One of the world’s most unique names for a street is Freak Street, found in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. It was christened in the 1960s by Western hippies and social deviants who were immensely attracted to this street, making it their own not-so-private hideaway. There were referring to themselves as dusty-haired freaks. The street’s real name is Jochne but Freak Street caught on at the beginning of the 70s. Its beauty was irresistible during those times. There were children running while fluttering prayer wheels, the smell of incense never left the air, and throughout are tiny shops selling items of enlightenment. It was a perfect place for free-spirited hippies, freaks who dressed, danced and acted as they pleased. The 70s’ groove, the loved-ins and psychedelic motifs have long been gone, but the street remains extremely popular today for what it used to be many decades ago.
For many years, this area in Kathmandu was notoriously known as a place where anything goes. What is shocking and illicit was normal and expected in Freak Street. It offered a different kind of attraction to people outside the Nepalese culture.
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Mostly Westerners, the freaks did pretty much what they wanted to do here. They smoked plenty of marijuana, engaged in unfettered sexual activities, did not bath or shave for days and lied around stoned for weeks. Spiritual explorers also gathered here hoping to find enlightenment, exotic encounters and spiritual release. They came to seek an alternative lifestyle. However, the spirituality soon left as the street became more notorious for openly using and dealing illegal drugs. Soon junkies, addicts and pushers littered the area, making the place more dangerous than it was artistic.
Soon, more western tourists found their way to Kathmandu, which gave rise to a cleaner kind of tourist attraction and forms of entertainment in the district of Thamel. Not long after Thamel became very popular, Freak Street become less tempting. The charm that it used to exude turned into fear from street junkies, although they were never violent. Finally, the capital city decided to clean up the neighborhood and shooed away the deviants and their deviant ways. The junkies and hippies left, and soon the hippie movement faded away all over the world.
There are no more dancing in the street today, no more freaks, as the street is now overshadowed by Kathmandu’s nearby shopping centers and historical sites. Not far away is the world famous Kathmandu Durbar Square, which is easily the most important tourist spot in Nepal. Kathmandu is better known for its ancient temples, palaces, shrines and stupas, many of which are found within Durbar Square. The beauty and enchantment of this ancient complex offers a kind of high that surpasses what was used to be offered by Freak Street.
So today, there is nothing freakish about Freak Street anymore. Tourists come to see the street that was, and relax at a few restaurants and hotels. The restaurants are quite good. The most popular is Ganesh Restaurant near the mid-point of the street, next to a small shrine. It is famous for its little blue snowman cakes.