Saturday, April 3, 2010

Arequipa - first impressions

the red part is where we are!
We arrived in Arequipa at night and so our first impression was how low and sprawling it is. I later found out that this is because there is a building hight limit impossed after a devestating 1588 earthquake by King Carlos V. These earthquakes happen all the time due to the amazingly big volcanoes looming in plain sight over the town. More on these volcanoes later though...

Fun facts about Arequipa: it is the second largest city in Peru. The area was occupied by the Collagua people for millennia. Evidence of their presence can be seen in the extensive terracing improved on by the Incas that surround the city. In Quechua Arequipa comes from the phrase ari-que-pay which means ¨yes, stay here.¨ After conquering the area the Incas began sacrificing children on top of the volcanoes which later put Arequipa on the archeological map. The city itself was founded in 1540 as a go-between for trade between Lima and all of southern Peru and what is now Bolivia (thank you Moon handbooks guide book).

The next day we headed out into the city, guide book in hand and began to explore. My first impression was love at first site. They call it the white city because it is mostly built with a soft volcanic rock called sillar that is available in abundance. Its easily carved surface results in intricate carvings in just about every building there is. The city is clean, beautiful, the people are friendly and it is easy to get around!

Plaza de Armas and the stunning neo-classical cathedral in the background

a clock carved into the wall of a bank

In the above photo, Josh is standing inside the courtyard of what was once a colonial mansion. Like many colonial mansions in Arequipa, it was expropriated by President Juan Velasco in the late 1960´s and it is now a bank. This works for us because it means free entrance into the many beautiful courtyards!!

trying new fruits! - this one comes from a cactus and tastes like a very tangy kiwi

lunch the first day - cooked meet with vegetables inside mashed potatoes fried...does it get any better than this? Oh yes it does with a glass of Chicha on the side!

what is chicha? you might be thinking...let me inform you! Its a drink made with purple corn, sugar, lemon, water, and cinnamon if you want to get a little crazy. It comes in many varieties from syrupy to bubbly. Its purple and amazing.

The center of the city is obviously very old and has the most beautiful architectural accessories including my favorite...a small door within a door. Amazing door knockers also abound, and at our hostel there is even a small door window so they can peak out to check who is ringing the bell at night.
this photo exhibits my two favorite accessories: the door within a door and the door knocker
and of course Josh...the ultimate accessory

a close up on this sweet ass door knocker

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