◊ Mountain city ◊

I am in one of the most important cities in the Inca Empire. My adventures in Cuzco began on the flight here. Because Cuzco is in the Andes, the view of the snow-capped mountains was unreal!  The second I set foot in the airport I got this intense headache and I felt short of breath. Then I had to run to the bathroom because I was getting sick. I came out of the bathroom, everyone said I looked like a ghost! They said I had bad case of “sorochi”, the Quechua word for the symptoms most visitors feel during their first few hours at Cuzco because of its altitude (almost 11,000 feet above sea level!) Cuzco is one of the highest cities in the world, so takes some getting used to — especially if you just got in from Lima, at sea level.

We took a cab to our little hostel in the center of town. I was in the back seat and everything was spinning! That wasn’t fun at all! After a couple of hours of rest in my room, I started to feel better. I went downstairs for a soda to calm my stomach and everyone was already down there, chatting with the hostel owner. The owner said that the best thing to do in Cuzco on the first day is take it easy and walking around. So that exactly what we did, walk around the cobblestone streets of Cuzco.

Cobblestone street in Cuzco

This place is amazing; there are pre-Columbian, Inca architecture; Spanish buildings from the time of the conquistadors; and then modern buildings. Legend has it that Cuzco is designed in the shape of a puma, considered sacred by the Incas. Cool, Huh?!

We walked to the narrowest street in Cuzco called Calle Siete Culebras (the street of the seven snakes). Its tall walls, built by the Incas in pe-Colombian times, were decorated with seven snake carvings. A man on the street challenged me to find as many snakes as I could. I took a step back and began counting. That was really cool; the Incas carved snakes on this wall along with other things so that they were not easy to find. And they were not!

As we wandered the streets of Cuzco, we saw women and men walking alongside a llama, women waving much like Incas did centuries ago, and children selling flowers, local crafts, and many other interesting things. I bought my sister a pendant with the Incan symbol for the “Pacha Mama,” Quechua for Mother Earth. I paid just a few soles for it. I bought myself the most awesome alpaca sweater, woven by hand. I love the design on it.

Catedral de Santo Domingo at the Plaza de armas

Then we walked around the Plaza De Armas. It is surrounded by four churches, which were built centuries ago. We went into two of them. The most impressive was the Catedral de Santo Domingo, also called the Catedral de Cuzco. It was built in colonial times. I was blown away by the amount of gold and silver inside!