It’s been a few weeks but I’m back! I’ve been adventuring around Peru and Argentina for the past two weeks. I’ll be spending the next week or so writing about my trip, including my trip to Machu Picchu, food, and trip to a horse ranch in Argentina.
We started our adventure in Cusco, Peru. It’s the legendary capital of the Incans and the natural starting place to get to Machu Picchu. We spent our time in the old section of the city. It’s a beautiful stone city with incredible woodcarvings. The city has many hidden surprises: tiny wooden balconies, Incan walls, and more.
The Plaza de Armas is the center square and it’s beautiful. There are at least two churches on the square including the Cathedral. In the middle of the square, there is a magnificent fountain with an Incan king in the center of it. In the square, you can see the mountains that surround the city.
We first ventured into the Cathedral where a tour was part of the price of admission. Sadly, photographers were not permitted so I can’t show you the wonders inside. We were told that all the churches were built on holy sites and palaces of the Incans. It’s a show of power but also an interesting acknowledge about places of power and spirituality. Some churches are built with Incan stones.
The Cathedral is joined by three churches: Church of the Holy Family, the Cathedral itself, and Church of Triumph. The buildings lead into one another. Church of Holy Family is the start. Inside, there are magnificent altarpieces covered in mirrors and/or gold. The mirrors are really impressive; they are something I’ve never seen before in altarpieces. The mirrors are set up so you really can’t see yourself. Allegedly, if you can’t see yourself, it’s because you need to go to church more often. Clever.
The Cathedral is covered in incredible altarpieces and paintings. The tour guide talked a lot about how the paintings came from Europe as sketches. Local artists would fill them in. However, the local artists would change them to reflect their own experiences. Angel wings would look more like parrot wings and camels really looked a bit more like llamas. The most magnificent example is the Last Supper with Guinea Pig. Guinea Pig is a delicacy there and it is eaten at special occasions like Christmas and Easter. So it makes sense that there would be a painting of Last Supper with the guinea pig as the main dish. It’s really amazing.
Like Holy Family, the altarpieces are truly magnificent. Many are in gold leaf but the center one is made of silver. There is also a beautiful leather sculpture of Jesus called “Lord of the Earthquakes.” The statue was brought out during earthquakes to stop them.
The final building is Triumph named for the Triumph over the Incans. In its catacomb, there is half of the ashes of the famous Incan historian Garcilaso de la Vega. He was the son of a Spanish conquistador and Incan noblewoman who wrote down the stories about the Incans told by his Incan grandmother. Much of what we know is the result of his work. He ended up going to Spain and died there. Half his remains are there while the other are in Cusco.
We also went to another church on the Plaza de las Armas called La Compañia de Jesus. There was some dispute when it was constructed because people feared it would surpass the cathedral. It took has incredibly intricate altarpieces covered in gold leaf. There were several interesting paintings. One showed the marriage of an Incan noblewoman with a Spaniard. Another painting is of St. Ignatius stepping on Protestant reformers like Calvin, Luther, and Wycliffe. Very interesting. There is also a wonderful view from the second floor of the square.
It was a great first day!
I do have to briefly mention that altitude sickness is an issue. Cusco is about 11,200 feet above sea level. It was a problem for all of us. For much of my time there, I had headaches and was abnormally short of breath. At one point, we hired a car to look at Incan ruins outside of the city and ended up going up to 13,000 feet. That’s when the headache grew, my ears began to ache, and the pressure mounted in my face. And then I lost my breath sitting in a car. Scary stuff. We had to turn around and reduce the altitude. It got better but the headache was really a constant. So do take caution to listen to your body in Cusco. There are pills (which I didn’t take), some hotels have oxygen but you have to be careful with that.
It was totally worth the headaches to be there.
That’s all for now.