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. ^_^

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: Ciudad de los Reyes

Lima is also known as the “City of Kings,” because Francisco Pizzaro, the Spanish conquistador, founded the city in 1535 on the Catholic holiday of Epiphany, the day when the three kings visited the baby Jesus. Pizzaro was also the one who established the location of the Plaza de Los Armas, our next stop. He did this to follow a mandate set by King Charles I of Spain in 1523, Procedures for the creation of cities in the New World. It required that, after outlining a city’s plan, growth was to radiate outward  centered on the square shape of the plaza. 


Our guide then pointed out some key buildings surrounding the square including the Lima Cathedral, Archbishop’s Palace, Municipal Palace, Congress of the Republic, and Presidential Palace. (I’ll write more on these later as I’m hoping to find the opportunity to visit the interior of some of these buildings).

We then strolled through the Peruvian Gastronomy House, visited the interior of the Saint Dominic Church, stopped in Post Office Alley, and paused to view the Rimac River. The tour finished off with a sampling of four different varieties of Pisco, the national drink of Peru. (To be honest this free walking tour was less enjoyable than others that we have taken. The first guide felt cold and stand-offish, and the second kept having to switch between Spanish and English, so I felt that the information and history got lost in his struggle). 

We were able head back to visit the interiors of the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo. And for only 10 soles, I’d say that it was worth it! As usual, Tom got frustrated with my habit of excessive picture taking, but I couldn’t stop myself. I’m entranced by the concept of cloisters, and how an individual can have so much faith that they devote their entire lives to an order; In this case, the Third Order of Saint Dominic

The complex was originally built by Dominican Friars in 1549 but has been rebuilt or remodeled in the time since. It is recognized as the oldest religious site in Lima, and the land was given to Friar Vicente de Valverde, Francisco Pizzaro‘s right-hand man,  the one that Inca Atahualpa’s execution is attributed to. The baroque and Spanish influence of the structure is blatantly obvious from the paintings to the painted ceramic tiles. It is in this church that the remains of three very notable saints were found, San Juan Macías, Santa Rosa de Lima and San Martín de Porres.

After our first day with lots of walking (or training our cubicle feet to evolve into travel feet with 20,000 steps per my FitBit), we were both exhausted and starving. After some debate we settled on visiting La Lucha Sangucheria for dinner which was conveniently just around the corner from our hotel.

They are known for their juicy Chicharron Sandwhiches and man was I a happy panda! The roll was crispy on the outside but soft on the inside and the Chicharon was just the right amount of juicy on top of a bed of sweet potato and topped with lime marinated onions. It was soooo incredibly tasty. (Tom got a shredded chicken sandwich which he really enjoyed as well). We also split a Chicha Morada between us. It’s a traditional Peruvian Drink that is made from Purple Corn.  

After dinner we wandered through nearby Kennedy Park to explore the happenings going on. There was an outdoor flea market, a community dance night, and street artists selling their paintings. Tom and I both purchased caramel stuffed churros for dessert and then returned to our room where he promptly passed out (Who’s the older one now? :P), while I stayed up to finish my blog. 

Lima: City of Kings

After a quick breakfast this morning, we hopped across the park to withdraw Peruvian soles. Despite online sources stating that US dollars were widely accepted in Lima, I’ve found that carrying the local currency always works to your benefit. (And something any international traveler should practice). We then used our newly acquired soles to….you guessed it! Grab our lattes! ^_^

After savoring our daily caffeine, we joined a free walking tour to downtown Lima. I, myself, am still on the fence about walking tours, but since Lima’s public transportation was confusing to us first-timers, and the taxis questionable at best, we decided that this was the best way to dip our toes in. 

On our way to grab a Metropolitano Bus we stopped by the local market for some free wandering time and tried some Aguaymantos from a vendor. (#1 below) It’s a fruit native to the high altitude regions of Peru, and is commonly known as a Peruvian Cherry or Cape Gooseberry. It grows inside a paper-like shell which had to be folded back to access the fruit.  The flavor was akin to that of a sour orange with the texture of a cherry. It was quite interesting and unexpected. 

I really love visiting local markets because they are always humming with life, expansive flavor options, and vibrant colors.

It took us about 30 mins to ride the bus downtown. And I cannot sing enough praises about how well-designed and efficient their system is.  The buses have designated lanes going in each direction in the center of the main streets that are completely isolated from local traffic. This means that the buses don’t get backed up by traffics or accidents and are able to run continuously without delay. I wish Houston would take some notes! (In Houston, the metrobuses share a carpool lane with public traffic, and it is only one lane that switches directionality depending on the time of day. Basically if some idiot has an accident, you are not any better off in a bus than a car when it comes to sitting still).


Our first stop was Plaza San Martín. It is a square designated to José de San Martín, the man celebrated as being the original, and first, Protector of Peru. José is seen as the prime leader behind southern South America’s struggle for independence from Spain and is seen as a national hero by both Peru, and his country of birth, Argentina. The statue we are standing in front of is his, and the lady below has a llama on her head. It’s a bit of a pun really, since llama means both Llama and Fire in Peru. 😂

 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. 🙂

Oslo: City of Tigers

 

We started off our day with a latte and cappuccino from Tim Wendleboe. Its known as one of the best places to get coffee in Oslo, and also serves as a micro-roastery and training center for all things related to the art of coffee. Tim has claimed multiple championship titles including that of “World Barista Champion.” Tom, the coffee conossieur, said that it was probably the best coffee he has ever had, and I’d have to agree.  

Walking further south to the historic city center, we passed Damstredet, a street that has preserved the charming, small town character of Oslo with its pedestrian-only access and wooden houses. Unfortunately, since it was snowing, the sloping drive up to it simply seemed too precariously slippery to the both of us.  

We spent our afternoon strolling around Old Oslo and passed the Storting Building (Parliament). Oslo’s parliament was established in 1814, but it was not until 1836 that a government proposal was approved for the construction of a permanent building. The location of this structure was finalized in 1857, and a competition was held for the architectural design.  Even though Heinrich Ernst Schirmer and Wilhelm von Hanno won, their proposal looked to much like a church and was thus struck down. Eventually, Swedish architect Emil Victor Langlet was chosen, and the parliament moved into their new permanent residence on March 5, 1886. In 1860, the building cost 957,332 NOK to construct. That’s $31.3 Million dollars in present day value!


Coinciding with our trip, is the 2016 World Biathlon Championship, so we strolled through a pop-up market celebrating this event with kids participating in mini-versions, and were even able to take a picture with the mascot. 

Next, we passed the Nobel Peace Center which celebrates the history of this prestigious award. Ironically, Alfred Nobel, is the inventor of dynamite, and it was a premature obituary condemning him for profiting from the sale of arms, that inspired him to establish the Nobel Prizes. 

It is in the adjacent City Hall that Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2014. You may recall her as the brave girl that fought for a female’s right to education in Pakistan, was subsequently targeted with an attempted assassination by the Taliban, and after achieving a full recovery, continues to promote her message around the globe. “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”

Travel: The Other Side

We did something completely off the beaten path today by visiting a slum just north of downtown Mumbai. Nick had helped establish a Pre-K school here about eight years ago, and wanted to check on how it was doing. It’s inspiring to see someone put their heart into something and invest their time and knowledge into helping others, and still care enough to check its well-being so many years later.

You can imagine that I was feeling pretty apprehensive about the experience. While I knew that it would be educational, the opportunity to witness a slum in India first-hand intimidated me.

At first, I didn’t want to face the sadness that would overwhelm me, facing the stark truth that the luxuries I enjoy as an American are just that, unnecessary but expected. As one born in the USA, with opportunities afforded to me by hard-working immigrant parents, its easy to take everything we are given for granted. It’s so simple to think that the small unhappinesses and struggles we may experience are insurmountable, but in the cosmos of things, it’s but a small ripple.

Secondly, I didn’t want to make the locals feel like I was going to visit them as a tourist. My features make it impossible for me to fit in and I knew that not only would they be looking at me in curiosity, but they would also be wondering why I was there. I was concerned that the dwellers would feel like they were on display for a camera-snapping foreigner to watch, like they were in a snow globe village.

In the end, Nick and I went; he even commented that the conditions in the slum were a lot better than he recalled. Rather than propped up shacks made of scaffolding and tarp, I saw brick and mortar buildings, with weighted scaffolding as roofing. Along the paths cutting through the streets, you could see clothes drying on a line; there were vendors for everything from flowers and incense for the temple to little snack shops.

One thing that is different about the poor in India in contrast to other parts of the world is that you can see that the government cares. A lot of slums enjoy the benefits of electricity, cable, and running water. And often, despite springing up illegally on government land, the police do not forcibly remove families to make way for development. Rather, there is a government mandate that requires developers to build apartment-style housing to accommodate the displaced, but only if a majority of the slum community votes for it.

Unfortunately, due to funding issues, Nick was not able to find the school he so lovingly spent hours organizing. He had helped with organizing the lesson plans and worked with the sponsoring company to provide all the classroom essentials the students would need. It made me sad that Nick was not able to witness the longevity or expansion of all his good work. 😦

You may have noted that there are no pictures in this post. This is intentional. Over 2.2 Billion people across the world live in poverty. It is important to Nick and I that we don’t paste more pictures of slums and squalid conditions across the internet. How these people live is not an attraction, it’s not something to be remembered, it’s something, that as a community, and as humans, we work together to put in the past. Rather than something to be framed and on display in an art gallery, this way of life, these conditions, need to end and become a faint memory.

 

 

Previous Older Entries