The Eyes of Buddha
My first impressions of Kathmandu focused on the dust and the street signage that did not make sense. The lasting ones though were very much about its everyday spirituality. From day one of my trip I fell in love with it. It was something so extremely different from my European heritage and yet so easy to embrace.
In Kathmandu, even before visiting any temples, you simply come across daily rituals including prayers and offerings. There are all seeing eyes of Buddha, often painted on the stupas, and the sound of bells near the temples. These are situated almost on every corner of the streets. I found it incredible how Buddhism and Hinduism, the two main religions in Nepal, are an integral part of all the surroundings as well as the life of local people.
The Monkey Temple
I visited Swayambhunath twice during my stay in Kathmandu. The stupa and a variety of shrines and temples are at the heart of this Buddhist place of worship, however walking up and down the hill offers the views of Kathmandu and the valley. With its fairly central location it was a great area for me to start discovering the city and to spin the praying wheels for the last time on the final day of the trip. Om mani padme hum.. as the mantra goes.
Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple for a reason. It is worth remembering that despite their “holy status” some of the monkeys can be pretty vicious. My friend before the trip actually warned me about them. Luckily I only saw them fighting with each other or bothering locals who sold tea in a small shack under the trees.
Kathmandu Durbar Square
I decided to admire the architecture of the Durbar Square once I was back in Kathmandu from Pokhara. The old royal palace (durbar) and the temples were not the site that I wanted to whizz through just before my trekking trip. I wanted to have enough time to appreciate elaborately-carved wooden parts of the palaces and feel the ambiance of the square where holy rituals intertwine with the high energy of food markets and flying pigeons. Only the holy cows were not a part of this hustle and bustle, wagging their tales and from time to time fed by some locals. I suppose that someone had to keep calm in this lively place.