When I first walked into Durbar Square in Bhaktapur, it was as if I was stepping back in time and into a wholly different world. Paved in worn reddish-brown brick, the large public square was bounded by Hindu temples, historic statues, and brick buildings with dozens of potted plants lining the roofs. What was most striking was the shape of the roof-line of the temples; the architecture was ancient and awesome.
I write “was” because after this week’s massive earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, much of these architectural gems have probably been destroyed. I was lucky enough to have visited several years before this earthquake – back when a 500-year-old hand-carved wood Peacock window was well-preserved, and grass actually grew on some unkempt ancient temple roofs.
Children skipped along to play in Durbar Square and they helped me to buy tomatoes. They tracked me down when they discovered that earlier I had accidentally given one of them a useless Thai baht instead of valued, and needed, Nepalese rupees. After the earthquake…well, I can’t imagine the temples and statues remain, nor can I imagine children playing in the courtyard. Bhaktapur is probably broken.
In the middle of the square, dozens of vendors had laid large cloths and tarps on the ground. They spread out their fruits, vegetables, and hand carved wood objects and tried to sell to anyone who wandered by. Many had metal scales and weights for measuring the food they would sell. We Westerners would call the scales old-fashioned, but hey, the Nepali didn’t need electricity or batteries to make the scales function!
To this day, my memories of Bhaktapur remain one of my all-time favorites. Having not read anything about this small city in Kathmandu Valley before I visited, I had zero preconceptions before visiting and thus each sight and sound was unexpected and captivating. I could not get enough of it. I wanted more, but I had to leave. It’s the kind of place where, for days on end, you want to equally wander down each and every narrow lane as well as sit in the square, absorbing the simplicity of life.
My last photograph of the day shows grinning school children, still dressed in their uniforms, riding on a tractor down a narrow lane. Rather than the current headlining pictures of the earthquake ravaged Nepal, I prefer my own memories and pictures.
Such a tragedy to have lost so many landmarks in Kathmandu not to mention the many wonderful people who have died. I grieve for the country.