The Potala Palace in Tibet sits amidst dramatic skies
It felt a little (OK, a lot) surreal to be climbing the steps to the Potala Palace, the former home of the Dalai Lama and seat of government. Today the building is a museum, an assembly space for the Buddhist monks and a World Heritage Site (along with one of the "new" Seven Wonders of the World). The complex has over 1,000 rooms and rises 1,000 feet above the valley floor.
Reflections of Potala Palace
An interesting tea connection...it's thought that the current structure is built upon the grounds of another palace, that of King Songtsen Gampo. In 637, he had a special building constructed to greet his bride Princess Wencheng of China. She is sometimes given credit for introducing tea (pu-erh) to Tibet, having brought it in her dowry. This is most likely untrue. Scholars believe tea had already made its way from China to Tibet via trade routes centuries earlier. Moreover, our Tibetan tour guide very strongly believed that tea grows natively in Tibet. Nonetheless, the presence of tea in the princesses dowry shows the value placed upon it at that time. (The story reminds me of one that would repeat itself many years later, when Catherine de Braganza brought tea to England.)
That's me on the left in the striped hatIt was a long climb to the top. The flight of stairs above is one of many we ascended. Every 20 steps or so I would stop to catch my breath and take in the view. Given the effects of the high altitude, the intense sunlight and the necessary physical exertion, we felt like champions when we reached the "summit". We were invited into the "highest restroom in the world," which I will always remember because it makes me chuckle (though I don't think it's true). Most of us didn't require the facilities as we were having to work hard to stay well hydrated.
One of my favorite photos