Saturday, 17 December 2016

Why I fell in Love with Cusco

Landing in Cusco I was immediately whisked away to Aguas Calientes to begin my adventure on Machu Picchu. As we drove up and out of the city, we passed old stone buildings and new construction, wondering puppies and children playing in the streets, town squares and city landmarks. My curiosity about this old, charming place was peaked; I was looking forward to returning and exploring the streets properly. And when I did, it totally won me over. 

What makes a city swoon worth? Here's what did it for me.

The Local 'wildlife'
I'm a dog lover. I greet K9s in the street like most people do babies. It's my thing, I'm fine with it. I encountered my first Peruvian dogs from the windows of a taxi, briefly watching a couple playing together and others napping in doorways. The dogs of Cusco appear to live an independent lifestyle; going for walks, socializing, napping, and finding food. Don't let the lack of clear ownership fool you, they aren't all strays, abandoned to the street, many belong to families and are well fed members of the family. A happy dog makes me happy and seeing these pups roaming free and relaxed made me glad to be there.

Cusco is a fairly large city, but its main squares, oldest neighbourhoods, and major markets are really quite walkable. As per usual, wandering the city aimlessly, crossing up and down cobbled alleys, hiking up stone stairs, and admiring the nooks and crannies of the architecture is one of my favourite things to do in a new city. 
Cusco added a challenge to this walkability by being at 3,399 meters altitude. Climbing any slight incline had me panting and wheezing. But that's okay, it gave me an excuse to admire the Spanish Colonial and Inca architecture of the city. 

A good back story (aka History)
Cusco is known as the historical capital of Peru, founded in 1100 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. It was once the capital of the Inca Empire and it's still unknown how the large stones were quarried and transported to the city.
The city is surrounded by history with short day trips possible to Saksaywaman and villages within the Sacred Valley.
It's hard to walk around this city and not feel the heritage emanating from every stone wall, rooftop vista, and traditionally dressed person with a baby llama (even if it is for the tourists).

The Food
Cusco is fast rising as a gastronomical centre in Peru, with a variety of fresh produce (not just the thousands of varieties of potatoes) and influences from all over the world, I guarantee you'll find something good. 

The Pisco Sour
The Peruvian alcohol, Pisco is a South American staple and a Pisco Sour is the delicious mixing of  key lime (or lemon) juice, syrup, ice, egg white, and Angostura bitters. (Classic Pisco Sour pictured on the left). I'm a fan of trying unique drinks of a region and this one was a good one.

The Fabulous Traffic Cops
No image available for this particular element, but take my word for it, these ladies (and it is almost entirely ladies) are something to see at work and really added to my swooning of this city. After doing a bit of research, I found out that there was a switch to using female traffic cops to cut down on the corruption that was taking place, which apparently has done the trick. I would totally rock their uniform. Google them!

Find a reason to go Peru and be sure to stay a nice long while in Cusco.

What makes you swoon for a city?

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