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The Bhagirathi-Hooghly River, as the Ganga is known along its final stretch to the sea, is one of the most interesting waterways of India. Stretched along its banks (roughly between Kolkata and Murshidabad) are remains of former European settlements. Hence, this stretch of the river is also known as ‘Europe on the Ganga’. Travelling northwards from Kolkata (British), there is Srirampur (Danes), Chandannagar (French), Bandel (Portuguese) and Chinsurah (Dutch), and Murshidabad. Although the settlements are now part of history, you may still enjoy a glimpse into the past through surviving buildings and cultures.
While it is possible to make the journey by road, travelling along the river makes it more interesting. Although private cruises are available along the route, they may not always be pocket friendly. However, thanks to a day-long cruise introduced by the West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC), now you can enjoy a trip to two of the former colonies. Called the ‘European Settlement Boat Ride’, it charges Rs 350 per head for the trip.
Every Saturday and Sunday, the boat leaves from Millennium Park (at 10am) and travels to Danish Serampore (now Srirampur) and French Chandernagore (Chandannagar). The boat returns to Kolkata around 9pm.
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At each place, the boat stops for almost 1.5 hours allowing passengers to disembark and enjoy the sights around town. In Serampore, you may make a quick tour of the Serampore College, the restored St Olav’s Church and may be a quick bite at the renovated Denmark Tavern. In Chandernagore, a walk down the Strand and a visit to the museum in the Dupleix Palace are must.
The boat which operates as the Young Readers’ Boat Library between Monday and Friday is used for the European Settlement tour on Saturdays and Sundays. Hence, you also get to enjoy an eclectic collection of books on Kolkata and its history on this trip. Light snacks are sold on board.
There is no facility of online booking and tickets have to be bought from the WBTC counter at Millennium Park. However, do remember, the cruise operation is dependent on the tide and hence timings may vary. So it is best to check with the ticket counter for the latest information.
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