Now back in Cusco, we attempted to actually see the sights. We got off to a slow start though, because our first stop, the Inca Museum, was closed. So we walked around town and ended up at the Chocolate Museum. Which is really a coffee shop with some info about cacao in Peru and a few souvenirs. But admission is free, so it wasn’t a bad stop. I did actually learn a little about cocoa production and history. I also learned that Poland is one of the biggest consumers of chocolate (of course not compared to the US). And of course we bought some souvenirs. There was a complimentary cup of really cool tea they gave us that tasted like chocolate even though it was tea, so I bought a bag of that.
Then we walked past the church and convent of Santa Clara, which sounds really cool with mirrors covering the interior, but it’s barely ever open and indeed was closed now.
So we did what we do best – shopping – at the Mercado San Pedro. And I finally got to eat choclo!
After the market, we walked back down Calle Nueva to Avenida del Sol and visited the Qorikancha, billed as the most important Inca site in Cusco. That’s because it was the richest temple in the empire and center of Inca civilization – until the Spaniards came and looted it and built a church on top of it. All that’s left from the temple are the remains of those super-fitted stone Inca walls.
A couple cool new things I learned at Qorikancha:
- Killa means moon in Quechua
- When the Inca looked at the Milky Way, they didn’t focus on the stars but rather on the colored spaces between those stars. So they saw a snake, a fox, a llama and its baby in that constellation.
- The sacred wakas extended out from Qorikancha throughout Cusco, marking sacred sites.
That being said, I would actually recommend shelling out a few extra soles for the tour at Qoricancha. There isn’t that much left from the Inca days, so it would have been really helpful to get some more of that history from a guide. I just relied on the few paragraphs in my guide book to get me through the site, which wasn’t ideal.
Next, we walked back towards the Plaza de Armas to visit La Catedral. It’s so interesting to see all the mirrors in Peruvian churches. Apparently, the Catholic Church used them to attract the locals, both for their novelty as well as for their symbolism. And it’s an interesting concept overall that to be comfortable with your reflection, you should be a good person. Some of the other highlights of the cathedral included the famous Last Supper painting featuring a cuy (guinea pig) as the center dish, and the black Jesus statue. One of the most impressive sights here was the first-ever cross brought to South America and used to convert the locals, which lives at the cathedral. It’s simplicity is impressive.
At that point, we decided to rest before heading out to the highly-recommended Fallen Angel for dinner. Kitsch is definitely the way to describe it. The restaurant has bathtubs converted into aquariums with live fish converted to tables with beds as seats. And paper mache flying pigs. And a huge metal angel. Also, an eclectic collection of local art for sale on the walls. The food was quite good, if not a bit heavy. But overall, it was a nice dinner out, full of food, wine and random conversation.