Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Antigua, Guatemala - The Old City
As we climbed in altitude, we went from our usual hot & muggy weather up to invigorating spring-like coolness and occasional gentle rains. The scenery was stunning with high-peaked green mountains, lakes, and of course, volcanoes. Tall waterfalls tumbled down along the steep cliffs, originating in the cloud covered pine forests.
Because this is an active volcanoe area, there are a lot of ruins in town from the colonial period due to several historic earthquakes.
We wandered around the cobblestone roads of Antigua, looking into shops, and eating delicious food - and coffee. We haven't had hot beverages in the afternoon in years, but the lovely temperatures made it possible to sit at an outside table, indulge in the local Guatemalan coffee and people-watch.
Besides the old Spanish colonial buildings, restaurants, Spanish language schools, and lovely weather, shopping for textiles and other handicrafts is another reason so many people travel here. There are so many shops to see that it would take a month to visit them all!
We like to visit the local market places and mix with the indigenous Mayan people. Check out the hand woven fabrics which are used for the blouses (huipils) and the wrap around skirts. It used to be that different Mayan villages wore different costumes, but it is sort of mixed up a bit now. Some of the intricate embroidery is still handmade, but most of what is for sale in the marketplace is machine made.
The fruits, vegetables, dried corn and beans were so colorful and fresh! Because of the cooler climate, there were apples, peaches and pears
for sale. And check out those gorgeous strawberries! Oh - the bees swarmed all over the cut watermelons and any stall which was selling made-on-the-spot fruit drinks.
These baskets (and the omnipresent plastic tub) contain naturally colored corn in shades of blue, yellow, red, and white. On the streets we saw women making blue tortillas which really do taste different than the white or yellow ones. Also you can see here a basket of mixed beans. In the low country where we are living now there is only white corn available and 3 types of beans - white, black and red. Period. LOTS of beans and corn, but it is all the same. Not all stalls are so tidy. Inside the permanent market building are literally hundreds of little shops. Here we found this pile of terracotta pottery for sale. Yikes! I kept my distance as I was afraid if I touched something it would all come tumbling down - but there was some interesting pieces in that mountain.
We did make it over to the touristy handicrafts market - again hundreds of little stalls. For the most part, all of those stalls were selling exactly the same merchandise! You can see in this photo how crowded with unsold merchandise the stalls were, and those people you see are just about the only other tourists in the whole market. It was pretty much empty except for vendors. Ha! I didn't see the trash collector in diving in the trashcan in this photo until I posted it here. It was a lovely, covered building, but it was just too much - color & "stuff" overload for me. Yes, I was so overwhelmed that I didn't think but to take this one photo at the time. Although I did recover enough to buy some little fabric notebooks and tiny gift surprises for my friends.Although most of the vendors where friendly and just wanted to make a sale for the day, there were a few who were downright pushy! When I didn't want to buy a tablerunner from one young gal after she followed me around doing her hard sell, she called me "stingy" in English.
And here we have the "Mother of all Fountains" if you get my drift. It is hundreds of years old and is a copy of one in Italy. This fountain is in the center of the main square which is quite beautiful actually, and a good spot for people watching.
After a couple of days exploring Antigua (which is so not enough time really) we wanted to travel to a more remote location. Back at the guest house/hotel Jonesy pored over the maps to find where we would go. The choice? Lake Atitlan with it.s small Mayan villages, more textiles, active volcanoes, yep, that's the place.
Are there enough colors going on in this room for you? No? Well how about the fuchia colored bathroom? In order to get to our room, we had to walk through the interior patio areas (yes - 3 of them) of the owner's residence. These were highly decorated too - and swamped with all sorts of flowering and jungle plants. Kooky, but way fun.
Up on the rooftop, Jonesy settled in with his evening local beer and enjoyed the cool breezes and view. I scrambled up a wooden ladder to the tippy-top flat roof to take this photo.
I'm still cranking out socks for the kids in the orphanages in Kazakhstan. These are a very wild pair of monstersocks using leftover sock yarns in primary colors. Gee...I wonder where I got the inspiration for these bright socks??
These are another adult pair of socks in some wild self-patterning fuchia, turquoise, purple and orange sock yarn.
And finally a large pair of socks in a more tame colorway of self-patterning wool sock yarn.
Next blog: Solola, Santiago, and San Pedro la Laguna villages of Lake Atitlan in the Mayan highlands.