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Fishing boats on the bay
Fishing boats on the bay
The plan for today was a walking tour of the city to be led by Teddy. Starting at 9:30 am, our first stop was Qoricancha and Santa Domingo, which was located about two blocks from our hotel. Following a tour of the inner courtyards and a peek into the closed chapel, we toured the outside curved wall and admired the spacious gardens. Santo Domingo was perched high above the Ave del Sol and provided a beautiful sight as it was surrounded by lovely terraced gardens featuring flowering hydrangeas, calla lilies, salvia, begonias, lantas and other exotic plants.

Together Qoricancha (Temple del Sol) and Santo Domingo form the most vivid illustration in Cusco of the clash between Andean and Western Europe. One of the most elaborate temples in the Inca Empire and the culmination of its naturalistic belief system, it was home to 4,000 of the highest-ranking priests and their attendants. Dedicated to the worship of the sun, it contained hundreds of gold panels lining the wall, life-size gold figures, solid gold altars, and a huge golden sun disc, which reflected the sun and bathed the courtyard in sunlight. It was also the primary astronomical observatory for the Incas. After the Spaniards ransacked the temple and removed the gold, the highly polished stones walls were used as the foundations of the Convent of Santo Domingo, which was constructed in the 17th century. The inner courtyard was influenced by mudejar design with it openness, arches, tiles, murals and colors. The 20-foot curved wall forming the foundation still remains despite numerous earthquakes, and may be the greatest example of Inca stonework.

We then walked through the streets congested with both people and vehicles toward the central market located just outside the walls of the center city. Sights and smells were less than pleasant and we were happy to leave. Teddy stated that city officials wanted to tear down the market due to cleanliness and health concerns, but after local protests the plan was withdrawn.

Walking by the Cusco School of Art, we did stop to watch the students construct elaborate paper mache floats to be used for the Corpus Christi festival scheduled for the following Saturday. We then realized that a large number of local people were headed toward the Plaza del Armas so we followed them to find out what was happening. Closed to vehicles, groups of traditionally dressed secondary school aged students were marching around the plaza prior to performing song and dance arrangements before judging booths located in front of the Cathedral. Stopping to watch was great fun and provided a good rest before heading to the ruins above the city.

Usually referred to as a garrison or fortress because of its massive limestone walls, it is believed that Sacsayhuaman served as a religious temple despite its military significance. The Inca emperor Pachacute began the site's construction in the mid 15th century, and it took nearly 100 years and many thousands of men to complete it. The massive blocks of limestone that fit together perfectly without the use of mortar were constructed in a zigzag formation of three tiers. One of the blocks is 11 feet tall and is estimated to weigh 300 tons. Some of the limestone and other stones were brought from as far as 20 miles.

Foregoing the walk under the bright noontime sun, we took a short taxi ride to Sacsayhuaman. After walking around the large flat area of the ruins and admiring the massive and precise stonework, we stopped to view the layout of the city stretched out far below. Dick and I then returned to the city by taxi where we enjoyed lunch at the Lima restaurant overlooking the Plaza. I enjoyed an adobe pork shoulder dish with sweet potatoes while Dick ordered his favorite, the Lomo Saltado, which is strips of beef tenderloin with fried onions, potatoes and tomatoes served over rice. I also had a refreshing coconut and lime drink while Dick stayed with a cerveza.

At 3 pm we rejoined our group and continued our tour up the steep and narrow cobblestone streets to the neighborhood of San Blas. Here we stopped at artist studios as well as shops featuring elaborate geometrical woven textiles. We purchased a small watercolor painting from a local artist who proudly produced a newspaper article featuring his show in NYC.

Started in 1559 and taking almost 100 years to complete, La Catedral sits on the foundation of an Inca Palace and was built using blocks taken from the ruins at Sacsayhuaman. Built in the Renaissance style and now restored, La Catedral contains over 400 canvasses that were painted between the 16th and 18th centuries. It also contains the oldest surviving painting in Cusco that shows the entire city during the earthquake of 1650. The inhabitants can be seen parading around the plaza with a crucifix praying for the earthquake to stop, which it did. This precious crucifix is called El Senor de los Temblores, or Lord of the Earthquake. Weighing over 885 pounds, the main alter is fashioned from silver mined in Bolivia and features the patron saint of Cusco. There are also many silver and gold side chapels with elaborate altars that contrast with austerity of the buildings stonework. During festival times, La Catedral is filled with pedestals supporting larger than life statues of saints, surrounded by thousands of candles and bands of musicians honoring them.

Our final stop was La Catedral located in the Plaza. Teddy led us through the three ornate chapels now covered in elaborate gold leaf after the Spaniards removed the gold. Local indigenous craftsmen completed the ornate cedar woodcarvings in the large choir stall. Statues, with downcast eyes, were garbed in bright robes or blankets highly embellished with beading or decorative woven trim. These statues were brought from local churches in preparation for the upcoming Corpus Christi festival. Local artists who were trained by the Dominicans completed the large paintings that hung on the walls. We also viewed El Negrito Christ, also known as the Lord of the Earthquake, as well as the Last Supper that depicts the apostles drinking chichi and Judas holding a bag of gold.

Returning to our hotel at 6 pm, we said goodbye to Teddy. Near 7 pm we decided to take a final nighttime walk around the Plaza prior to our departure the following day. The evening air was definitely chilly so we happily stopped in a welcoming Italian restaurant where we had a great time over pizza and cervaza. We marveled at the well-dressed older Italian gentleman who was doing a remarkable job gently leading those passing by into the establishment.

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