◊ places ◊
This is my first time here in Guatemala, so I am amazed to see all of the beautiful buildings, the food markets and the different types of transportation. And the people here are so nice, and they are always willing to show us how to get around in the city because it’s a bit tricky.
The first thing I learned about Antigua is that the streets (for the most part) are mapped out the same way. They all form a rectangle so it would be hard for anyone to get lost. Roads that run north and south are called avenidas (avenues) and are numbered one to eight. Roads that run from east to west are called calles (streets) and they have numbers from one to nine. It sounds more confusing than it really is, but what really helped us learn our way around was a place called Parque Central.
Parque Central is called an “origination point” in Antigua, which means that it’s a centrally located landmark. Basically it’s in the middle of the town, and most Antiguan streets lead back to this point. I’m sure you can imagine the traffic at Parque Central. It’s very busy all of the time.
Another thing about traveling in Antigua is that the avenidas and calles are not labeled so you have to be really good with using landmarks if you want to learn your way around. It was a good thing that we travel on a chauffeured bus whenever we want to go somewhere.
To help familiarize ourselves with how the streets work, we took a small tour. I noticed that most of the streets are cobblestoned, which makes for a very bumpy ride. The sidewalks are made of cement and aren’t well kept. They have a lot of large cracks in them. The cobblestone streets and the cracked up sidewalks all seemed so dangerous to me. Why would people walk around on a constant trip hazard if they could drive? Someone explained to me that because most tourists’ spots are within eight blocks of one another, many people walk to where they want to go. I guess it makes more sense to walk eight block than to drive around in the traffic, but I was careful to watch my step.
Antigua offers cultural walking tours and they show you all of the interesting landmarks. I swear we walked at least 16 blocks. My feet were so soar after the tour but I picked up a lot of cool souvenirs and learned how to get back to the Parque Central from four different locations.
Like in the U.S., homes with even numbers are on one side of the street and homes with odd numbers are on the other side. It’s funny, but all of the street addresses are written with the street number first followed by either avenida or calles, then the house number. For example 3a calle ote # 28. The address then is 28 East 3rd Street. Crazy right? I’ll learn this place before I go so I can bring my family back to see how crazy/beautiful Antigua is.
Today has been such an amazing first day in Guatemala! Our guide, Rudy, was waiting for us at the airport gate with a huge sign that said <¡BIENVENIDOS!>. Then he took us to our bus and we went immediately on our way. The ride to the village where we are staying in is 12 hours long so we stopped for lunch in the town of Santo Tomás de Chichicastenango. (However, I noticed that most people there just called it Chichi.) Luckily, having arrived on a Sunday, we were able to also see one of the most amazing markets in the world! It was like nothing I have ever seen before. They had just about anything you can think of: candles, fruits, vegetables, animals, clothing, food, antiques, just everything! Back at home we are so used to seeing the meat section behind glass and wrapped up in plastic. Well, here they have chickens and pigs just walking around for people to buy! The antiques were also really neat. My dad collects old coins and there were a few people selling old Spanish colonial coins. They weren’t too expensive, so I bought a few for him.
By the time my group and I made it through the market, we were starving and were ready to eat. We weren’t really interested in a tourist-type restaurant, so when we stumbled on row of comedores we decided to stop at one of the ones with the biggest line. If the locals were waiting, then it must be good! Our guide, Rudy, explained to us that these places are usually run by one family where usually only the women work. They prepare fresh meals prepared with ingredients from the market here at Chichi. We were all so excited! When it was finally my turn to order, I was about to ask for a menu but realized that these places only serve one dish daily. It reminded me of being at home for dinner! They were making a very simple meal of pork, rice, beans, and tortillas. Rudy told us that this is the most common and traditional meal of the indigenous people here in Guatemala. If this were a typical meal for me at home, I would be happy! Well, after we ate it was time to get back on the bus for many more hours of driving through the mountains before arriving to the village. We won’t be there until midnight and I can’t wait to see it!