forum/showthread.php?t=39597



The accompanying video:







February 6 2012

A murky morning in Agra, as I had feared often morning fog engulfs the Ganges plains during wintertime. Agra is situated along the second large river of the area, Yamuna. At the bridge of Agra Fort I wanted to do a morning session, as the Taj Mahal is visible from here – in good visibility conditions only. Streetlife luckily had not started yet, so I reached the river quickly. But the shore of the river, or let us rather say dried out riverbed, proved to be quite uncomfortable. Not only was it very cold due to fog and wind, also some of the poorest people live here. Even if hardly anyone was roaming about, the environment was very dirty and you had the constant smell of burning plastic in your nose, as many don't have any other means of keeping themselves warm. Luckily three trains came by within a short interval, two express trains hauled by WAP-4 class and a WDG with freight. Then I noticed somebody hanging around in my vicinity, but it just turned out to be an Indian photographer with Nikon D300, as well waiting for the sunrise behind Taj Mahal in vain.


A WAP-4 departing Agra Fort piercing the darkness with its headlight and traversing Yamuna River with 12308 Jodhpur - Howrah (Kolkata) Superfast. I was about to take the train in the opposite direction in the evening.




The late 19040 Avadh Express (Muzaffarpur (Bihar state) - Bandra (Mumbai)). Here a virtual simulation of how it could have looked like, of course even better with sunrise.




I had enough and walked to the station to get my PNR for Jodhpur. On the way I took the Indian route inside and managed to capture a few impressions.

Mughalsarai WAP-4 22276 next to a good old classic, Ghaziabad WAP-1 22033!









The bustling luggage vans of Avadh Express.




View into the fog with red signals, to the left a stabled class WAM-4, in front a class WAP-4.









Mughalsarai WAM-4 21283 hiding the class WAP-1.



















The clerk behind the counter at the booking centre for once knew what he was supposed to do, he just typed in my name, and voilà, the PNR miraculously appeared! A few Polish youngsters were not that happy and simply frustrated, no wonder if you try to book in India for the same day. Relieved I took the way through the station to my hotel. An overpass stretched across the shed of the currently used broad gauge station, but next to it a second part could be found. Here, time practically stood still since metre gauge had been abandoned, only two broad gauge stabling lines had been laid here. In the dark mood I could ban the atmosphere of old Agra Fort station on chip.






Here finally some monkeys turned up, a few clambering about, but I also came across a family huddled together with humanlike expressions showing that animals could equally suffer.


























The former platforms were now serving as gymnasium.




In the background the impressive Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque) shone through the fog, like the Taj Mahal built by Shah Jahan in the 17th century.









One digital display had been fitted here, other than that only the stairs to the overbridge currently were in use.




Again my picturesque favourites, obsolete ads painted on walls!









I walked to the hotel, where I used check out time until 12 noon to rest.

The street in front of my hotel, many children going to school.




I left my big backpack at the reception and returned to the station.

Street vendors, now in sunlight.









The imposing details of Jama Masjid.




In the modern Agra Fort station: LCD information display with windows error message in India! ;-)




The sun had now fully fought its way through and I quickly got a tuk-tuk for 50 rupees to the taxi parking at the southern entrance of the Taj Mahal area. From here you could either walk or choose one of many unmotorized transport options up to camel coach. I chose the first one, as it was not far anyway.

Monkeys crossing!




At the actual entrance you were being reminded of many bans. For example, you could not take anything to eat or drink, even chewing gum, inside. No other electronics than a mobile and a still camera were allowed. In case you had anything forbidden in your bag, you could either leave it at a locker outside or have it removed and thrown away by a security guard inside, as I witnessed with several other tourists. The foreign tourist card cost pricey 750 rupees including a bottle of water to take inside and shoe covers, as this is not only an Indian national treasure and wonder of the world, but also an Islamic site of pilgrimage. At the counter an Afghan citizen bought his ticket in front of me. Indian gentlemen and ladies were seperated at the ticket counters as well as in the waiting lanes. Between both lanes you could pass through without waiting as a tourist, and no, you do not need a guide to get there, if someone tries to tell you that. Next I entered a forecourt surrounded by four gates in a symmetric design, as so many details here at the Taj. Each of the four gates had been assigned to a seperate class of people by the builders. The Great Gate leading to the Taj Mahal featured several optical illusions, for example the Koran verses had been written in a fashion so all letters seemed to be of the same size when viewed from a perspective looking up. Plenty of further information about the Taj can be found on the web.

The Great Gate, not only here optical illusions could be found.









School kids in front of the Great Gate, in the background the Taj was already shining though.



















Now you stepped through to the famous view of the Taj, which has suffered from environmental pollution but still makes a fascinating impression. It conveys the effect of an alien object and cannot be grasped from any distance. Even from kilometres away it is still glowing. And it is big, bigger than it seems on pictures. By the way, the towers around the Taj were constructed leaning outward to prevent earthquake damage.






I approached the Taj within a crowd, only sometimes gaps could be found. Of course I like human elements in my pictures, especially the colourful robes of Indian women, even the poorest ones, provide great contrast for photography.





















Dark to the left - the mosque, white to the right - the Taj.



















After putting on shoe covers I explored the inside of the mausoleum which was dark and only lit by a single light. The displayed graves were copies, only the marble cenotaphs around it impressive, as a lot of the masonry on the Taj facade.











Behind the building an airy terrace led out to Yamuna River, from here you could see the Fort, our next stop.






View towards the Red Fort, to the right behind cattle herds the bridge visited that morning can be spotted.




Strictly guarded - back towards the Great Gate.




A last view of the Taj from nearby.



In the next part we will experience the present glory of Agra Fort!