We were mesmerised by the beauty of Kashmir while looking at the pictures on the Internet. Merely booking the tickets for our trip to Kashmir felt as if our dream was half fulfilled.

We had got down at Nizamuddin station and caught another train to Udhampur in Jammu & Kashmir. On our way, we had the pleasure of seeing the beautiful valleys of the Himalayas unveil itself to us.

Udhampur station was not crowded, but several army men thronged the place. Everyone we met was friendly and cooperative. The journey to Patnitop was beautiful and offered a serene and magnificent view unlike in the cities. It was ineffable.

We reached Pahalgam, where we came across beautiful Kashmiri handicrafts. Our next stop was Gulmarg — the valley of flowers. It is near the Line of Control (LoC).

We then headed towards Sonamarg through Beacon highway. The hill was completely covered with snow and rocks. To me, it looked like a black forest cake covered in white icing. The mountains were steep and signboards warning of avalanches were common in this terrain. We saw the Sindhu, which had cradled a civilisation and given fertile land. It was frozen solid as a rock.

A shikara ride in Dal Lake will take you to the surrounding places and you might come across the floating market. Unlike the houseboats in Kerala, Kashmiri houseboats are not meant for tourists entirely, it also acts as the homes of the locals. Several vendors ride past selling various commodities such as flowers, silver, precious stones and jewellery. There was even a moving studio where you could have your picture taken in traditional Kashmiri attire. A walk around Dal Lake will tempt your taste buds as there are many eateries offering not only local delicacies, but also those from different parts of the country.

We also visited the Mughal gardens — Chashma Shahi, Nishat and Shalimar Bagh. We drank from the natural spring which is said to possess curative properties. Pari Mahal, which was once a Buddhist monastery and later converted into an observatory, offers a magnificent view of the lake and its surrounding areas. We were also lucky enough to see the tulip garden in full bloom.

On the way back to Jammu, we saw rows of willow trees and the ruins of an ancient Hindu temple among other things. We made a stop at Pampore which is famous for its saffron.

I got a taste of India through the saffron of Kashmir, green of Kerala and blue of the seas that makes this country truly incredible.

Meera Simon C., XII B, Devamatha CMI Public School, Thrissur