We decided to do the trip by Train in order to keep costs down - Booked tickets in 3AC. It costed Rs1050 for two persons one way. The train number is 11023 Sahyadri Express for Pune(PUNE) to Kolhpur(KOP) and 11024 for Kolhapur(KOP) to Pune(PUNE). We booked our train tickets exactly one month before the travel date.
The train leaves from Pune at 10.30 PM and reaches Kolhapur around 6.00 AM. From railway station, we proceeded to the hotel – Hotel Maratha Regency(http://www.hotelmaratharegency.com/), a 3 star hotel – This was the hotel that fit our budget and hence while booking, we considered it a gamble and were open to face any kind of experience. But now after completing the journey, I will say that this Hotel is pretty decent and gives good value for money. The rooms are clean, and spacious. The bed linen were clean and smell free, and the toilets were clean and good too. And the best part on top of all this is that, the staff are very very courteous. Not only that, this hotel is exactly a kilometre's distance from the Kolhapur Railway station. It costed us 30 Ruppees and less than 5 minutes to reach the hotel.
A front view ( this is from the hotel's website) -
After consulting http://www.mahalaxmikolhapur.com/, We quickly got ready and proceeded to Mahalakshmi Temple for Darshan – We left at 7.15 AM for Darshan, by auto, which cost us 50 Ruppees. The temple is about 4-4.5 kms from the hotel, i.e. inside the town. While on the way to temple I noticed some boards saying “Yatri Niwas” which were closer to the temple, should try them out the next time.
At the temple, the queue was short. Even though one is not allowed to stand in front of the diety for more than 2 minutes, we had darshan of the diety 4-5 times, by re-entering the queue, going around the inner complex of the temple; which the temple staff are ok with as long as you dont create a blockade while praying in front of the diety. It was a very peaceful and energizing darshan.
After collecting some momentoes(mostly photos and milk pedha offering), we returned to the hotel for breakfast, as we had a bed and breakfast booking there. The breakfast spread consisted of Idly Vada Sambar, bread butter jam, and corn flakes and milk. Being a tamil myself, and wanting to eat local food, I ordered for Sabudana khichdi and some Poha apart from having a taste of the breakfast spread. Having completed breakfast, we slept for two hours and proceeded to Phadtare Misal Centre for relishing some spicy Misal Pav, another culinary delicacy special to Kolhapur(or so I have heard). It was noon time and a long queue and Phadtare. This Misal Pav shop closes at 1 PM so we rushed, and made it in time. From there we proceeded to the Chatrapati Shahuji Maharaj's Palace cum Museum - http://www.tripadvisor.in/Attraction_Review-g737166-d3705251-Reviews-Shahuji_Chhatrapati_Museum-Kolhapur_Maharashtra.html – It was good to know about a Maratha king other than Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The palace has detailed pictures of their family and also a detailed family tree about how this royal household came into being. (Photo below taken on Blackberry Bold)
We spent about 2 hours here and returned back to hotel at around 4 PM. We were planning to go for another round of temple darshan, but could not as I was suddenly down with temperature. We spent the evening relaxing in the hotel and left at 10.15 PM for the station to return back to Pune by Sahyadri Express. The train left on time from there and reached before time at Pune the next morning.
While roaming around in the auto to and from the various venues mentioned above, we crossed many inner streets of Kolhapur which felt a lot like the streets of Bangalore that I visited way back in the period 96-98(yes 1996-1998). The stilted houses, shops under road level, roads arched with trees, all re-inforced my understanding of how the Kannada speaking people's culture and the Marathi speaking people's culture are intertwined.
This trip was a good one day getaway on a very tight budget and in about 6k we wrapped it all up. My fever played a spoilsport and prevented us from exploring. Hope to discover this region some more soon. Until then so long.