Once upon a time...
Potosi Travel Blog› entry 23 of 36 › view all entries
... Potosí was the biggest city in the world. People came for the silver mines. Now it can only lay claim to being the highest city in the world, over 4km above sea level, dry and cold at night. I only spent two nights there, but would gladly spend more: it´s distinctively different from other cities in Bolivia, with narrow streets and colonial buildings, but not white and pretty like Sucre (in fact, it sort of has more character in that sense). It was the festival of San Juan while we were there, which meant merriment in the streets and some weird performance art in one of the plazas (it was the crucifixion of Christ, quite dramatic, performed by some people who later entertained us with some funky dancing).
I arrived in Potosí with Bella, an Aussie girl I ran into in Sucre (who I had met earlier in Lima), Wes from the US and Elisabeth from Holland. We stayed at the Koala Den hostel which was a brightly painted, cool little place, gas heaters, free breakfast (they even gave us eggs!) and lots of books. Probably the best book exchange I´ve seen so far. Unfortunately there was some sort of miscommunication and the dorm we dumped our bags in had been overbooked by 3 people. The Koala Den is definitely the gringo place in Potosi (anyone travelling in that area has heard of it) and has a well deserved reputation for having the hottest showers in Bolivia. Bella and I were moved to a twin share. The showers were awesome, you had to use the cold water tap!
The Casa de la Moneda is Potosí´s museum, previously a mint, and well worth a visit. They only do guided tours, and we were a little late but it was great. I mean, I´ve never been that fascinated by huge wooden mechanical things that used to roll out layers of silver (they had mules going round in circles to fuel the machines), lots of coins (boring), some awesome gemstones, and all in a big, beautifully restored colonial building.
The food in Potosì was great. On the first day I had pizza, llama steak with mashed potatoes and crepes, on the second day we had salteñas (like empanadas) in a salteñeria then steak, rice and fries (why the rice? why?) and dulce de leche ice-cream. There were also the most tastiest salteñas (50centavos a pop) next to the bus station. I outdid myself and had four.
There´s a lot of history in Potosí, and other than its silver mine tours and the museum, there´s a lot of outdoor activities to be done... but you could find yourself gasping for breath at the altitude.