Lima Travel Blog› entry 3 of 177 › view all entries
Took a taxi up to the Museum of the Inquisition to start the day off. Traffic here can be quite horrendous, no-one really wants to give way and it is every vehicle for itself. We saw a taxi knock a boy off his bike, because neither would cede - apparently that is quite normal! The Museum is in a building that was originally used by the Spanish Inquisition and then became the first Congress building (indeed the first President of the Republic was assassinated in the courtyard here). We joined a public tour, so Melissa had to quickly brush up on her Spanish - we could grasp most of it, although some of the more technical words were harder to follow. We were taken through various rooms and had their purpose explained, such as the trial room, sentencing room, torture room.
We then wandered up to the Plaza de Armas, the big square in front of the Government Palace - the home of the President (sort of in the scale of Buckingham Palace).
We then walked around to the Church of San Pedro (via the towerless Church of San Augustin - its towers collapsed in the massive earthquake of 1746 which destroyed much of Lima).
The central market was the next stop, an incredibly organised and clean complex selling everything from meat, fish and fruit to clothes and household items. The market is in a pedestriansed zone since a massive fire caused by a small boy´s fireworks resulted in the death of around 350 people. Even though the fire station was only a couple of blocks away, they couldn´t do anything because they could not get to the market through the heavy traffic.
As we walked around back towards the Inquisition Museum,we passed the Roma 1 fire station. Being past volunteer firefighters in Australia, we had a peek through the gate, and were honoured to be invited in by an on-duty fireman (interesting to note that the TV was on - just like quiet times in fire stations everywhere!). He showed us the old 1917 Fiat fire truck, complete with a ladder, that was used in the 1920´s on, and the new rescue/fire vehicle currently in use. The station is the oldest in LIma and the second oldest in Peru, and has a statue of Romulus and Remus with the wolf above the entrance. The man explained that this station is in the old Italian area, hence the name Roma 1 and the statue - even our guide didn´t know this, so a good stop all-round. We then had another quick look at the Inquisition Museum, with a bit of an explanation in English, before crossing the road to see the Congress (Parliament) buidling. This is now surrounded by a big fence and lots of security, since an attack by the Shining Path guerilla group.
We walked back along the Rimac River through the Parque Muralla, which hugs the old city wall. Much of this has been excavated, and there are various plaques along the way explaining the process. The park is very nice, well restored and quite restful - you can get a little train around the park if you´re so inclined. By now, we were a little weary, so stopped at a 110 year old pub opposite the Desamparados train station for a beer - tried the local, Crystal, which was pretty good.
Luis then agreed to take us over the Rimac to the bullfighting museum and up the Cerro de San Cristobal for a view of the city. Our hotel manager said this was not a safe area so we should only go with a guide, and luckily Luis was happy to take us up there. The Museo Taurino is fairly small, and mostly consists of paintings and pictures of bullfighters, along with a good collection of their costumes and swords/knives. One costume comes complete with the blood of the matador who died in it! There are also a couple of mounted bull heads on the wall - even all this time later, they don´t look particularly happy, so we stood well back! The taxi then drove us right up to the top of the Cerro for a view right over Peru. There is an illumnated cross at the top of the hill, and each Easter pilgrims follow the torturous route up the hill to make the stations of the cross - this would be very difficult as the road is very steep, narrow and winding. Until you see it from above, you don´t really get an idea of how big Lima is, with its roughly 7 million people. A huge power pylon at the top was also attacked by Shining Path guerillas, who managed to cut the power for the whole of Lima, so security is pretty tight now - the parking attendant carries a shotgun!
The taxi then took us back down to the Church of San Francisco, where we left Luis. He´s a great guide, very knowledgeable and his English is excellent. He can be contacted at any time on mobile 95963651 and his full name is Luis Olivera. Say Noel & Melissa from Australia sent you!!
The friary of San Franciso was built around the 16-17th century and sits atop an extensive catacomb system. The old monastery is now a museum, and for a S/5 entry fee you can go on a guided tour in English of the various areas. Once again, there is a central courtyard with lots of Seville tiles and wood carvings of a Moorish influence. We were taken around many of the rooms used in the day-to-day life of the monks, including the choir, refectory, library and so on. The choir contains a big organ with 1000 pipes, which used to be powered by a monk on a bicycle - apparently the monks aren´t as fit any more, so it´s powered by electricity now. The library is considered the second most important in Latin America and contains 25,000 volumes, the earliest dating from 1480. One prayer room (lined with huge portraits from the school of Reubens) had its own catacomb honouring an early benefactor. You can look down a short flight of steps and actually see his skull and cross bones smiling up at you, complete with a thatch of hair! Next to him, are the same bits of his wife and the mummified remains of someone else - quite ghoulish really. After another couple of rooms,we went down under the Church to the main catacombs. These are over three levels (although only one is open) and an estimated 70,000 people were buried here. The bones are all neatly organised by type into lots of pits, all done by the archaeologists, so quite decorative in their own way.
After a delicious meal in a local restaurant, we walked back around to the Plaza de Armas for a quick look before getting a taxi home. Our driver, who was the spitting image of Maradona, was slightly "loco" so we were amazed to get home in one piece. He was quite a character, spoke a little English and drove a car that was dying rapidly. But he only charged S/10 so we were happy.