Center of the Inca Empire, Cusco, Peru - February 3, 2015
We are spending a total of 31 days in South America which is a long time. But a month is not nearly enough to see all one should see to comprehend it all—even when only a few countries are being visited.
We saw important places in Cusco today but after a few hours, it all began to run together and the facts became merely "wows!"
Cusco was once the center of the Inca Empire. Its name has reference to being center. At one time the Inca Empire stretched from Southern Ecuador to the middle of Chile.
We started our exploration today with the Koirikancha, known as Temple of the Sun during the Inca Empire, and which is now the site of the Santo Domingo convent. Here we saw the advanced method of stone construction used by the Incas to withstand the earthquakes that are known to occur in this part of the world. Buildings built during the colonial period (post-Spanish conquer), made of mud bricks, stones and mortar all fell down during earthquakes but some walls built by the Incas still stand centuries later. Bodies of Kings and Queens, along with bodies of their servants and goods needed for the next world, were mummified and kept in special rooms in the Temple of the Sun. Only nobles could enter the temple. Commoners were not allowed entry.
The Temple of the Sun, the most holy of all Inca places, gave honor to all of mother earth, the sun, the moon, stars, rain, thunder, lightning, rainbows and animals. But the sun was highest of all. The Incas worshipped the sun with summer and winter solstice festivals and from the sun they created calendars and sun dials. Before the arrival of the Spanish, the walls of the temple were covered with gold and silver plates.
We toured the ruins of Sacsayhuaman (common term: sexy woman) which looms over the city. Back in its day, this huge site was a three-story fortress that used the highest level as lookout for enemies. Th4e first and second levels below were used as storage for water and grains for the city at its foot. The cave below the Sacsayhuaman was used as a burial facility for commoners. Bodies of these people were embalmed and mummified in the fetal position like the nobles, but returned to families for burial.
Enough ancient history!! The town of Cusco is simply one of the most beautiful spots I have ever seen. It is ancient, and is set in a round valley among a circle of mountains. Its air is so thin that on a clear day like today, you can merely see forever. The city is a bustling place of simple commerce - people who come to the city every day to market their crafts and wares . . . skirts, aprons, colorful sweaters and caps knitted of alpaca, amazing and abundant fruits, vegetables, dried beans, quinoa, and corn of all shapes and colors, paintings, jewelry and breads! Breads!! You should see the variety and shapes. People sell slices of thick pineapple upside-down cake (volteado de pina') on the street. They sell roasted plantains and roasted sweet potatoes. You can find luscious looking roasted stuffed peppers and much, much more. And the women still wear their native dress . . . full skirts covered by beautifully crafted pleated or gathered-skirt aprons, black hosiery on their legs, colorful layers of sweaters and hats! The women here all wear their hair in long, neat black braids. We saw plenty of old women with wrinkled faces today but none had gray hair. The market was a visual feast!!
I did not plan on it but I could not help buying a small watercolor painting depicting the backs of women sitting on perhaps a wall, wearing the hats and native dress. Llamas are nearby. It was painted by the husband of the lady selling it. One peek at it and I was done. Voila! It is now mine.