Friday, July 29, 2011

Next leg of our trip: Cosqo at 11,200 feet

Cosqo in the Quechua language, or Cusco or Cuzco in Spanish, sits at 3.400 meters or 11,200 feet! Its located in the mountains in southeast Peru. We arrived on Monday, July 11th after an overnight in Lima, Peru (at sea level).

Cusco is an enchanting city that literally and figuratively takes your breath away - especially for us low-altitude Minnesotans. It blends Spanish colonial, Incan and pre-Incan architecture plus some modern sprawl on the outskirts.

Taxis, people, and the occasional llama share incredibly narrow cobble stone passageways. You can hear Quechua being spoken in the streets (and see the sign for the Quechua test at the University). You can peek through doorways onto huge interior courtyards. You can see amazing examples of Imperial Incan style walls or rock fit walls that have no morter but are simply puzzle-pieced into place. At one corner, we saw an informational display explaining that a foot below the colonial cobblestone (1500-1800 AD) if you looked into the hole you could see the Incan road (1200-1500 AD) a foot down and cut further below was pre-Incan or probably Killke drains (from 900-1200)! Very cool.

Another really cool aspect was visiting the colonial Jesuit church and the Spanish Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas. They are gorgeous, with intricate wood carvings and gold and silver-leafed adornments filling them. In the very back chapel of the Jesuit church, authorities have excavated and discovered the Incan Temple of the Sun, which provided an excellent earthquake-resistant foundation. Spanish authorities in the 1500 and 1600 either destroyed or built directly over Incan temples in order to wipe out old religious beliefs and impose Catholic views. What's really interesting is that the Spaniards trained and commissioned local artists to do all the alters, sculptures, statues of the saints and Mary and Jesus, but the local artists time after time incorporated traditional Incan symbols - like making Mary's dress in the form of a volcano, thereby signifying Pachamama or mother earth.

We strolled slowly around the town. We watched the Copa America soccer tournament. And we celebrated my birthday in Cusco on the 12th by going out to dinner and ordering some of Peru's reputed delicacies; cuy or roasted guinea pig for me and barbecued alpaca for Dan (the kids stuck with really good grilled chicken and beef). Once was enough for me in terms of the cuy, but we all sampled the ceviche (fresh raw fish marinated in lemon and spices) that night and kept ordering it throughout our trip in Peru! Delicious!

All in all, when we weren't feeling light headed or sleepy or nauseous, we loved Cusco!


  1. All of the postings that your family does are fascinating, and this was one of the most fascinating of all. The pictures offer a good idea of what Cuzco is like. Let's have everybody who reads this form a tourist group to go there. If there are enough of us, we may be able to get some great travel deals.

  2. I was still mostly a vegetarian when we were in Peru and I never had the nerve to try the cuy - although I did eat lots of other red meat. I swear it helped with the altitude sickness. Well, the meat and sleeping like 12 hours a day. You poor land lovers, it's awfully high up there. For me all the engineering was worth the altitude, but only for a visit. Love to you all!