Cochin, India

January 11, 2019

The famous Portuguese explorer, Vasco de Gama, died in Cochin in 1524 and his body entombed in the chapel of Santo Antonio in St. Francis church before it was sent off to Lisbon 14 years later.

It’s a beauty of a city, its face shaped by the influence of centuries of invaders, traders and rulers evident in palaces, mosques, churches and even a synagogue. The Arabs, British, Chinese, Dutch, Italians and Portuguese helped Cochin emerge as a centre of commercial activity. Its port is now second only to Mumbai.

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We visited St. Francis church, the oldest in India, and the only one that survived after the Dutch became the dominant power.

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St. Francis church in Cochin, India, built in 1503, is one of the oldest in India. Vasco da Gamma was buried in a chapel here for 14 years before his body was repatriated to Portugal

The highlight of the tour was the Mattancherry district, which was once home to a thriving community of Sephardic Jews who had fled the Iberian peninsula because of persecution.  Only a handful of Jews remain now but the old synagogue is still in use, and open to the public.

 

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As 700-hundred-year-old building Mattancherry district of Cochin building in the former Jewish district of Cochin
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A mere handful of Jews remain in the Mattancherry district of Cochin, once predominantly Jewish district.  The old synoguge lies at the end of the street

The Mattancherry district is also filled with shops: antiques, spices, textiles, jewels.  I bought a number of things at a women’s cooperative, a thriving two-storey shop that sells just about everything but furniture.

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A member of the women’s cooperative in Cochin. Their shop teemed with customers buying everything from spices to carpets to jewelry

We spent the next three days at sea.  I like being at sea. The only problem, however, there’s far too much time to eat. No matter how many times I promise myself to steer clear of the dessert table (gorgeous sweets are provided at both lunch and dinner) this day, I fail badly and had a little something after both meals. I’ll have a lot of work to do on this weight thing when I get home.

Also, almost no one on the ship has escaped this bacterial cough. One by one, they’re falling like bowling pins and keeping the doctor busy dispensing antibiotics.  I got it early on and pray I don’t come down with a second time.

After Cochin we headed to Sri Lanka.

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