About the huge City of Kolkata, West Bengal, India - how to get there and so on.
The Lower Ganges Delta City of Kolkata was formed by The East India Company as a fortified port and trading area in the late 17th century and encompassed three villages named Govindapur, Sutanuti and Kolkata. Following sporadic attacks by the French and an attack on the Company by the Nawab of Bengal - the latter leading to the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta massacre - the fortifications were developed by Clive of India into what is now the huge Fort William. Named after King William of England the fort
is bordered by the Hooghly River on one side and by Maidan Gardens which is a substantial green open area on the other. Fort William (Fort William Map
) is now occupied by the Indian Army and it is virtually impossible for anyone to be allowed in and take a look round the huge fortifications unfortunately.
Getting there - Flights to Kolkata, Indian Railways and so on.
The airport for Kolkata boasts the somewhat large name of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport - so is known usually simply as Kolkata Airport or sometimes Dum Dum Airport (after the district it lies in). Getting the approximately 16kms too and fro the airport is usually
easiest by taxi or fast buses - the taxis are pre-paid so it's best / unnecessary to consider any touts who approach you.
Direct international flights fly into Chennai from destinations such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Doha, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Kunming in China. The international airlines using the airport include AirAsia, Qatar Airways, Thai Air, Air France, Virgin, Singapore Airlines and Dragonair. Domestic airlines include JetKonnect, Jet Airways, GOAir, Air India, Indigo, Spicejet and these provide sometimes many a day flights to places such as Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ranchi, Jaipur,
Bhubaneswar and Lucknow.
Railways - the main long distance railway station for Kolkata is located on the western side of the Hooghly River at Howrah - which means crossing the river by the beautiful Howrah Girder Bridge. The entrance to the station is immediately at the end of the bridge and the whole area is total chaos with buses, autos, bikes, carts and people everywhere - and lots of traffic police with sticks failing to control any of it. The massive station complex provides long distance links to a variety of places in India including Chennai, Mumbai, New Delhi,
Jodhpur, Bhubaneswar, Vasco da Gama (Goa), Patna, Ajmer, Hyderabad, Amritsar, Pune, Ahmedabad and Puri. For anyone not familiar with the station you certainly need to use a railway porter and stay close to him since finding the right platform and carriage would be otherwise all but impossible.[ Click the thumbnails for a larger picture - use the back button to return to this page. ]
A little about Howrah Bridge. Originally there was a pontoon bridge linking Calcutta and Howrah which was completed in 1874 - this of course had to be opened periodically to allow shipping to pass. Eventually it was obvious that the pontoon bridge needed replacing and initially this was planned to be another floating bridge - albeit much higher up from the river to allow shipping. However
this plan was changed and it was decided to construct a suspension bridge instead. Nothing actually happened until after WW1 when The Cleveland Bridge + Engineering Company in England commenced construction in 1936. The cantilever suspension bridge is made from hight-tensile alloy steel and the entire structure is rivetted - it has a total span of 705 metres, reaches a height of 82 metres and is just under 22 metres wide. The longest span is just under 458 metres - the bridge was opened in 1943 and is one of the longest of this type of bridge in the world.
The bridge has quite wide walkways so is fine and safe to cross despite the incredible amount of trafic in the centre lanes. There are really good views of the river - various small boats and ferries passing by and you can see a variety of ghats on the river bank as well as a riverside Mosque. At the far end of the bridge i.e. the Calcutta side, you immediately come
across Mallick Ghat Flower Market - an amazingly colourful and busy area. It's really interesting just to hang around here for a while and watch everything going on.