Kashmir is lush. In the mountainous north, coming over the
border from Ladakh, the transition is striking -- brown and
angular and rough becomes green and curvaceous and gentle.
In Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, which has been extolled as paradise, the beauty is liquid - Dal Lake and Nagin Lake, waterworks in the royal gardens, the river Jhelum on both shores of which the city is built, houseboats through whose windows you see rippling reflections.
My week in Kashmir was a lazy one. I stayed in a houseboat on Nagin Lake -- the advantage is that it’s distant from the noise and pollution of Dal Lake and central Srinagar. However, because it’s far from the center of town it limits the range of activities or, alternatively, leaves one with a major shlep to get through the clogging honking traffic by tuk-tuk to the areas of restaurants, shopping, sightseeing, and Kashmiris.
On one day, however -- my favorite day in Kashmir -- I boarded a shikara, a light, flat-bottomed boat paddled by a guide, and sailed across the lakes to the glorious gardens. Shalimar Bagh (built in the early 17th Century) and Nishat Bagh are both extensive and captivating -- and photogenic.
On another day, I was awakened at 4:30 in the morning (by the next door alarm which, in a houseboat with 5 rooms and walls of paper, was my alarm), staggered into a shikara, and traveled for 45 minutes to the floating market -- a melee of shikaras selling produce and tourist paraphernalia.
There’s no surprise that most of my photographs of Kashmir involve waterways.