Thursday, September 29, 2016

15 in the Peruvian Andes – fabulous Qosqo

We explored the city for some 3 days. And we experienced a lot at this very proud city. Before Lima was established, this was the most important city during the Spanish rule. Before that, it was also the capital of the Inca empire. And plenty of things bear testimony to that.

Remember we bought bread and cheese at the central market? It was also a colourful place with lots of crafts. The habib wanted to buy a mask, but we decided against it, as we still had plenty of towns to visit and carrying a mask around would have been complicated. But at least we took pics!

The Plaza de Armas, the main square, was also a very interesting place, with the cathedral on one side, churches on the other, a fountain with an Inca, old buildings all around... And it was cold! One thing we soon realized was that you could either freeze or roast. When under the sun in Cusco's practically cloudless skies, you could easily burn, but once in the shadow, you needed a jacket! Crazy! In the end, we opted for wearing light jackets all the time, to try to accommodate both not getting sunburnt and not catching a cold.

Also, the whole area around the Plaza de Armas was gorgeous, and all the streets leading to it gave you non-stop views of cobble-stone alleys, buildings atop enormous rocks that served as foundations for Inca palaces, church domes, the odd yard with llamas...

Funnily, despite the enormous pride people take in their indigenous heritage, Catholicism is the dominant religion, and it's not uncommon to find crosses that have been richly decorated with textiles...

Also, remember the balconies we saw in Lima? We saw more of them here. Blue, green, wooden, graceful... beautiful!

And then, there's Qorikancha (also spelled Coricancha and Quri Kancha), one of Cusco's most sacred Inca temples. Today, Qorikancha serves as the base of the Convento de Santo Domingo, so you get to see a fascinating mix of Inca foundations and stones and Catholic structures...

Many of the stones have those curious handles or protuberances that you see in Inca architecture at many other places. Whether ornamental or for practical use (hanging curtains or torches), I was fascinated by them.

And then the convent itself is also a museum for art both colonial and contemporary. And one of their colonial pieces made my day. You see, the whole idea of the holy trinity is rather strange. I mean, you have a father, a son, a holy ghost, they are all different, but they are the same (or else you'd risk becoming a polytheistic religion). Well, some painters actually grappled with this strange concept, and a few produced paintings where all three (father, son, holy ghost) looked exactly the same (after all, they were the same, right? at least according to part of the interpretation!). When the church decided that was heretic, many paintings were modified, making one of the figures look older, painting a dove over another of the figures... But at this museum they had one of the unmodified ones! Such a rarity! And frankly almost hilarious!  

Like I said, people from Cusco take great pride in their ancestry. Unfortunately, the Spanish language has strength in numbers, and so Quechua might be losing speakers. Which is why we found a sign on the street explaining the "great advantages" to speaking Quechua. I'm afraid the message was not very linguistically-sound, but it did reflect a general worry, although it also hinted at some nationalistic undertones that explained some of the things we heard while touring around the country (more on that in later posts).

And then, there were so many other things, like what one could mistake for LGBT rainbow flags but which were in fact Inca pride flags. Or the almost mystical streets around the main square at night. And the different festivities going on thanks to the national day celebrations – masks, music, dance, marches...

I made a very narrow selection of photos, and this is but a sliver of what we lived in this fascinating city. Though I'm not quite just yet done, because I haven't talked yet about the nearby ruins of Sacsayhuaman!

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