Everybody who spends at least few days on the streets of Kathmandu knows the feeling of growing fatigue and frustration…. Huge traffic following “laws of jungle” rather than the road’s code, black clouds of exhaust gases, noise, pollution…. make you dream about an isolated enclave of pure nature where you can recover from this madness….
Frankly, it was exactly in Kathmandu when I realized that sometimes dreams can come true. Walking along the wall on the Tridevi Marg Street at the edge of touristic area of Thamel I found a modest sign promising the Garden of Dreams.
Intrigued by this unexpected discovery I crossed the small and uninspiring gate to find behind the wall a paradise in the middle of the bustling town. Well, at first moment, may be due to the contrast with busy streets it seemed to me like the biblical Garden of Eden.
The garden is a legacy of one man – member of the powerful Rana dynasty ruling the Nepal for more than hundred years (till mid 20th century) – Field Marshal Keshar Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana.
Seasoned diplomat and statesman, but also well educated in literature and art as well as passionate botanist, from his frequent trips to Europe he brought several ideas and inspirations. The most important for future generations turned out to be his idea to create the garden of his dreams in the center of Kathmandu.
The second one, was may be not an inspiration but rather an admiration – this time for the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Frantz Joseph. In German the word Emperor is spelled Kaiser, so Keshar promptly changed his name to Kaiser Shumsher. As it turned out both events played an important role in the destiny the Garden of Dreams.
At the time of opening in 1920’s the garden was considered as the finest private garden in the world. Just to give you an idea – each of six pavilions built in the garden were dedicated to one of six Nepali seasons. Kaiser Shumsher’s inspiration came from old Sansktit literature and more modern poetry by R. Tagore (winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature).
Just for the record – the mentioned six seasons are: Grishma (in Sanskrit Summer), Varsha (Monsoon), Sharad (early autumn), Hemant (late autumn), Sharad (winter) and Vasantha (spring).
Well, to keep it short. After the fall of Rana’s dynasty, the garden lost its “virginity”, overgrown by jungle-like vegetation, with polls filled with mud and buildings crumbling. City “devoured” half of this once stunningly beautiful space for urban development…
By the end of 20th century the Garden of Dreams resembled rather a “Place of Despair and Desolation”.
And here comes (like a Tale from the Grave), Emperor (Kaiser) Franz Joseph or rather his compatriots represented by the Austrian Government and an NGO Eco-Himal. They provided financial help and supervision of reconstruction work.
On October 8, 2006 the resurrected Garden of Dreams was re-opened to public. It is a marvelous place to “lick your wounds” immersing in the pristine nature of flower gardens, ponds, water flowers, exotic trees and plants, place to walk along the paths covered by pergolas and trellises, place to sit on the grass and just watch the sky and clouds….. or sip the coffee served in Kaiser Café Bar…..
There are entry fees – for foreigners it is about NPR 160 (probably $2).
For about NPR 250 you may have access to Internet (WiFi)
Within Garden’s premises operates Kaiser Café Bar and Restaurant (a bit pricey but keep in mind that you are in an Oasis of Peace and Tranquility…. and obviously these kinds of secluded places have to be maintained ….Someone has to pay for that and I think if both Kaisers did it twice, we should follow with our modest contributions to the cause.
The bottom line – when in Kathmandu, consider the Garden of Dreams as a place to be (“Must” on you list of attractions).
Have a nice afternoon in Garden of Dreams
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