The ancient city of Cusco
Cusco as a city relies almost solely on the tourism trade for its existence. It is geared,. totally, towards tourism. There are many, many bars, eateries, small hospedajes and hostals. And there is a lot to look at, too. Small narrow streets, walled with stone laid by the Incas; the wonderful Plaza de Armas, surrounded by beautiful colonial arcades, some with balconies looking out over the plaza; the Cathedral, an enormous edifice dominating the plaza; the Inglesia de La Compania, superbly crafted and decorated.
After a good night's sleep in the huge kingsized bed, I wandered over to the Artesans market just up the road. This is a massive shed, divided into neat rows of small stalls, all offering for sale almost the same items - all of which is aimed at the tourist.
Like anywhere, they overprice their goods, then chase you offering the items for less when you walk away. But there are so many stalls from which to chose to buy. Most items depicted some form of Inca artwork. Some of the items were lovely, and I wished that I could carry much more than I am able. There were some fabulously colourful blankets and rugs, beautiful mats, wall hangings, clothing galore, a lot of which was alpaca. And my favourite - an alpaca skin bedspread. Superb, silky soft, in either caramel or white, and only A$105!!! I'm still not all that keen on posting things home, as South America has a pretty poor reputation, in postal matters. But I'll have a big buyup when I return in the future, that's for sure. Even so, I did weaken and buy a few items, some as gifts for others and a few small things for myself. How could I resist?
There is a series of restaurant stalls within the market building, and when confronted by a lass waving a menu, I decided to have some lunch. After perusing the menu - also in English, for the tourists - I thought I'd better try the alpaca. Very nice. Small pieces of meat, stir fried with tomatoes, onions and small potato chips, in a spicy sauce, with rice. While I was waiting for this to be cooked from scratch, I was given a half corn cob and cheese, with flat bread rolls, to snack on. The kernels of corn are huge, about 4 times the size of ours in Oz, and a pale, washed out cream, not golden. I've no idea from what animal's milk the cheese was made, but it had an interesting taste - basically tart or sour, but clean and crisp to the palate, and quite enjoyable. I should add here that this meal, with 2 cups of tea, cost a whole 12 Soles, or A$4.00.
I walked uptown to the Plaza de Armas later in the afternoon,to take some photos, and was amazed at the numbers of people around the Plaza. Even more amazing were the army personnel, forming a human chain around the top of the steps to the Cathedral, and the smartly dressed Army big brass gathered in other areas of the Plaza. Tourists were everywhere, with many different languages overheard.
People kept pouring into the Plaza, taking up positions along the raised edges of footpaths. "Something is happening here, but I don't know what it is. Do you, Mr Jones?" as Bob Dylan sings, kept belting through my head, as I walked back down the hill towards the hotel. The streets were teeming with people, all dressed in their Sunday best (it was Monday), whole families walking together up the hill to the Plaza. There were thousands and thousands of them. The main road, Av. Sol, leading to the plaza was blocked off to traffic, so that pedestrians could walk it safely. But the shops were still open, and street vendors had set up their food and fruit stalls along the footpaths. I do love those yummy meat (is it beef heart??) kebabs they have here, cooked for about 1-2 minutes only over a smoking charcoal fire. The smells wafting through the evening air were wonderful. I did have one, although I'd previously bought a turkey and salad roll, for 2.50 Soles, less than A$1.00, for dinner.
I sat and ate the food, while watching the people passing by. I couldn't believe how many there were, going up the hill. Belly full, I kept wandering downhill, and went into the Traditional Weavers and Crafts institute, where I watched the 3 women present at work on their traditional looms, sitting on blankets on the floor, crafting items for sale in the institute. Photos were permitted, for a small donation, of course. All item prices were shown in US $$, (for the tourists, of course) and tended to be VERY expensive, but after seeing the amount of effort taken in the weaving process, I can now understand why they are so expensive. I did buy one small item, just to be sociable.
As I was leaving, I turned back and asked the lass at the counter, who spoke English, why the people were going to the Plaza. It was for the Easter Parade. Ahhhh! Now I understand, as the major religion here is Catholicism. I'd thought of going back to the Plaza, but standing, squashed among many people, is not a good feeling for me, especially in the warm evening air. So I went back to the hotel, and watched it live on TV, from the comfort of the bed. It was all over in less than an hour, too.
An early night, as I was being picked up at 6.15am, for the train tip to Machu Picchu.