Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, beautiful earthquake city, Guatemala

Hola, from happy Antigua.  It’s a gorgeous little town, which was established in 1543 by the Spanish as the capital of Guatemala, and at first glance nothing much has changed. The streets are all narrow, cobbled, and it is filled with beautiful old buildings and churches. The centre of town is a gorgeous park, not too large, but plenty large enough for a crowd of people to congregate and watch the world go by.

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua was the capital until the mid 1770s, when an earthquake destroyed the town and the capital was moved to Guatemala City. The remnants of this earthquake, and the many other tremors that have caused the city to crumble, is evident as at every other turn as also stumble across the ruins of a former glorious building around every other corner. It is a lovely town that really grows on you.

Antigua, Guatemala

I visited the Casa Santo Domingo, which is now an luxury hotel set amongst the ruins of the Santo Domingo monastery. There are a number of archaelogical relics, so I happily spent an hour or so exploring and imagining what it used to be.  I went to the crypts, which were kind of creepy with the dead bones still there, and also perused the museum – a really fascinating place.

Antigua, Guatemala

Later that day I had a private tour of Las Capuchinas, which was inaugurated in 1736 by nuns from Madrid but badly damaged in the earthquake and is currently being restored. The private tour was funny, because I thought it was closed until a man bounded up and unlocked it and offered to show us around. I was dubious at first, but the man had a key and as it happened he did a great job taking me and the other people that turned up through the place and explaining what each part was. Of course it was in Spanish so I got some Spanish practice for sure! He did show us a round, natural ampitheatre, which was used as a retreat for two days and nights of praying, dormitories, cemetery, gardens for prayer and a very strange place that was sort of a cellar with a large round central pillar. He then demonstrated monks with their arms wrapped around the pillar. I’m sorry to say my Spanish wasn’t good enough to understand him and I still have no idea what went on there!

Antigua, Guatemala
Antigua, Guatemala
 One of the options on offer was a walk up to Volcan Pacaya, which seemed tempting.  Many people take marshmellows and toast them on the lava which is gently flowing past your feet!  Instead I decided to go to a local coffee plantation. It was absolutely fascinating, Considered a medium-sized plantation, it was around 900 hectares. During the height of the season it employs an additional 150 seasonal workers to pick the crop. It is incredibly labour intensive, as the arabica plants, which are the better quality ones, are grafted onto the robusta plant, the hardier coffee plant, by hand. Women do thisHill of the cross, but without me in the middlework as they have smaller hands. Apparently they can do between 1000 and 1200 per day, wow!

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

The coffee beans themselves are bright red when they are ripe, and they are then all hand picked so that only the ripe ones are picked. The pickers go over the trees several times until all done. These are the “cherry”, which contain the beans. They are covered in a sticky residue, which we all tried, and to my surprise it’s sweet. It then goes through quite a process, until they are left with the green bean, which is how it is exported. The importing company usually roasts the beans themselves.  Nothing seems to be wasted. The cherry, which holds the beans, is used Las Capuchinasfor fertiliser. Other byproducts are turned into something that looks a bit like straw, and they use it in their stables for the horses. I was fascinated by the whole process. Happily the tour ended with an espresso.

Antigua, Guatemala

 

Antigua, Guatemala

Then this afternoon I walked up to the “Cerro de la Cruz”, the hill of the cross. It is, as the name suggests, a large hill with a cross on it, overlooking Antigua from the north. We got a fabulous view from up there, looking towards Volcan Agua in the south. When the cities were built by the Spanish, they were all laid out in a very logical grid pattern. From north to south the streets are Avenida 1, Avenida 2 etc and from east to west they are Calle 1, Calle 2 etc. It’s really easy to get around, and from the Cerro de la Cruz this is laid out below us quite clearly.  A beautiful little stopover!

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

 

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: