The Maharaja's Driveway
Srinagar Travel Blog› entry 34 of 41 › view all entries
The southern end of Dal Lake, about a mile from the Nehru Park area, had a spit of land jutting far into the water and lined with towering poplars. It was the private driveway of the Maharaja of Kashmir who made infrequent visits to a summer home or cottage somewhere on the lake. He would drive his car out to the point then ride a shikhara to his retreat. Chris and I were shocked to see the tall trees falling one-by-one so paddled over there to find out what the heck was going on.
Crews slowly worked their way from the outer point of the drive which was just wide enough to turn a car around on, toward the shore. While workers cut its trunk with two-man saws, two more heaved on a rope which was tied high in the tree.
Other workers trimmed branches containing green buds that would never blossom. Brush was hustled to waiting shikharas that delivered the fresh firewood to customers all around the lake. As the cutting crew stoked a fire for afternoon chai and Kashmiri bread, others shoveled precious soil onto flat-bed trucks to be hauled off to various land-fills. For some reason, the Indian government had ordered the Maharaja's drive removed and it gradually disappeared.
Chris and I walked to the base of the long driveway and discovered the Centaur Lake View, a five-star hotel still under construction. Of the planned 900 rooms, 150 of them - as well as its coffee shop - were already opened for a first season though we saw no guests. They advertised a Sunday buffet for 45 Rupees and we decided to splurge one week maybe try it.