Why should you settle in Udaipur?

Bernhard Peter
On Udaipur's roof terraces

In Udaipur, you can enjoy life on the roof terraces of the accommodations. Like in no other city, the pleasant life takes place up here at lofty heights. Hardly any other city has so many rooftop restaurants, and every self-contained accommodation offers breakfast on the rooftop terrace. You climb up narrow and narrow stairs in the walls of the old Havelis, find your way through narrow galleries along the inner courtyards, until the next staircase leads into the brickwork and further up. And Udaipur has every reason to. The capital of this city is the dreamlike backdrop to the lake. And no matter where you look at it, at what time of day and in what weather, you are always cast under its spell, every time you discover something new, fall in love with a new detail.

I usually experience this panoramic view from the roof of the Kankarwa Havelis, one of the typical old merchant and aristocratic palaces in the old town right on the lake. To the south, a high wall delimits the roof terraces and shields the roof level from views of the neighboring havelis. Due to the integration into the urban structure, the east and south sides of the property are practically closed, while the house virtually opens onto the lake. Most of the rooms have the windows either to the west directly onto the lake (west wing and north wing) or to the west onto the inner courtyard (east wing).

The buildings of the old town are staggered above the curtain wall until the city palace or the northernmost part of it finally comes into view. It is so large and so rich in architectural forms that it sets the tone for the south-east direction. 12 different pavilions are visible from here, some with open arches, others closed with fine-meshed latticework.

In the lake, the first glance falls on the Lake Palace, once a royal summer residence, now a luxury hotel, in dazzling white. Not my price range, more like a hotel Tony Blair is happy to be invited to (just missed him by a day, thank God). Living in there certainly has the huge disadvantage that the view is poorer by a striking and radiant element!

From the bougainvillea-lined roof terrace, the view also falls on the island further back in the lake with the Jag Mandir Palace. It was once another sea palace of the royal family. A flat building, from which the chattris at the corners and the central multi-storey dome building are particularly eye-catching. I was once on this island on a boat trip. Today there is an exquisite restaurant in the spacious courtyard, while sitting in delightful arcades you can let your gaze wander over the palace city. A geometric garden is laid out behind it. The three-story main building of the former palace is z. Some ruins are still neglected. On the upper floor there is an empty pillar hall that leads into the empty domed room. Another door on the draughty upper floor only opens with a lot of force after clear insistence, whereupon the sharp smell of bat droppings hits you. A staircase hidden behind it finally leads to the very top, while startled bats flutter around your head and emit high-pitched beeps. They are probably wondering why these intrusive tourists have to see everything and have no respect for anything, not even for the fact that these creatures of the night have found their refuge from the bright daylight up here after they had built the restaurant on the ground floor had already stolen substantial parts of their quarters and sleeping quarters. Once at the top, you can enter the two small turrets flanking the building and otherwise enjoy a wonderful all-round view of the garden, restaurant, lake, city and palaces.

The panorama continues, to a bathing hat on the headland opposite, not particularly neat, but all the more popular with young people - this is the ghat for bathing fun par excellence. Next to it a nice old haveli with a relatively flat construction, a dilapidated temple with about 25 grassy steps that lead directly down to the lake. In addition, the eye is less enthusiastic about the modern hotel, which copies the style of old Havelis, but is frighteningly regular in structure and lacks the typical Indian case and all the many small architectural surprises of a property that has grown over time.

In front of it lies a real gem in the middle of the bay: an old garden island. It is a square wall in the middle of the water halfway between this and the other bank. All around the island is surrounded by a square arched arcade. In the middle of each side is a small bay window, one of which has a roof, three arches to the right and left of it. The whole interior is an overgrown garden with grass and weeds reaching to the apex of the arch.

The entire north-west and north panorama is taken up by the small-cell and multi-layered structure of the old town. Striking havelis, poor shacks, temple shikaras, roof terraces, everything in blue, yellow and white. The sounds of the lively old town waft over the water and through the row of arcades on my roof terrace: ringing temple bells, the knocking of the laundresses, howling street dogs, the honking of the cars echoing in the narrow streets, mopeds howling up the hill of the old town, rickshaws squawking. Bathing children howl and splash into the water.

The whole thing is accompanied by the screeching of the birds of prey that settle on the high blind walls between the individual havelis. The excited clapping of the flocks of pigeons over the palace and the screeching of green parrots mix with the rest of the noises of a lively Indian city to form an inimitable carpet of sounds.

Another large bird of prey slowly floats up from the lake, circling like an eagle around the airy bay windows of the city palace, majestically turning its path in front of the approaching monsoon clouds. The pavilions - the view through the moving rain-heavy clouds, the puff of wind through the sieve-like open walls, the circling of the frightened flocks of pigeons and the birds of prey - they convey a closeness to heaven on the earthy fortress high above my roof terrace.

Udaipur is the city of great panoramas and backdrops, breathtaking scenery. Whether you watch the lightning over the old palace in the evening after a monsoon storm or the nightly fireworks in front of the colorful glowing backdrop of the Lake Palace Hotel, or whether the monsoons shower Udaipur with rain again and the palace hotel is still blurred behind a wall of gray twine as radiant as a crisp white ocean liner in heavy weather. The range of hills behind it is already completely hidden by clouds, but you can only vaguely suspect the opposite bank of the lake. Jag Mandir is just a gray shadow. Or you can experience the complete opposite again the next evening: the sun sinks glowing in front of the prominently shaped hills behind the Monsun Palace at a lofty height on these hills, after a heavy shower there is only a remnant of clouds, as if deliberately with an orange aura Heightening the drama of this sunset. Every day, every sunrise lets you experience the city, its scenery and its drama anew. Udaipur is a city that you never tire of looking at.

About restaurants in Udaipur - Chipmunk - The room above the ghats
On Udaipur's roof terraces
Photos: The Jagdish Temple - People in Jagdish Temple
Photos: Udaipur City Palace (1) - (2) - (3) - (4) - Udaipur Old Town (1) - (2) - (3)

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© Text, graphics and photos: Bernhard Peter 2005