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Current stop: Delhi's Red Fort
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On the first full day of our "Golden Triangle" trip, Alea awoke with a severe case of Delhi belly. As she was forced to stay close to the bathroom all day, Dave ventured out alone to check out some of the sights a bit north of our Connaught Place hotel. The Red fort was a natural starting point for the day's sightseeing. Delhi's Red fort has stood as the heart of the city since the mid-1600s, and the huge walls are still a symbol of the city. 

Another symbol of the city, unfortunately, is the stifling air pollution, which is even more concentrated in the winter mornings. Looking through the haze, it was easy to impart an ethereal beauty to the ramparts and turrets as the morning sun struggled to break through. It was a bit more difficult, however, to ignore that nagging little interior voice wondering about just what the heck it is you are breathing into your lungs.

Once inside (through the "Lahore Gate," no less), guests were immediately confronted with a machine gun pointed straight at them. The little guard shack pictured above is facing directly towards the entrance. Nice welcome, but I guess they don't want any trouble.

In fact, armed guards were a recurring theme during the walk around the area. Most of the visitors I saw were Indians, and I got the impression that the main concern was for a bomb or attack of some sort against locals, not high profile foreigner attacks.

The fort area has been used since the 1600s - first as the palace residence of the Mughal rulers, later as a British army barracks, and now restored to its former glory nad housing several museum collections. It was first used by Aurangzab, the son of Shah Jahan, after he overthrew his own dad and jailed him at the fort in Agra. Its name is an obvious moniker, given the bright hue of the walls.
The sitting rooms and waiting halls of the kings and princes are grand and beautifully ornamented. Past the cascading sandstone arches, white marble with semi-precious stones shaved thin and used as inlay are de rigeur, echoing the beauty of the Taj Mahal.
Several of the rooms have the gorgeous decorations still intact, but in others one can see the empty holes where they have been pried out.

Sunlight streamed through the columns as I walked around the nearly deserted grounds. As the morning wore on, however, groups of people started arriveing to explore the sites, including this brightly-clad group of women passing in front of the private Pearl Mosque that rulers worshipped in.

Leaving the Red Fort, I passed an ever-increasing mob of people entering, and was glad to have had the chance to wander in relative solitude.

Across the street is the imposing facade of the Digambara Jain temple and bird hospital, my next destination of the morning.

I stopped in at the bird hospital (above, right) before continuing down the road towards the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. As prayer time was approaching, I didn't go into the grounds (Susan and I had visited during our last visit to Delhi), but instead hired a bicycle taxi to take me around the narrow alleyways of Chandni Chowk, the fantastically crowded heart of old Delhi.
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