The Srinagar Magic

Srinagar cast a spell on me in a way I had never imagined. I keep reminiscing about those beautiful walks around Dal Lake, drives around the city while chatting with local drivers, pointlessly strolling the streets of Srinagar , and, of course, I can’t forget the best part — the food!

I had the best food in Kashmir.

Juicy tujjes (barbecue), melting in the mouth and bursting with flavors. I’ve never been a big fan of the malai and meat combination, but I had the best Chicken Malai Tujje at Khayam Chouk. I think the rest of India simply doesn’t know how to make Malai Tikka or barbecue. I can die for the curd-based chutneys and lavasa roti that are given along with tujj. The Lavasa Roti and chutney can be had as much as one wants, free of cost! Khayam Chowk and Makai Point are the places to go to have some amazing Kashmiri street food.

Kashmiri Masala Roti — an unapologetically simple delicacy — is a roll made with local lavasa roti, filled with mashed chickpeas, grated radish, and onion mixed with various powdered spices. It’s topped with curd and some chilies. It’s easily one of the best foods I’ve ever had. When I came across a street vendor selling it near Shalimar Bagh, I decided to try it out of curiosity. That first bite simultaneously offered the wholesomeness of the chickpea filling, the heat from the spices and chilies, and the cool comfort of the curd. It was a shame that the man was only charging 10 Rupees for half a roll.

Manu and I enjoyed the Wazwaan, the traditional Kashmiri sit-down meal, not once, but twice. The Wazwaan meal I had consisted of Tabak Maaz, Methi Maaz, Sheekh Kebab, Rishta, Goshtaba, Roganjosh, and rice. Tabak Maaz and Methi Maaz were the clear winners!

A Kashmiri speciality, Lotus Stem Curry(Nadru Yakhni) at Adhoos reminded me of Bendekaayi kaayihuli(Lady finger Curd Based Curry)back home
The bakery at Adhoos was an amazing place. The Walnut Brownie is the finest I’ve ever tasted.

There wasn’t a single day in Kashmir when I didn’t drink Kashmiri Kahwa. Every sip was so pleasing that it made my soul smile. The Kahwa that I had at Dal Lake during my Shikara ride was the most delicious of all.

Getting Around and Stay

We used the Jugnu and Novo apps to book cabs to explore around Srinagar. We got the loveliest of drivers who were not only helpful and warm but also shared a piece of their lives with us through their stories and experiences. Even though our Airbnb was located in a serene residential area away from the tourist hub, navigating through Srinagar was easy with Jugnu and Novo Cabs. We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb that had lovely views of the mountains in one of the upscale neighbourhoods of Srinagar. Our Airbnb host, Wamiq, and his family were extremely warm and made our stay very comfortable. We had stayed there before the trek and returned to stay there again after the trek. I cannot explain how much I was looking forward to returning to that Airbnb after the trek. It truly felt like a home away from home. On our first morning at the airbnb , we woke up to find a cute little basket with some naan smeared with butter, tea and coffee . It wasn’t included in our rental and that small act of hospitality made me really happy .

Shopping

I also had one of the best shopping experiences at KCI (Kashmir Carpet Industries), where the salesman Mr Parvez Malik, who also happens to be a professional Pashmina weaver, wholeheartedly, patiently, and enthusiastically showed us various local handicraft wonders. He demonstrated magical carpets that changed colours and feather-light Pashmina shawls worth 20,000 INR plus , despite knowing that we had no intention of buying expensive items. He genuinely wanted us to see and experience all that Kashmir has to offer in terms of art and local heritage. He even took us to the weaving room and showed us how people work with the tools. Yes, I did shop quite a bit. Although I couldn’t afford the expensive Pashmina items, I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the beautiful things and listening to wonderful Mr Malik passionately explain everything. We spent close to two hours at KCI 🙂

I got cheap thrills buying those 50–150 rupees earrings at Lal Chowk. It reminded me of my shopping days at Commercial Street.

Beautiful Spots of Srinagar

Shikara Ride at Dal Lake — As we meandered through the shining Meena Bazaar, floating plants, and the houseboats, we also caught a glimpse of how people around Dal Lake went about their daily lives in boats. They even sold all kinds of things like vegetables, accessories, food, etc., on the boat.

Shalimar Bagh — We spent a lazy morning at Shalimar Bagh, lying on the grass and observing cute little kids enjoying a picnic at the park.

The Shankaracharya Temple — the only place that was crowded, but the amazing langaar served by the army folks made me forget the crowd.

Pari Mahal — A unique kind of palace with terraces that opened up to magnificent views.
Hari Parbat Fort is on a hill overlooking Srinagar. It was very peaceful with just a handful of tourists and locals. The place gave me Rajasthani vibes. The fort had huge windows. Breathing in views of the city while feeling the cool air under the stony window on a hot sunny day was indeed an incredibly pleasant experience.

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