While in Vizag (Visakhapatnam, that is), I popped in to one of its more unlikely tourist attractions: a submarine museum.
This is the INS Kursura, Soviet-built, commissioned in 1969 and in service for a remarkable 32 years, now hauled up alongside the beach at Vizag where it pulls in the punters at a very reasonable 40 rupees a head,
A complement of 75 submariners took to the sea in the Kursura - and as you walk through the vessel you marvel at how so many can have lived on board in such a cramped space for weeks at a time.
The submarine had a disastrous start in service. In 1970, it surfaced directly below an Indian naval ship and required substantial repairs. But it was back in service in time for the India-Pakistan war towards the end of 1971 and undertook patrolling duties.
The museum is well organised, and as long as you keep your head down, it's an enjoyable experience. Lifelike displays show how submariners would have spent their time - at work, in their bunks and eating their meals.
I better you never knew that this is where Tintin and Captain Haddock ended up! No sign of Snowy though ...
The 1971 naval war was quite bloody. On 4 December, a Pakistani submarine, the PNS Ghazi, went down off the Vizag coast with the loss of all 92 on board. The Indian navy said they had sunk an enemy submarine; Pakistan said it was the result of an internal explosion.
There's no mention of the fate of the Ghazi in the submarine museum.
I'm just back from a weekend jaunt to Visakhapatnam - Vizag as it's almost universally known - and I'm impressed.
For those of you reading this post outside India, Vizag is probably the biggest Indian city you've never heard of. It has a population of well over 2 million - it's one of Asia's fastest growing urban centres - one of South Asia's main ports - one of India's most prosperous cities ... and among the cleanest. And it's got brilliant beaches.
Visakhaptanam (it's said the Brits couldn't get their tongues around the full name, hence the simplification to Vizag) is equidistant between Chennai and Calcutta and by far the main coastal city along this long stretch of the Bay of Bengal.
And now that Telugu-speaking Andhra Pradesh has been divided (not reflected in this map - sorry!) and Hyderbad is to become the state capital only of Telangana, Vizag will be Andhra's biggest city.
An international airport is in prospect and India's leading nuclear research centre is relocating here. Vizag is not, however, going to be Andhra's state capital - that will be a newly built place, Amaravati, further south. (It's all about politics and money - details on request).
Vizag has what's described as the best natural harbour on India's east coast. It's the HQ of the Indian navy's Eastern Command and has two busy ports - along with steel, pharmaceuticals, refineries and all that you expect of a rapidly growing port city. At the hotel I stayed at there were quite a lot of Russians among the guests - I am told technicians working on modernising the habour and naval facilities.
And Vizag is also abundant proof that industrial cities don't have to be ugly. It's on the eastern Ghats, so quite hilly, which gives a certain majesty to the landscape.
The sea is rocky in places with strong currents so it's not great for swimming and there's hardly any beach tourism. But locals and visitors alike enjoy strolling on the sand and getting their feet (and a little more) wet.
It's a new city - and an old one too. To the north there are the ruins of two ancient Buddhist universities and religious centres dating back two millennia. Buddhist holy men congregated here before sailing from the harbour to take their message to other parts of south and south-east Asia.
There's also an old Dutch trading centre a half-hour's drive north - though the cemetery is really all that remains.
The Collector's office in Vizag - still the never centre of local government - remains in a remarkable British-built architectural mish-mash, with a tower, turrets and arrow-slit apertures. But a lot of the other colonial-era buildings, in the old town and by the port, are slowly crumbling away. And sadly there's only a handful of the old sea-facing bungalows still left - most have been replaced by multi-storey apartments and hotels.
But if you get a chance to go to Vizag - do!
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