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Himalaya

Day 32: Chandigarh to Shimla

Shimla, India 
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First sight of Shimla, 7260 feet (2213m) above sea level. Provincial capital of Himachal Pradesh (Himalaya Province)
Michael Palin - Himalaya'At that time one fifth of the human race was administered from Shimla.'

As the railway was not opened for another 39 years, the entire apparatus of government had to be moved up from Calcutta on bullock carts.

When it was eventually decided to go ahead with a railway they moved fast. The line was built in little more than two years, and the basic structures remain in good order a hundred years later. The high standards expected took their toll. Raaja tells the story of a Colonel Barog who supervised the construction of one of the tunnels working from each end simultaneously. Unfortunately, they failed to meet in the middle and Barog, distraught at the miscalculation, shot himself.

Half an hour out of Shimla we're into alpine forest and there is a cool, refreshing scent of pine in the air. The railway runs between tall rhododendron trees and the big cedars they call deodars, until all at once we're among the half-timbered villas and cottages with verandahs and cast-iron canopies that comfortably conform to my image of Shimla. But as we pull away clear of the trees and get our first glimpse of the town itself I realize I've got it very wrong.

Modern Shimla is no cosy retreat in the mountains but a city of considerable scale, home to 150,000, spread out over five hills and liberally sprinkled with concrete apartment blocks.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 32: Chandigarh to Shimla
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: Shimla
  • Book page no: 73

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