A Faded Medieval Time Capsule in the Kathmandu Valley
Much of the area around Bhaktapur’s magnificent Durbar Square is magically evocative of Kathmandu, Nepal’s nearby capital, in the days before trekkers arrived bound for the Annapurna circuit and the Everest trail.
Unlike rapidly developing Kathmandu, however, Bhaktapur (also called Bhadgaon, the City of Devotees) is still a small town of medieval tableaux that has nearly escaped creeping Western tourism. Its impressive architecture and recent townwide preservation (the most extensive in Nepal, thanks to a German-funded project initiated in the 1970s) is due to its prestige as a former capital, beginning in A.D. 1200, of one of the four independent kingdoms in the Kathmandu Valley. (They were united in the late 1700s.) Durbar Square is bounded by the royal palace, with its seven courtyards; a sequence of pagoda-style Hindu temples; and the Golden Gate – made entirely of brass, it is one of Nepal’s proudest artistic achievements.
A short walk in any direction from the square brings you into the twisting backways where the town’s potters and craftsmen, for centuries a source of the city’s renown, carry on their unchanging traditions.