February 29th, 2008 – by: AndySD
View of the volcanoes at dawn
Of all the Peruvian cities that I have been in, Arequipa
was definitely the most modern. The highlight of its modernity had to be the movie theater, complete with adjoining fast food court with Burger King and KFC. Certainly a big change from some of the more traditionaly Peruvian food, which by the way I should mention that I tried the guinea pig (cuy), I was a bit disappointed as there wasn´t
much meat on the little rodent and it tasted slightly gamey. But they
are right, the brain is the best part, nice and creamy with a good
flavor to it. I was also able to try alpaca, which was quite tasty, a
bit lean and dry but otherwise good, I even had it on a pizza. Anyways, back to the movies, almost all the movies were in English with Spanish subtitles, a very welcome treat.
The main plaza in Arequipa
I have been gone from the modern world for so long that I was totally unaware that they had released the final installment in the Rambo series. As this was pretty much the only thing that looked remotely interesting I decided to go see it. They price movies differently here, it is the same price all day but is cheaper on Mondays to Thursdays and more expensive on the weekends, with three different price levels. The movie was decent but they really limit you to seeing just one movie per admission because when the movie ends they escort you out a different door leading outside the building, rather disappointing.
The rest of Arequipa was really nice, with the buildings mostly constructed out of white bricks made from volcanic rock. Being situated at the foot of the two large volcanoes certainly made this material very abundant, and also contributed to several devastating earthquakes which have destroyed much of the city over the years, most recently in 2001.
Another passageway in the convent
One of the highlights of Arequipa is the Santa Catalina Convent. Nuns lived in the convent in complete seclusion without contact with the outside world for almost 400 years, until around 1970 or so. They refer to the convent as a city within a city because of the size of convent. There were deliveries of food and supplies so it wasn´t self-sufficient, but still, walking around the small quarters and deserted streets, I couldn´t imagine living there in seclusion for most of my life. Another attraction in Arequipa is the mummy museum, housing remains and artifacts found from Inca sacrifices on top of the nearby volcanoes. Because of the cold temperatures, the bodies were amazingly well preserved and look very real. The bodies were only uncovered when a neighboring volcano erupted, with the heat of the eruption melting the permanent snow cap and allowing archaeologists to climb up the summit at around 19,000 feet for excavations.
The main church in the convent
There were a few other museums containing artifacts from the War of the Pacific, Peru´s battle with Chile over their shared border of desert in the late 1870s. It was interesting to hear about this since in my next step of the trip I will be heading that way to see what all the fighting was really about. I´ll let you know...