Hey There Troops...
The past coupla days have been alright. Im recovering from my cold and have been takin things a little slower than my normal pace.
Arequipa is known as "La Ciudad Blanca" or The White City because nearly all of the buildings here are made from a white volcanic rick sillar. This rock has been used in the construction off all the major churches and colonial houses. The main square as well as the Santa Catalina Monastery are wonderful works of art that have used this stone in its construction.
The first day I was here was more of a day to recuperate from the long bus ride and orient myself. The second day was much more productive. I visited three different places and was very impressed with all three for different reasons.
Santa Catalina Monastery is a work of art. The planning that was necessary to build this splendid example of colonial architecture would have been extraordinary, especially since this city within a city is nearly 450 years old. Think about the project management necessary for a project of this size. Dr. Duffner would have been proud. For nearly 400 years the nuns within the monastery were secluded from the outside world. The nuns spent their entire lives from the age of 16 behind these walls in a 2ha town. They were permitted to speak with their family once a month through dimly lit confessional type rooms and were not allowed to have any type of vanity objects...that included mirrors, bracelets, earrings, or rings. I have always wondered what it would be like to live 200 or 300 years ago. Were the people better or worse off then they are now? Hmmmm....Deep Thoughts. I learned quite a bit from this tour and got to hang out with my tour guide later that evening. Mariela was a pretty cool cat. Another interesting item to note was the extensive painting collection the Monestary had. These paintings were the first record of the blending of mestizo and Spanish style of art. Since none of the natives could speak Spanish with the Spainards came the priests and leaders used art as a form of evangelization.
After spending two hours or so at Santa Catalina I decided to visit the Museo Santuarios Andinos. This was a very impressive museum because it is the only museum in the world that has Inca offerings to the Gods on exhibit. These artifacts, like many important cultural artifacts, were stumbled upon by accident. The main prize of the museum was an exhibition of a frozen 500 year old mummy that the Incas used as a ritual sacrifice to appease the Gods. What makes this so interesting is how well the body is preserved. All the hair on the 12 or 13 year old girl has been preserved. Her sandals, the blanket she used, even the paint on her fingernails survived all this time.
I spent an hour at the Museo Santuarios Andinos before heading about the Plaza de Armas. Plaza de Armas is just another name for the area of town that has the cathedral...its kinda like the main square where there is a fountain, pigeons, and park benches. Near Plaza de Armas was La Compañìa de Jesùs. The church and its coisters have very significant cultural and architectonic value. This picture shows the arches that were developed in the 17th century. The carvings into the sillar stone in the picture you see represent the cycle of life. The bottom of the pillar shows life beginning in the womb and ending at the top of the pillar. Pretty amazing how something created so long ago can still have significance today.
ok...tomorrow is a big day. Im heading to Cola Canyon, which is 3400 meters deep and is surrounded by Andean plains and snow-capped peaks. Im excited at the chance to see South American Condor. More adventures. After that I am heading to Cusco and gonna do the Inca Trail. Ohhhh Boy!