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