Saturday, March 07, 2015

A Place Of Rare Beauty

We docked in Guatemala at Puerto Quetzal, the country's largest Pacific Ocean port.  Locals were sitting on the rocks watching the cruise ship get settled in, waiting for the passengers to spill out.

In the immediate area of the port, shops lined the path to where the buses for the excursions were parked.  We were going to La Antigua - the third capital of Guatemala, founded by Spanish Conquistadors in 1543.  The city is located in the mountains, 90 miles from the port, in the shadow of three large volcanoes - Volcán de Agua (Volcano of Water), Volcán de Fuego (Volcano of Fire), and Acatenango.  Volcán de Fuego erupted six days before we got there, covering the streets of Antigua with ash.

It was hot when we got to Guatemala.  Humid.  Reallllly hot.  As we drove, we passed many stands like the one below, that lined the highway we traveled on.  Side-by-side, these stands, which were really just open air shacks cobbled together and covered with corrugated tin roofs, all sold pretty much the same things.  Watermelon, pineapple, bananas, giant bean pods, zapote mamey, mango, papaya, sugar cane (in the Coca-Cola flat), and many things I've never seen.

Unfortunately, everything we saw was from the bus, we had no time to get out and I'm pretty sure no one was brave enough to actually eat a piece of fruit.  Our driver did stop to pick up a piece of sugar cane to pass around for us to look at, but she returned it a few stalls down.

And just like in India and Bangkok, where our friends currently are, they had tuk-tuks in Guatemala.  Cute little three-wheeled vehicles toting people around.
 The other, and we were told most popular mode of transportation, are what they call the "chicken buses'.  They're brightly colored with shiny chrome, appear to be individually owned, and cart people around town making many stops.  Many market vendors use them and tote their wares, stacking their baskets of goods on the top of the bus.  I wish I were able to get better pictures of these, as they were all very different, but the vantage point from our bus wasn't always the best.
 I loved the tile signs in Antigua - these say "Stop" and "Two-Way".  
There are many streets that look like this, with buildings in ruins.  In 1773 Guatemala suffered from a 7.5 magnitude earthquake with aftershocks that lasted for five months.  The quakes destroyed so much of Antigua, which was the colonial capital of Central America, and killed so many people (500-600 died immediately, and 600 died from starvation and disease thereafter), that the government banned people from living there.  
The city stood empty for 167 years before people came back to inhabit the city.  Because the city remained untouched for so many years, the buildings were in the same condition they were left in after the quakes.    
This is the La Merced Church.  The rooms behind the main altar at this church date back to the 17th century.  
 Local Guatemalan women in typical native dress.  Many women we saw wore the brightly colored woven fabric skirts and shawls, and colorful tops.
This is the Palacio de los Capitanes, in the Central Plaza, originally constructed around 1543.  It served as the seat of the Spanish Colonial government of Central America for 200 years.  
A little Guatemalan man tooling around town on his bike.

Catedral de San José (Saint Joseph Cathedral) is a Roman Catholic Church located in the center of town.
I asked a local police officer if he'd pose for a photo.  He happily gave me a thumbs-up.
The Arco de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Arch) was constructed in the 17th century and originally connected the convent to a school, which allowed the cloistered nuns to cross the road from one building to the other, without having to go into the street.
These people did a really nice write-up about Antigua having stayed there quite a bit longer than we did.  And Lonely Planet calls it "a place of rare beauty, major historical significance and vibrant culture."

Definitely a place I'd love to visit again and stay longer in.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2014: Thumbs Up For A Real Bronx Tale

2013: A Mountain City Fit For A Queen
2012: Sprinkle Of Seaweed, Anyone?
2011: Shopping To The Maxx
2010: Ed Unloads An Oil Platform
2009: You Never Know When You Might Need It
2008: Eddie Climbs A Wall Friday
2007: What Showing Off For Your Kids Looks Like
2006: What’s It All About?
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!


Belledog said...

Need to read your posts more fully, but Antigua, Guatemala is famous for having very reasonably priced Spanish immersion tutors.

Think I heard that Lufthansa and other major companies would send their flight crews and execs there for language training.

On my bucket list. Came close to spending a few weeks there years ago. Regret that I didn't do it.

The Daily Rant said...

BELLEGDOG: We were told the same thing about the Spanish language classes. I would love to do that - maybe I'd get further than what I remember from my high school Spanish. It's also famous for its jade. I bought a pretty little jade necklace while I was there. Look up Mary Lou Ridinger - she's the one who re-discovered the jade and made the jade operation what it is today. We listened to her give a brief presentation and that spoke to her for a few minutes afterward. Fascinating.