Exploring Cuzco

I´m not going to lie, I´m having the time of my life here in Cuzco. Yes, I haven´t started my archaeological work yet (early July-August 15th) but exploring the archaeological capital of South America and meeting AMAZING people along the way has truly been an incredible experience (and it has been only 4 days!!!!)

June 19th 2009-Today was my first eventful day in Cuzco. I took a taxi to the Avenida del Sol and exchanged some US dollars for Sols (the Peruvian currency). There was a massive parade of dancers dressed in brightly colored clothing that passed through the Avenida. After taking a few photos, I stumbled upon the central Plaza de Armas. It was a beautiful sunny day (SoCal weather!) and numerous tourists and police officers were strolling through the square. The views from the square are very nice-you can see the towering mountains and numerous Peruvian neighborhoods in the distance. My goal for the day was to see as many cathedrals as possible and that is precisely what I did.

I went inside the La Compania cathedral first and met a very friendly guide who gave me a tour of the church. The cathedral is very ornate and contains numerous colonial paintings depicting important religious and celestial figures. At the far end of the cathedral is a massive structure made of cedar wood covered in gold leaf. One half of the structure is of the Baroque style while the other half is of the Renaissance style. The tour guide and I spoke about how the Catholicism draws inspiration from other religions (Hinduism and Egyptian religion for example). After the tour, I spoke with the guide for a few minutes about life in the U.S. and breakdancing (which I find hilarious).

I then walked around the main Cathedral for a while and saw the famous Last Supper painting with the guinea pigin the middle. Although much grander than the La Compania, the main Cathedral is similarly very ornate and overall very Baroque. Afterwards, I walked through the Hatun Rumiyok and saw the famous the 12-angled Inca stones. The precision used in the stones´ construction is jaw-dropping (you cannot stick a piece of paper through). I then had an Asian tourist take a photo of me and a man dressed in Inca clothing standing beside the 12-angled stones. I then stopped at a restaurant and ate an alpaca sandwich for lunch (absolutely DELICIOUS).

In short, I explored some other cathedrals (San Blas, La Merced, and San Francisco). They are all very similar-intricate colonial facade, baroque interior, and colonial paintings. Walking through Cuzco´s streets is really interesting-there are very narrow streets, street vendors trying to sell you unoriginal tourist objects, numerous Andean women wearing traditional Peruvian clothing and carrying their children in cloth bundels wrapped around their bodies, and colonial buildings are everywhere.

I also saw a parade of very young dancers (5-7 years old) wearing traditional Andean clothing in the main Plaza de Armas in between visiting Cathedrals. The dancers wore a variety of different clothing-I saw feathers, masks, army outfits, and more.

During dinner, I met an awesome tour guide, who arrived at the restaurant with his group of trekkers. I spoke to a couple trekkers from NYC and exchanged stores for a good hour and a half. Overall, it was a very fun-filled day!

Overall, a very fun-filled day!

–Jacob Bongers

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