Cusco

From Lima, we traveled to Cusco.  It is set high in the Andes at about 11,000 feet and upon landing, we all felt the effects of the high and dry elevation and the decreased oxygen content of the air.  Headaches, lethargy, and shortness of breath with any physical output happened to all of us.  However, with days passing we adjusted quite well.

Cusco was the heart of the sprawling Inca Empire and is now the indisputable archaeological capital of the Americas.  Massive Inca-built stone walls line steep and narrow stone cobbled streets

which form the foundation for many of the modern buildings. The town features large European plazas thronged with many indigenous Indians and massive colonial mansions and Catholic Church’s all housing ancient treasuries and artifacts.

The magnificent colonial and religious structures are built on the stone foundations which the Inca civilization laid.  The Catholic cathedral in Cusco took almost 100 years to build is the most impressive religious building

I have never seen having not been to the temple Mount, Vatican or the Islamic Mosques in Uzbekistan or Mecca nor the Portola Palace in Tibet.

It was built utilizing pilfered stone blocks from the nearby Inca holy site of Saqsaywaman.  The building is the repository for the largest collection of colonial art in the New World. The religious artifacts, paintings, wood and stone carvings and finely detailed regal tapestries are really inspiring. Huge amounts of gold and silver were used in the tapestries, paintings, and so on.  In one very large wall mounted painting of the last supper, the artist depicts one of the most solemn occasions in the Catholic Church and graces it with a feast of Andean food, the guinea Pig.

The Cathedral has incredible large and intricate stone arches with many side temples elaborately decorated with glitzy silver and gold alters.  Taking into account when the Cathedral was built, the church took my breath away. As I prayed, I was moved to tears as I came before God to ask for forgiveness and guidance.  My words can not do justice for this magnificent building and all that it houses; – It gives me pleasure to see how much people gave to their God in appreciation and love.

Cusco hosts many flamboyant festivals and carnivals with colorful costumes.

Having fun with one of my “Hot Chicks”  Can’t figure out which one it is , thats ok

So we landed at Cusco and were whisked to our awesome hotel, Casa Andina Private Collection where everything outperformed as well: food, facilities and of course drinks below.

Cusco is a city in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes Mountain range and It is the capital of the Cusco Region. The city has a population of about 500,000 and its elevation is about 11,200 ft. Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire (13th century-1532). Many believe that the city was planned as an effigy in the shape of a puma, a sacred animal According to Inca legend, built by Sapa Inca Pachacuti, the man who transformed the Kingdom of Cuzco from a sleepy city-state into the vast empire of Tawantinsuyu. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 by UNESCO. It is a major tourist destination and receives almost 2 million visitors a year. It is designated as the Historical Capital of Peru by the Constitution of Peru.

Spanish explorers invaded the city The first and arrived in the city on 15 November 1533. The many buildings constructed after the Spanish invasion have a mixture of Spanish influence with Inca indigenous architecture, including the Santa Clara and San Blas neighborhoods. The Spanish destroyed many Inca buildings, temples and palaces. They used the remaining walls as bases for the construction of a new city.  The city was retaken from the Spanish during the Siege of Cuzco of 1536 by Manco Inca Yupanqui, a leader of the Sapa Inca. statue to Manco below.

 

Manco above the Inca Leader!!

Manco’s forces were able to reclaim the city for only a few days. Throughout the conflict and years of the Spanish colonization of the Americas many of Inca citizens and warriors succumbed to smallpox and died.

Cusco was the center for the Spanish colonization and spread of Christianity in the Andean world. The Spanish colonists constructed many churches and convents, as well as a cathedral, university and Archbishopric and the buildings were based on the massive stonewalls built by the Inca. It is a fine town with many small streets with many shops and fine dinning that lead to the city center,  below are photos.

 

City center above

Since the 1990s, tourism has increased. Currently, Cusco is the most important tourist destination in Peru

The Spanish explorer Pizarro sacked much of the Inca City in 1535. Remains of the palace of the Incas, the Temple of the Sun, and the Temple of the Virgins of the Sun still stand. In addition, Inca buildings and foundations in some cases have proved to be stronger than the foundations built in present-day Peru. Among the most noteworthy Spanish colonial buildings of the city is the Cathedral Of Santo Domingo below.

 

The major nearby Inca sites are Pachacuti’s presumed winter home, Machu Picchu, which can be reached on foot by an Inca trail or by train; and the “fortress” at Ullantaytampu. Saksaywaman was expanded by the Inca. Among the main sights of the city we visited are:

Saksaywaman: This is the historic home to the king and is a fortress like structure built on a hill above the city to help defend the city.

Barrio de San Blas: This neighborhood housing artisans, workshops and craft shops is one of the most picturesque sites in the city. Its streets are steep and narrow with old houses built by the Spanish over important Inca foundations.

Plaza de Armas: Known as the “Square of the warrior” in the Inca era, this plaza has been the scene of several important events in the history of this city, such as the proclamation by Francisco Pizarro in the conquest of Cuzco. Photo below

Similarly, the Plaza de Armas was the scene of the death of Túpac Amaru II, considered the indigenous leader of the resistance.PLaza de Armas above:

La Cathedral:  The main basilica cathedral of the city was built between 1560 and 1664. This great cathedral presents late Gothic, Baroque, and plateresque interiors and has one of the most outstanding examples of colonial gold work. Its carved wooden altars are also important.

Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus:  THe Church, La Compania de Jesus was built by the Jesuits in 1571.  It is considered one of the best examples of colonial baroque style in the Americas.

Qurikancha and Convent of Santo Domingo:  One of the most impressive Inca buildings.  It was once a temple devoted to worshipping the sun god and tis walls were lined with gold plates.  The Spanish built the church and convent on top of the original structure in 1534.

Calle Hatun Rumiyuq:  This Street is the most visited by tourists. On the street Hatun Rumiyoq (“the one with the big stone”) was the palace of Inca Roca, which was converted to the Archbishop’s residence.

Convent and Church of la Merced:  Its foundation dates from 1536. The first complex was destroyed by the earthquake of 1650 and the rebuilding of the church and convent was completed in 1675.

Mercado de San Pedro:  This is a great market full of food and crafts and is a wonderful way to experience the markets of Cusco and watch all the local people in their attire below:

There are many fine hotels and dinning establishments in Cusco.  We stayed at the Casa Andina as well as the Andina Wings and both were just perfect.  We also had some fine dinning at the Monastery, Casa Andina, Inka Grill and MAP:

 

 

These functions entail much drinking of the beer and include loud music, songs and dancing incorporating parts of the pagan heritage with the solemn Catholic rituals.   The people here are descended largely from the Indian empires and they speak Quechua and Spanish.