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Cusco and the Sacred Valley

PERU | Monday, 19 November 2007 | Views [806]

Cusco is a pretty amazing city. The outskirts of the town rise up steep mountain slopes, cobblestone roads and Inca stone walls snake through the interior of the city, and tiny red mud-brick houses tower above the city center. Poverty abounds and those living around the perimeter lack even the basics of fresh running water and sanitation. Further down into the city "valley" lie beautifully maintained colonial buildings, green plazas and parks. During daylight hours it's a bustling city of tourists and indigenous people reveling in the redish brown glow of buildings and monuments. School children march around the Plaza de Armas holding signs supporting education rights for all, contesting the current day discrimination against the indigenous people. Tourist police are visible on every street corner near the plaza. Colorful ladies with voluminous pleated skirts, wool leggings, puffy sweaters and sophisticated top hats meander through the streets with child strapped on back and llama in tow, carting around brightly colored wool blankets stuffed with the days textile products to sell. Other indigenous ladies weave products and knit hats sitting on stone steps to doorway entrances. Young girls adorned with live flower hats sit holding baby lambs, hoping for a customer willing to pay for a photo. Big walls with huge Inca stones form a labyrinth, weaving through the city center, and colorful textile and craft stores are tucked away in every nook and cranny of the labyrinth. The handmade winter hats here are second to none. The colors are much more brilliant than those we saw in Ecuador and the designs are even more intricate than those in Guatemala. Pachamama dolls, stone statues, relics of Inca Gods, elaborate tapestries and carvings depicting Inca myths cover the walls of shops. Myth and tradition run deep and Incas are proud of their heritage and beliefs. It's said that Cusco was founded by the Incas back in the 12th Century, as they were looking to discovery the navel of the earth. Cities, architecture and monuments were purposefully designed around mathematical equations, celestial alignment and calendarisation, and to represent key elements in their world. Cusco, for example, was designed to represent the shape of a Puma. Cusco at night is spectacular. Lights speckle the slope sides and the Plaza de Armas is draped in a golden hue, the cathedral glowing, and the cobblestone streets awash in light. Walking the streets at night makes them look as if rain has freshly slicked them over, the lights reflect off the smooth stone. It's a magical place here, the colonial buildings, Inca remains and the mystique surrounding the Inca history and mythology all combine for a magical energy you can feel day and night.

Tags: Sightseeing

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