Bhaktapur - Nepal's Medieval Hill City

Trip Start Nov 29, 2013
Trip End Jun 11, 2014

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A short distance to the east of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur is the third Newar royal city of the Kathmandu Valley. While Patan is close enough to Kathmandu to be engulfed by the capital’s sprawl, smog, and chaos, most of the old city of Bhaktapur is virtually car free. The entire city’s streets are paved in brick that perfectly matches the brick with woodwork trim of the city’s buildings. While the temples and palace on Patan’s Durbar Square may exceed those of Bhaktapur’s Durbar, Bhak’s multiple squares connected via narrow alleys give it a thoroughly medieval atmosphere and make it the most interesting of the valley’s cities.

While the culture and architecture here are very different from Europe or the Middle East, I found many similarities in overall atmosphere to some of the other great medieval cities of the world. Bhaktapur’s hilly ridge location, narrow twisting streets and unified residential density are
quite reminiscent of Siena and other Italian hill towns, the multi-story temples on the squares taking the place of the churches on Italian piazzas. The artisans working on pottery, banging metal, and wood carving in the maze of courtyards and open workshops also reminded me a lot of Fez, Morocco.

Once I escaped from the pesky dudes hanging around Durbar Square wanting to be my guide for the day, I experienced little further hassle in Bhaktapur, just lots of friendly people saying “Namaste” with a smile as I passed them in the alleys. Despite the noise of an occasional motorbike marring the sense of timelessness, Bhaktapur is still a world away from central Kathmandu’s chaos. I hope I might be able to make it back to Bhaktapur in mid-April when I'll be back in Nepal for my trek for Bisket Jatra, the biggest celebration of Nepali New Year, which features chariot races and a massive tug of war between different parts of the city.

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