Yesterday, I was moaning about how I hated all the tourists in Cusco (including myself, for being this grumpy). Then, I realised two weeks from now I'll be sleeping on someone's floor in London and decided to enjoy myself for the last two weeks of this (probably too) long trip.
This morning, I got up early and set to explore the city from 7 am, long before most kids even thought of getting up. I went to the small corner shop (laundry for 3 per kilo, as opposed to the 5 soles my hostel takes – for a longer turnaround time), had a coffee at a grubby little worker's café and then set off to have a look at the churches – specifically the cathedral, which houses Zapata's famous painting of the Last Supper (a shameless Da Vinci copy!), where the main dish is a guinea pig, chicha is drunk and Judas has the face of Francisco Pizzarro, much hated by the Andean people Usually, I don't go inside churches, especially not if they come with such a price tag (£5 for the cathedral, and you can't even take pictures!). But I wrote a paper about Enculturalisation of Christian art recently, so that one was a must for me.
Then I realised - everything in this city is steeped so deeply in history and art, I don't understand how a bunch of plain old stones in the valley can be the main attraction. There's modern art, Colonial, Mestizo and Cusqueña art, Inka art, little creative art galleries in the San Blas quarter that could well be located in London's East End of Le Marais in Paris. I even found a bookshop that has a giant section of books by women travellers from the 17 and 18 century!
Although there are many Inka ruins scattered around the city, the city itself still has Inca foundations (the Spanish figured these are sturdy and put their own buildings on top... in many cases, at some point, the Spanish walls collapsed, but the Inca architecture stayed put). It reminds me a lot of how there are some buildings of London that still have fundaments that go back to the Romans. I'm so in love with this city (putting on Shonen Knife loudly on my MP3 player so I can't here the touts helps a lot)!
Cusco is stressful, I kind of imagine it how Prague must be like. It's a fairly big city, but not a massive one, and the city centre is overwhelmed by all the tourists that come here. It's the second city in the world that overwhelms me - I can't stop to see what time it is without someone shoving a pan pipe in my face. Even going to Starbucks is a stressful experience here.
|sunburnt, grumpy alpaca beatnik|
Why load up on those ugly lama hats and jumpers if you can buy beautiful art prints? Why eat the tourist pizza if there are stellar Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurants (I could write a book about this, wasabi ginger ceviche anyone)? Buy the crappy mass-made clunky earrings from the old lady if a sexy young artist will make a beautiful necklace to order for a little bit more?
I sound like a snobby flashpacker now, and I guess here, in the centre of the gringo trail, I am, and I'm not ashamed about it. I even bought a black alpaca beret and put on my existentialist black turtleneck jumper to go with the snobbyness – don't tell me I take myself too seriously ;)