Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Beautiful City of Cusco, Peru

On Wednesday evening, the 11th of August, 2010 , we arrived in Cusco after a long drive from Puno . The drive was pleasant because we stopped at the pre-Inca and Inca sites, a Quechua family's home, and Inca stomping grounds overlooking a beautiful lake.

We were struck with the beauty of Cusco, its well maintained buildings, narrow, one car streets, fountains, and monuments. The Inca laid out the city in the shape of a puma. The puma represents this earth life. Cusco is the historic capital of Peru and the main tourist attraction because of its role as the center of the Inca Empire which stretched from Ecuador to Chile. Javier Since, owner of Moroni Tours, recommended the Inca Grill for lunch. The balcony where we are seated overlooks the Plaza de Armas and the two massive cathedrals that anchor the square.

One of our stops was an artesania shop where the work of local artisans was displayed. Each article--bags, place mats, table runners, table cloths, glass cases, etc., includes a picture of the woman who wove and created the article. The shop is really set up as a foundation which assures the weaver/artist she will be paid the worth of her work. This woman was quite shy but she allowed us to take her picture. We paid her. It is expected and appreciated.

A former cathedral is now the Koricancha Museum, a museum of Inca walls and rooms found in tact. The Inca used no mortar. The stones are honed to fit so closely together, a piece of paper could not be inserted between the stones. The Spanish used the massive blocks of stone as foundations for their cathedrals, churches, and palaces. In this doorway you can see the Inca blocks of stone and the Spanish door and embellishments on the stone. The monastery still functions today but we were not allowed to visit there.

The head of the Puma is at the upper left of the photo. The road just left of center forms the body of the puma. The tail comes to the point in the city where two rivers come together.

The roofs create a uniform pattern of brick red throughout the city. Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu, depends on the tourist trade. Three massive, important, and beautiful Inca sites are within minutes of the city. The architecture is a mix of Spanish Colonial and mixed with the ancient sights of the Inca Empire.

On Sunday we went to Sacrament Meeting in a chapel a few blocks from the hotel. The building was behind a massive iron fence. The architecture of our chapels, whether one story or two, is distinctive. They are attractive additions to the city.

We rested in the afternoon. About dinner time we ventured out to find a place to eat and ran into a Catholic celebration of the Virgin Mary. Notice how big the statue is. More than a dozen men were carrying her through the streets to the cathedral. A ragtag band followed playing the same eight bars of music over and over.

We toured the Catedral de Cusco which is more an art museum than a place of worship; however, services are held there. The main altar is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Our guide pointed out the 15th Century religious art, the gold altar, and the side chapels of silver. The story is that the Spanish looted the silver and gold and built their cathedrals over the Inca temples. We could see three centuries of stone work in the buildings and surrounding walls.

This picture really belongs with the other Inca stone work in the basilica and monastery. This cathedral, one of three) was also built over the Inca walls and rooms. The great blessing is that the Spanish conquistadores didn't tear the temples down. They just built over the existing temples and sacred Inca sites using the massive blocks for foundations.

This picture was taken from the balcony of the Inca Grill. One of the things we enjoy about Peru is how the locals use their parks for gatherings. They are always well maintained and safe. You can see the two main cathedrals that flank the square.

This is a side view of the Koriancha Musium and the monastery. We were not allowed to go beyond the cloisters and garden.

This picture of the main cathedral was taken the first day we were in Cusco before we went to Machu Picchu. There were fewer people walking around that day. Sunday the plaza and cathedral were congested. Selling jewelry or any other memorabilia is against the law in Cusco, but the vendors are hard at work from the first light and into the night. One lady approached me on the side steps to the main cathedra to sell me a piece of jewelry. I had seen a llama pendant I liked earlier in the day so I looked her tray over and didn't find what I wanted. She said she would get it from me but I didn't see her again which was a relief, actually. We figured she had been chased off the cathedral steps by the police.

You can see the cobblestone and brick road in this picture. Also you can get a better sense of the size of the cathedral.

The balcony of this building is where we sat to eat lunch at the Inca Grill. In spite of still being in winter, the flowers were just gorgeous. We learned that there are 132 ecosystems in the world and 82 of them are in Peru. Cusco is warmer than Lima and sunny almost every day.

From this aerial view, you can see the main square and the three cathedrals.

The Peru flag is the red and white flag and the Cusco flag is the rainbow flag in the background. Jewelry made by local silversmiths reflects the colors of Cusco--the rainbow Inca cross, for example. Each color has meaning and corresponds to the life cycle. The Inca believed in pre-earth life, earthlife, and the life beyond. Our guide told us the reason Pizarro and his men were readily accepted in the beginning was because the Inca believed Pizarro was the great white god they expected to return some day.

No comments:

Post a Comment