Saturday, April 7, 2007
I decided to go explore the historic area of Central Lima. This was my first time grabbing a taxi, and it's no wonder an estimated one in seven cars here is a taxi, it's pretty good money. I got the gringo price on the way there, 15 soles, but even on the way back when I got the normal price according to the doorman, 10 soles you can see how it is fairly lucrative. In all fairness it was quite a ways though, about 15 minutes.
My destination was Plaza de Marma, which is the old center of Lima. The presidentical office can be seen above, and the square is surrounded on all sides by buildings of Spanish heritage. Apparently not a single one has lasted through all the earthquakes however, which became a common theme when visiting other areas.
The Cathedral de Lima can be seen above, also on the square. It was originally built in 1555 but has been knocked down multiple times by earthquakes, first in 1687, then again almost completely in 1746.
Central Lima feels VERY different than Miraflores. Miraflores is where all the upper class live, central Lima is the middle class. People were bustling all over and the streets were clogged with taxis. It is obviously much poorer in general than the posh San Isidro and Miraflores districts I live in, and there is evidence of it everywhere. It feels much more genuine however.
A block away from the presidential office, on my way to the Monasterio de San Francisco I ran into this building, which had beautiful antique frames but had seen better days.
The Monasterio de San Francisco, dating back to 1687, is one of the more famous attractions here. Among other things it has a huge library of ancient texts, which they estimate contains 2500 unique books and artifacts. When visiting it it didn't seem like any work was being done to preserve or study said texts though, it was incredibly musty. That's one thing that contrasts with places in Europe and which Ali and I noticed in Tunisia too. Many of the areas here are beautiful and important artifacts, but there just doesn't seem to be the money to properly restore and present them. Just like the incredible Roman ruins in Tunisia that were completely deserted, the monasteria had numerous areas that just needed some TLC.
Apart from the library, the other attraction is the catacombs, which served as Lima's cemetery for a while. They say over 70,000 people were buried here and just like the other catacombs, some macabre soul took it upon themselves to start organizing and stacking the bones and skulls. They think the catacombs and various tunnels connect many of the churches in central Lima, but most have not been excavated.
Rob had told me about this, but it was still funny. They are very proud of a huge painting of the last supper, very similar to DaVinci's. The tour guide pointed out all the differences, and the best one by far is that they are eating what was (still is?) considered the ultimate delicacy here, roasted Cuy, or guina pig.