A segment of Freak Street at present
The 1960’s, defined as the Hippie counter-culture craze invaded the lives of millions of people all around the world. The flower power generation or the movement idea of utopian society, where young people questioned materialism and hence the middle class drug culture emerged. The impact good or bad, 1960’s Hippie movement cannot be denied. The movement influenced popular music, television, film, literature and the arts. Westerns were getting to know more about spiritualism and started to follow more of eastern philosophy which led them to eastern lands. Among which Nepal was a popular destination where they poured.
A trademark colorful vehicle of the HIPPIE ERA- Still rolling in Freak Street
Jochhen- “Jo” meaning “straight” “Chhen” meaning “house” refers to straight line of houses at Old Freak street which was the epicenter of the Hippie trail. During that time the main attraction drawing tourists to freak street was the government –run hashish shops. Hence, Hippies traveled from different parts of the world to Freak Street in search of legal cannabis. The street nurtured the way of bohemian life, free from conformity and no social expectation. The best rumor till today is that the God of the Guitar “Jimi Hendrix” himself once traveled to the Freak Street and yes The Beatles and Jim Morrison also have been reported seen here. As implausible as it seems, it is amusing to hear about the crowd that it attracted and the fame that it garnered and Bob Segal having written a song titled Kathmandu is appreciated.
Is it what the Hippies thrive for?
The movement was highly influenced by the arts and music. Basantapur is filled with temples and sattals, where carved wooden pieces of gods and goddesses with minute details are placed. The folk genre has a vast verity of classical instruments and folk lore is definitely touchy. The enormous cultural and religious ways of the combined Hindus and Buddhist worshippers is a huge attraction. The mystically magnetic land and the welcoming people with cheap accommodation, meals and the idea of long travel fulfilled every expectation of the Hippies.
Yet, the then plum position in the heart of Kathmandu today, still has the leftover of the flower generation. Youth today have opened clubs to keep the place intact, where foreigners and new generation get to go around the legendary hub of the Hippies. The area at present is under UNESCO World Heritage Site, and tourists have package to go for a day Sightseeing Tour inside the area.
UNESCO World Heritage Site flanks the Freak Street
Text Credits: Bishant Bista
Photo Credits: Karan Kunwar