Sunday, October 22, 2006

Cusco, the city that takes your breath away....literally

At over 10,000 feet a flight of stairs can stop you dead in your tracks gasping. Aside from it´s lack of oxygen it has an abundance of colonial architecture and old world charm. It´s central Plaza de Armas is abustle during the day with international tourists and ubiquitous street vendors hawking everything from fingerpuppets to 5-day tours. Walking around at night in large third world cities is usually a no no except in tightly controlled tourist areas. Cusco is no exception but here the plazas and quaint cobbled back streets practically beg to be strolled in the evening before or after a great dinner in one of a thousand restaurants. Insert a llama for a donkey and the souvenirs are much the same as you would find in Mexico or Central America. The town is long accustomed to tourists to prices for crafts are higher than you would expect to pay in less visited areas. Cusco is a gateway to the Andes and many of Peru´s treasures, most notably the mountain redoubt of the Incas, Machupicchu. Cusco has several significant Inca ruins, some just a short hike into the surrounding hills and others incorporated into more modern structures. It has been the custom of the Spanish to build their cathedrals on top of existing Inca temples, this not before looting their culture to melt down the gold. The result being a sort of religious, cultural layer cake. It is truly thought provoking to see the Dominican houses of worship built on top of the distinctive masonry of the Incas. I didn´t say they were good thoughts. Hell, the Incas were no angels themselves. I guess every dog has it´s day. As an aside, the word dominican is derived from domini and canus, the guard dogs of god. I don´t know about you but it makes me want to carry pepper spray. Mark Next of the ruins around Cuscoo

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