Lima: Museo Larco and The Moches

Reader Beware: Sone of the pictures and text in this article will have references alluding to the act of copulation and are not for juvenile eyes.

All we had left on our Lima List after the last three days were the Larco Museum and the Museum of Anthropologie. Unfortunately they were put off until the last minute because the Municipal buses didn’t run there and we knew we didn’t want to risk taking any questionable taxis, so the coordination was a little more challenging. Thankfully, due to the use of some broken spanish, the Google Maps GPS, and some kind-hearted locals, we were able to find our way.

We ended up taking a local bus instead of a combi for which both Tom and myself were very grateful. The combis routes are discernible from the main streets written on the side of the vans, but the operator will literally hop out of the sliding door while the driver slows down, yell out the major avenues, wait briefly for the locals to hop on, and zoom off to the next stop almost immediately! We saw this happen regularly everywhere we walked and simply could not wrap our minds around it. Our takeaway from our time in Lima so far is that traffic and transportation is chaotic at best.

The local bus dropped us off about a 10-min walk away from Museo Larco in the Pueblo Libre district. While there were some discernible differences between this district and other two districts that we have spent time in (Miraflores and Barranco), it was clear that the area was well maintained and representative of a middle-class population. It is definitely nice to get away from the hubbub of the main tourist destinations!

Museo Larco is said to be a must-see for all visitors to Lima (although Tom was not quite on board with my adamant desire to go). It is a privately owned museum that houses Pre-Colombian art purchased by Rafael Larco Hoyle around 1925. Rafael soon realized that Peruvian Archeaology was in its infancy and set out on a course for intense Anthropologie research thereby establishing a Peruvian chronology for ancient cultures that has remained valid to this day.

The biggest draw for visitors is the hall of erotic pottery. The vessels, or what we call art in the present, were created by the Moche Civilization who flourished in Northern Peru between 100 AD and 700 AD. To them, sex was not something to be rated-R, or blurred out on television, or even talked about behind closed doors. Sex was a celebration of joining, of life, and of death. This was exemplified by the various pieces of pottery depicting sexual intercourse, favors, and animal copulation.

The Moches placed an emphasis on the concept of circulation and flow. This is best exemplified by the adjacent piece. The woman’s body has been sculpted with an exaggeratedly large vulva, which allows liquids to both fill the orifice and flow from it. The position of the figure alludes to both childbirth and a sexual act, symbolizing a woman’s ability to act as a vessel to accept the insemination of life and likewise bring life into the world.

Personally I found the imagery and symbolism fascinating and got caught up in a photography blackhole! Tom lost interest quite a while before me, but since the museum had free-wifi, he used the chance to sit in the sun and catch up on emails and social media. Unfortunately we ended up not making it to the Museum of Anthropologie….


We finished off our day at, you guessed it! An artisan coffee shop called Origen Tostadores de Cafe where I enjoyed a Chocolate Affogato pick-me-up. ^_^

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Lima: Socio-Economic Disparity

The Barranco district is only 1 out of the 43 districts of Lima. In the 19th century, it was a fashionable beach resort for the Limeño arostocracy who spent many summers here and in the neighboring Chorrillos neighborhood. Today it is considered one of the most bohemian neighborhoods and is the workshop to many artists, designers, and musicians.

The area, along with Miraflores, also happens to be one of the most expensive districts to live in, averaging about 300 soles a month in rent when the average minimum wage earns only earns about 850 soles a month. (We are talking about $100 USD and $280 USD respectively.

My favorite part was walking along the Bajada de los Baños, a walkway that leads to the sea that was naturally formed by erosion via water runoff. It was lined with unique and colorful street murals from a variety of artists that have to submit applications for approval to execute their visions.


We then walked along the cliffs to discuss the economic disparity between districts like Miraflores and Barranco versus the other 41. The mayors invest the taxes to improve the common areas (I.e parks, cleanliness, and safety) and overly improve the atmosphere of the neighborhood, choices that make them such highly prized zip codes. They also pay for the netting along the cliffs to prevent rock falls from injuring the people driving on the highway below; they are the only two cliffside areas that have done this.


After that, we u-turned to walk over the Bajada via the Internet Puente de los Sospiros. As a group we took a breath and tried to hold it while walking across. The superstition is that if you can do this while thinking of a wish, it will come true. I ended up having to run across the bridge twice for a successful attempt! (I forgot to think about a wish on my crossing the first time lol, and ended up doing three in total, because I failed when we did it as a group).

We stuck around to finish our evening at the Ayahuasca Bar where I had a flight of Pisco Sours and Tom had to help me out since Pisco typically has minimum alcohol content of 40%!

Lima: Spanish Colonialism

Casa Aliaga

Apologies for the delay in my posts. Unfortunately the hostel wifi has been down for two days so I find that I am now having to write some more catch-up articles than usual. Alas!

We slept in a bit today then headed back to the Plaza de Armas downtown so that we could catch the interiors of all the buildings that we were only able to walk past a few days ago. (Although some of them required special reservations and therefore we had to forgoe them)

Torre Tagle Palace

Thankfully Tom is more than happy to go along with my efficiently planned walking routes! Part of our exploring involved walking past the Parliament Building, admiring the exteriors of both Casa Aliaga and the Torre Tagle Palace, and wandering through the stalls of the Central Market throughout the day. Frankly I would have loved to visit both Casa Aliaga and the Torre Tagle Palace as the interior decor and detailing is said to be phenomenal but it seems that they can only be visited if you arrange to be in an official tour group which is just not our cup of tea. 

Amid all these random stops we also visited the San Francisco Catacombs (No pictures allowed boo-hoo!) Interesting fact: they mixed eggshells into the mortar they used to bind the bricks together and somehow, despite a multitude of earthquakes, the catacombs have still managed to escape unscathed.

After a very brief lunch break for pizza and and Inca Kola, the only soda that Coca-Cola could not successfully best (at least until a joint venture was established in 1999), we managed to fit in the Archbishop’s Palace, and the Lima Cathedral, the final resting place of Francisco Pizzaro. It still amazes me how much time and investment that the clergy seem to have made in the adornments of the various altars and religious iconography.

We then sat on the steps for a little bit of sun and relaxation before rendezvousing for our afternoon Barranco neighborhood tour.

Lima: Before The Incas

Before the Inca Civilization became so pervasive in the 16th century, with origins dating from the 13th century, a multitude of ancient civilizations preceded it. We explored the history behind a number of these societies with our first stop of the day, Huaca Pullcana.

Huacca Pullcana is a great adobe and clay pyramid in the Miraflores district of Lima. It is built of seven staggered platforms and served as the ceremonial and administrative center of the Lima Culture. The complex, now diminished from its original extents due to urbanized construction and disrespect for the value of history, is surrounded by a plaza with a large structured wall dividing the sections. 

The Lima’s main source of sustenance came from the sea and the land. This is exemplified by excavated deep pits that show evidence of fish and marine life being used as offerings. Young girls between the ages of 15-25 were also used as sacrifices to the gods (thankfully I have already passed the age cut-off). The pyramid provided a location for these offerings, and once space became scarce or a new generation arose, a new terrace was built directly above the former one.

As the layers were built-up over a long period of time, roughly every 15-20 years, the evolution of brick design is easily seen. Interestingly, instead of being stacked horizontally, they were stacked vertically with an air gap between each brick. It is believed that these air gaps were left in order to allow the pyramid to “rock” when an earthquake hit. As a structural engineer I thought that this was pretty cool! The Lima Culture had essentially designed their very own basic, but assumedly effective , earthquake proof building. (Essentially a fixed base with a very flexible structure)

After visiting the archeological site, we returned to our hotel to check out and switch over to a nearby hostel. We then grabbed lunch at La Lucha Sangucheria (Again!) before heading for a stroll along the cliffs to see the beach and visit El Parque de Amor, Love Park. The park is said to have been inspired by Park Guell in Barcelona. It features a sculpture called “El Beso,” which is said to depict the artist, Víctor Delfín, and his wife kissing. 

I tried to get Tom to kiss me in front of the sculpture and selfie it. Unfortunately he refused on the grounds that it was too cliche. :(. Honestly I was happy that I was able to get him to agree to a selfie at all! I blame him for why most photos I post contain no traces of him or even myself. I swear that it is like pulling teeth.

After walking along the cliffs for a few hours, with a stop to watch the paragliders lift off and land high into the sky and one to roam the Larcomer Shopping center (including a pit stop), we returned back to our hostel for a brief reprieve. 

Our feet somewhat rested after an hour or so, we caught the bus to visit the Park of the Reserve and the Magic Water Circuit. The park is the current world record holder for the largest fountain complex in the world and is home to 13 distinct and interactive fountains with ever changing color schemes. 

We arrived just in time to watch the main show at the Fountain of Fantasy which included projections onto the misting water, moving animals and shapes made by 3-dimensional layers, and of course, synchronized streams of water shooting left and right to synchronized music. After that, we visited the other 12 fountains and stopped at a vendor to try some Picarones, a squash and sweet potato donut covered in molasses syrup. 

After a long day, with over 28,0000 FitBit steps, we returned to our hostel to grab dinner, after which Tom promptly passed out while I stayed up to diligently write my blog. 🙂 

 

 Copenhagen: Silver Lions! Oh My!

This morning, Tom and I went in different directions for our morning fuel. We had passed a Matcha Bar the day before and I just HAD to try their latte. Tom, of course, needed his coffee. We then ventured off on our first stop of the day, Rosenborg Castle. (Have your noticed that in Denmark they seem to use borg, instead of berg, or burg?)

The Rosenborg Castle is over 400 years old! It was built as a summer residence for Christian IV in 1606 and reached its current form, after numerous expansions in 1624. It was built in the Dutch Renaissance style as exemplified by the symmetry of the building’s form and the orderly lintel protrusions (not to mention the systematic choice of brick colors and window locations).

The interior has since been converted to a museum replicating the decor of the original rooms, including the King’s Bathroom, and showcasing tapestries commemorating battles between Sweden and Denmark.

My favorite room of all was the Knight’s Hall! Even though it was originally intended to be a ballroom, it now houses the coronation thrones of the Kings and Queens of Denmark, whose seats of power are bravely protected by the three life-size silver lions standing guard. The detailing of each lion, and their facial features, was beyond exquisite!

Vaults underneath the castle house the Crown Jewels. Just strolling through the collection made me reminisce about my younger dreams of becoming medieval royalty. That is until I recalled the formerly mentioned Royal Bathroom. Hygienic conditions were not nearly as good as they are today! 

image

After visiting Rosenborg Castle we took a casual stroll over to the National Gallery of Denmark and perused the art collections for a bit before enjoying the afternoon sunshine. 


Copenhagen: A Perplexing Start

 

Tom had a perplexing start to his day. While we were waiting for our lattes at a table, we noticed a giant Rubik’s Cube right next to us. Obviously, being the engineers we are, we started solving it piece by piece. Ironically, neither one of us could remember how to solve the last layer, so we had to leave it behind with only 2 out of 3 of the rows solved. I also learned that my boyfriend is a nerd; Apparently he attended Rubik’s Cube club meetings while he was in college. 

 Our first stop was the National Museum of Denmark. Housed in the Prince’s Mansion, one of the earliest Roccoco buildings in Copenhagen, the National Museum has the largest collection of Danish cultural history in all of Denmark. Its  exhibition covers 14,000 years from prehistoric times to present-day lives. It would have been easy to spend our entire day there, but Tom and I had a lot more to see (not to mention, we’ve pretty much had our fill of museums for this trip). My favorite part was their collection of dollhouses, I always wanted one as a little girl. The scaling of each piece of furniture and the detail associated with it has always fascinated me. Tom couldn’t share my enthusiasm, because well, I’m pretty certain that he has never been a little girl. 😀

 We grabbed some Smørrebrød for lunch, a traditional open-faced sandwich of meat, fish, cheese, or spread, on a buttered piece of rye bread, before heading over to the Parliament building. Officially, the building is called Christiansborg Palace,  a metonym meaning, “Castle of the Realm.” It is the only one in the world the houses all three branches of the government, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial powers. We took two elevators to the top of the tower, the tallest tower in Copenhagen, and were greeted with some scenic views of the city.
 After returning to ground level, we took a closer look at the Børsen, the old stock exchange. We passed by it yesterday during the walking tour, but I wanted a closer look at its spire. Built by Christian IV between 1619-1614, the building is known for its  the Dragon Spire which consists of four dragon tails wounded together reaching a height of 56 meters. I really admire the expressive artistry that older buildings have. It’s a tradition that has been lost and overtaken by a desire for modern, sleek shapes. At the same time, it would be unrealistic to build elaborately carved or scuplted details into structures these days since I’m sure the cost would be astronomical.

 We stopped by a few historical churches and then took a stroll along Nyhavn. Nyhavn is a man-made port dug between 1670 to 1673 by Swedish prisoners of the Dano-Swedish War. It was constructed by Christian V and served as a gateway from the sea to the old inner city, Kongens Nytorv the “King’s Square.” The harbor area was notorious for beer, sailors, and prostitution. On our walk yesterday, Benjamin mentioned that the first tattoo parlor in the city was opened here, and the artist had a two sided machine. Back in those days it was common for sailors to put their names on their lady-friends, but it was also bad business for the woman. So if the woman handed the artist a few extra bucks, a wink, the tattoo artist would us the semi-permanent needle on his machine, allowing the name to wash away a few days later rather than being permanent. The famous fairytale author, Hans Christian Anderson also lived along this street for 18 years. 

 Our last stop today was to the Rundetaarn, or “Round Tower.” Originally built by Christian IV in the 17th century, the cylindrical tower is made of masonry with alternating yellow and red bricks, the colors of the Oldenburgs. It also has has an equestrian ramp rather than a staircase; this design was chosen to allow a horse and carriage to reach the library and for heavy and sensitive equipment to be transported to the astronomical observatory on top. Tom and I walked up the 7.5 turn helical corridor, and I couldn’t help but ask, “Are we there yet?”

Stockholm: Ticking Hands of Time

 We woke up first thing this morning and grabbed breakfast to-go during our walk to City Hall. Stockholm City Hall is the center of governance for the municipality, and also the location of the Nobel Prize banquet every year on December 10th. You may recall my previous post from Oslo concerning the Peace Prize. However, it is the only Nobel Prize that is presented in Oslo rather than in Stockholm. This is because Alfred Nobel specifically wrote this request into his will. Originally there were only 5 awards, Chemistry, Physics, Literature, Medicine, and Peace to award individuals who had made significant contributions to the progress and welfare of humanity. The Economics award was added by the Swedish Central Bank in 1968.

Interestingly enough, City Hall is not an old building. It’s celebrating only its 93rd birthday this year. Designed by the architect After City Hall, we stopped for lunch before heading over to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is a the only almost fully intact Ragner Östberg in 1923, he desired for the building’s structure and facade to look old without actually being old. Ragnar drew inspiration for the interior rooms from a variety of historical eras, but also made major design changes as the building progressed and his whims of fancy changed. 

 

The Blue Room (although not actually blue) recalls the elegance of a wide open Italian piazza, an assembly space for various events and banquets. Knowing that patrons would be making their entrance via the grand staircase, Ragnar included a star on the far-opposite wall. It is said that if a person focuses on that star as they descend, they will maintain proper posture while all eyes are focused on them; and so far, no Nobel Prize winner has ever tripped or fallen as they enter a banquet in their honor. 

 The Gold Room is opulently decorated in colorful gold mosaic, bringing to mind the glitz and glamour of the Byzantine Empire. The artist and his assistants only had two years to complete the room’s walls prior to a certain event that had to take place on a specific date for historical reasons. As a result, some mistakes were made with no time to correct them. The depicted castle is missing one of the three crowns (this was supposed to depict Tre Kronos, the Castle of Three Crowns), and the king riding the horse is without a head due to scaling errors (although it is historically accurate since the king was eventually beheaded). 

After City Hall, we stopped for lunch before heading over to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is a the only almost fully intact (98% original) 17th century ship to ever be recovered. The ship was built on the orders of King Gustavus Aldophus in due part because of a military expansion campaign he initiated with Poland-Lithuania and his desire to enter the Thirty Years War. At the time, Sweden’s political and military power was an afterthought and neighboring nations barely acknowledged its presence. Gustavus is widely regarded as one of the greatest military leaders of all time. He was progressive in his governance, innovative in his military weaponry, raised Sweden to be a Great Power.

 The Vasa would have been the first double-decker war ship of the time, and one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. She was constructed under contract by private Dutch entrepreneurs between 1626 and 1627. The ship was richly decorated in symbolic carvings illustrating his ambition for Sweden. However, due to severe time constraints, and a lack of expertise (as no one in the country had ever built a double-decker), the Vasa’s final design proved too unstable and top-heavy. 

 On her maiden voyage on August 10, 1628, she was only 1300 meters out of port when a wind caused her to keel and ultimately sink. Fortunately for us, the ship-channel she sank in has a low salt content. This allowed her to lay relatively undisturbed and remarkably well-preserved for over 300 years. The Vasa did not sail again until her hull was lifted from the harbor floor in 1961.

 

I was personally astounded by the size of the ship. She is the first thing you see when you enter the museum, and she simply dominates the room. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of her intricate carvings and exquisite detail.

Our take-away from the day is that time is a double-edged sword. For some, time is a luxury, while for others, time is a looming specter. In both the cases of the Gold Room and the Vasa, had the designers had sufficient time to complete the tasks at hand, we believe that the inherent flaws could have been avoided. 

 Speaking of time, Tom and I spent the rest of our afternoon enjoy the Swedish tradition of Fika. Fika is equivalent to the British Tradition of tea-time, where people take a break from their day to savor some coffee and sweets. We went to Vette-Kaffen a traditional Fika institution. It was both tasty and relaxing. 🙂

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