While continuing to find new pieces the design of the house we were to build needed to keep evolving. Each antique we found would entail the scratching out of new ideas on napkins and envelopes. It’s always a fun surprise when one comes across these scraps knowing it all turned out alright. Through all this we had to follow the well worn custom of having ‘cocktail hour’ each day to help ease a day of adventuring, taking time to dream of how it was all going to come together one day.
But I digress, all this began in Yangon (Rangoon) on our very first day in Myanmar months earlier when on the spur of a moment we found ourselves having dinner at the Strand Hotel. There are a few classic old colonial era hotels in the world, places like the Oriental in Bangkok and Raffles in Singapore. The Strand is story out of time and it so inspired Lydia and I that by the time we got to India we knew exactly what we would be looking for in a home.
That first trip in India was providential, having arrived in Pondicherry on day two of our journey and finding a rich source of materials to build with. The classic colonial architecture that we had found in Yangon was once again inspiring us here. With all accomplished we were off to Kodaikanal high in the Western Ghats. Arriving by sleeper bus we awoke to forested mountains blanketed in a thick mist, the fragrance of Eucalyptuses completely perfuming the cool damp air. Kodaikanal is an American Missionary town far above the hot plains of southern India. Our friend Viknes in Pondicherry grew up here and after his many stories we decided to visit. Finding a quaint stone guest house with a fireplace we needed to find firewood. We’re in India and we have a fireplace and it’s cold, who knew. Being one of the last places up a steep hill, we watched local woman coming out of the forest above with large bundles of wood on their heads on the way down to the village. Missing them I headed for the village to find a woman to buy from. Now, I’m a man if they can carry it so can I, but on picking the bundle of wood up there was no way I was going to make it back up the hill.  Swallowing my pride in front of those woman, I hired a rickshaw.
What we enjoy most about traveling is never knowing what the day will bring. What new people you’ll meet, what surprises you’ll end up experiencing. Walking a path up into the hills one morning, we came across a lovely home alone in the forest. This cottage was so full of old world charm we knew by looking just how we were going to accomplish building a new old house with the same integrity and coziness.
Years later we returned again to Kodaikanal just to find this house that so inspired our home. Times have changed, the town is busier now with the omnipresent horns of India splitting the hills. But, up the same trail, walking quietly past the gars (wild buffalo) we found the home unchanged and just as lovely. Getting up courage we walked around, where we are surprised to meet Westerners sitting out on the porch. Telling them how this house had inspired our own home we learned that the home was built by a well known Dane who immigrated to India at the out break of WWII and became one of the largest contractors in India. My Mother was born in Ørbyhage, Denmark with her father being a master builder according to the parish records. Though my friends feel that I act more German (Type A) as my father was from Germany, I’ve always felt more Danish (Type D -Danish). To find that this Dane was a builder as I am and my grandfather before me, it all seemed to come full circle What a surprise and why not!
This is the story of how Lydia and I came to be inspired in building our home. It was a long way there and back to find that what we wanted was a simple home with a warm fireplace and plenty of Danish hygge. Now we have a home to come back to that’s filled with history and memories, and has been shaped by the world we travel thru as it has shaped us.