An ancient city—this is a phrase that can be applied equally to quite a few settlements in the culturally rich Kathmandu Valley, where civilization took root ages ago. In fact, so rich is it in culture, arts, and architecture, that the entire valley has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site having universal cultural value. And, while the many different cities and towns in this blessed valley of the gods are each equally special in their own ways, there is one city that has earned the privilege of being acknowledged as the best preserved city among its peers.
This is where you’ll find a palace having perhaps the most number of windows among all the numerous palaces around, as well as a temple that is definitely the tallest among all temples. Here is also where you’ll experience the most boisterous festival in the valley if you are here around the Nepali New Year in April/May, as well as the creamiest yogurt to be found anywhere in the world.
There are indeed many, many more attributes of this city that make it a living museum, a city where you can get to understand how it used to be once upon a time. Other cities, too, have some specific sites, particularly their durbar squares, that can be also considered as living museums, since the ancient monuments are still a part of the daily lives of the locals. However, the city I am talking about specifically, it is not only its durbar square, but the entire city that is a living museum. This is due to the meticulous work of many to preserve it as it was.
While many visitors become familiar with its many charms in due time, chances are that many might not even know about one particular aspect that is also quite unique. It is a house in Dattereya Square that won an Honorable Mention in the 2004 UNESCO Asia Pacific Cultural Heritage Conservation List. Today, it stands out as a prime example of the acclaimed traditional Newari architecture of the valley, complete with the signature intricately carved windows adorning all three floors, burnished copper and bronze fittings in its bathrooms, a lovely little wooden verandah, and beautiful ethnic furnishings in all the rooms, including two lounges, a library, and the bedrooms. Decorative pieces along its narrow wooden staircases include traditional Newari utensils and musical instruments, while the top floor has a well-stocked comfortable bar, from where you can look down at the ancient city of ancient palaces and temples, narrow paved alleys, some ponds, and locals and foreigners alike thronging the squares on any given day.
This is a city that showcases the flourishing civilization of ancient times as few other cities do. This is a city that begs for exploration and discovery. This is a city that can only gain added importance with the relentless march of the times, the ravages of urbanization, the unstoppable surge towards modernity. For, this is the city that will continue to remain as it was forever, God willing. Welcome to a sample of things as they were eons ago, Welcome to Bhaktapur!