I stare at the blurry white liquid in my cup with wonder: THIS is beer? My grandfather used to make his own wine from the grapes in his backyard. He loved doing that but had no knowledge of what a good wine is. The result was something rather sour and mildly alcoholic, that I used to love until I tried “real” wine. When I tasted that rice beer I tasted my grandfather’s wine.
I was in Kirtipur, a small Newari town a short distance from the city center of Kathmandu. It was my 6th visit to Kathmandu and it was time for me to get outside of Thamel and explore something different.
There are many hills, stupas and villages to explore in the Kathmandu Valley. Much of it is easily accessible by public transportation (as easy as anything is in Nepal, that is!)
I opted to visit Kirtipur, which is a very underrated spot! People who visit Kathmandu will certainly go to Patan, and some will make it to Bhaktapur. But there are more villages around that are very much part of the greater city.
I love places which have a story, and Kirtipur certainly has this. Despite the fact that its name means “glory”, it suffered a painful defeat when the Gorkhas decided to attack the valley from this point. Because Kirtipur is built on a hill, it has a strategic position, which is what attracted the attackers’ interest. This hilltop position also means that there are wonderful panoramic views of the city.
I climbed up a set of broken stairs; when I passed through the gate, it was like stepping back in time. Kirtipur also seemed like a ghost town. Most of its “glory” (“kirti” comes from the word for glorious) is now just a shade of what it was. A few local people looked at me with curiosity. There are just a couple of souvenir shops and restaurants and temples and… that’s it. No traffic is allowed in the old centre. Therefore, there is no dust. And it’s quiet.
You can easily spend half a day wandering the little streets, just talking with locals and enjoying the quiet.
In terms of sightseeing, there are a few temples. My favourite was the Hindu Uma Maheshwor Temple, which is like a miniature of the temples in the Kathmandu Durbar Square. The oddest thing is a “cyclops building”. I call it “cyclops” because it is two houses that share one window. The window is a very old one. It was kept exactly as it used to be and the way it was used to link the two houses attracts the attention to it and shows its originality.
However, the true “attraction” of the little town is its cuisine. You can taste here the most authentic Newari food. At the Newa Lahana restaurant I mostly saw local people. I took off my shoes, sat on the ground and I ate my food with my hands, all while absorbing the gorgeous view and listening to the loud chit-chat and laughter of the locals.
The food cannot be described in just a few words! If you are not a vegetarian then this is the place to go. If you like intestines, even better. Even if you squirmed at the previous sentence, do try the fried intestines. I promise you there is nothing “yucky” about it. It is unusual but delicious.
And then the “beer”, which took my back to my childhood. It’s something to try, but not to indulge in.
As I watched the sun rays darting over the hills and lost myself in time in this village, I grew to love Kathmandu even more. The Kathmandu Valley is not a “love at first sight” kind of place. But love for it builds up through exploration and discovery.
Top image: Juan Antonio Sehgal/Flickr