Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire does not resemble an ancient city. At first look, the city has an European feel to it with large cathedrals, narrow streets and plazas everywhere. However, as more time went by, we started to discover the Inca heritage that continues to last in this part of the world.
The people in Cusco speak equally Spanish and Quechua, which is the derivative of the ancient Inca language. Over this place a blanket of traditions and history has been pulled over, and details reinforce the cultural influences that people have kept in themselves for centuries. Women wear clothes with Inca patterns proudly and they carry their babies on their backs as their ancestors used to do. Ancient rituals are still performed, festivals still held, songs still sang… All details come together to create a unique culture of old and new, of traditions and modernity.
The local market
We reached Cusco mid-day and after dropping our bags at the hostel (Pirwa Hostel Colonial), we went for a walk around town. The first place we reached was the local market.
Cusco Cathedral and Plaza de Armas
Our hostel was right next to the San Francisco Cathedral, which is actually humbled by the Cusco Cathedral located in front of Plaza de Armas. Both the Cusco Cathedral and Plaza de Armas have been build by the Spaniards on the ruins of Inca temples and important buildings. When the Inca were conquered by the Spanish, the later destroyed their architecture and rebuild the city with their own. Religion also played an important role, as all temples were considered esoteric and Christian churches replaced them.
A two minutes walk from the Plaza de Armas is the Inca Museum. This museum is private and it is owned by the Cusco university. Unfortunately, no pictures can be taken inside, however the visit is worth for understanding the history of the Incas from their beginnings until the present days.
On most street corners in Cusco there are locals selling hand made souvenirs. However, some of them sell something else, the opportunity to take a picture with an alpaca. These animals are protected under the Peruvian law and they are much more adorable than their big brothers, the llamas.
As I couldn’t resist the temptation, I took a picture with an alpaca. His name is Pablo Picasso and he is 8 months old. The rainbow flag around his neck actually represents the flag of Cusco and can be seen everywhere around town.
The Bolivia visa adventure
As a citizen from a country that requires Bolivia Visa I had to figure out how to get one. Following my government’s advice I decided to go to the Cusco consulate for it. The visa is free, however they do require some paperwork. Luckily, it is given on the spot and since I had all my paper work ready I had no issues and no delays.
We walked from the city centre approximately one hour towards the periphery, going through shady and good neighbourhoods alike. It was an interesting discovering this part of the city which is not touristy and it just displays how people live. The views from the side of the road were beautiful, with the mountain chain in the horizon and colourful houses under it.
Chapter 5 – The chocolate euphoria
A few blocks away from the Plaza de Armas we stumbled upon the Chocolate museum. Maybe it’s because cocoa is raised in Peru, but chocolate here was absolutely delicious, and hands down the best I’ve had in a very long time. The fun thing about this place is that they had a cocoa tree inside and they also provide chocolate making classes.
As part of the chocolate experience, the museum also has a small shop where the walls are covered with panels telling the worldwide history of chocolate… Also, they have amazing brownies!
Close to our hotel there was this place, a Peruvian “Swish Chalet” without the famous sos. We went there one night as we were extremely hungry and we were very happy to discover that a “telenovela” was playing on the huge TV stuck between two menus. I guess our wish to watch a movie in Spanish almost came true. I must say though, this was a pretty bad-ass experience.
We spent 2 days in Cusco and we did many more things than in this post. Mostly, it involved walking around and enjoying the views, eating lots of delicious food, having litres of coffee and talking to other tourists.
PS: I loved the pottery in Cusco