Based on the Nepali calendar, we are in the middle of December 2074 and the preparations for the New Year festivities have begun. Thus, it is no wonder that the first thing we see in Bhaktapur is a ritual mask dance.
Our first destination in Nepal is Bhaktapur, one of the ancient Newa kingdoms. Thanks to international support, the damages of the 2015 earthquake are at least partly repaired and the town’s core welcomes speckled tourists with beautiful architecture and inviting coffee shops.
We stroll around and admire the temples, the king’s palace, the summer’s palace, the monasteries, the brick buildings and the wooden art around ancient windows. Our home base is the Sweet Home Bhaktapur: advisable not only for its perfect location but also for wonderful food and the remarkable kitsch lamps in the rooms.
We learn about Newa traditions and influences from further ethnos. At the Painting School, we see beautiful Mandala / Tibetan Art paintings. You can almost touch and feel the extensive patience of the painters – a way of living that is light years away from my regular daily schedule.
Starting here and accompanying us for the next weeks is the contrast between beast and beauty, between conservation and destruction. Still, there is a lot left to do in order to heal the damages of the 2015 earthquake.
Traditional handicraft is still vivid in the alleys of Bhaktapur. For Hindu rituals, for weddings and other festivities, a lot of special vessels are required. Thus, the majority of products is not for tourists, but rather for the local inhabitants.
The heart of the city is the Taumadhi Place, dominated by the Nyatapola Temple. With its five story pagoda it is the highest temple of the Kathmandu valley, guarded by stone figures that keep evil monsters out and valuable assets in. Legends say, it was built as a home for the Goddess Lakshmi, offering a female companion to God Shiva (living in a smaller and older temple nearby) who needed to be calmed down.
Bhaktapur is the perfect start into Nepal: vivid with shops and cafés, traditional with ancient architecture and handicraft (including singing bowl experts), far from being overcrowded and – apart from the omnipresent dust – it is the cleanest part of this country I have seen throughout the whole trip.