Cusco was once the heart of the Inca empire although it is hard to tell now as the Spanish knocked down, looted and wrecked most of the Incans important building as an attempt to quash their Pagan ways and also to make a bit of dosh. However the Spaniards still took advantage of the Inca’s impressive stone masonry, building most of their colonial structures on the hefty stone foundations of the Incas. This is still visible in some parts of the city today, for example you can view an original Incan wall (the oldest wall in Cusco) nearby the main plaza.
Our first day in Cusco was pretty chilled- we were still recovering from our Colca Canyon experience and our 16 hour bus ride.We just meandered around soaking in the atmosphere and we achieve one important task- we both purchased Alpaca jumpers at an absolute steal. Although pretty geeky and touristy they are lush and sooooo warm- Grace is in love.
The next day we set out to see the sights of Cusco. We started at the Plaza de Armas- shock horror another beautiful church lined square. Here we saw a random procession of people playing musical instruments parading a statue of the Virgin Mary or some other big name in Catholicism around the square. She was pretty creepy looking and a bit tac tastic but the locals seemed to think she was a pretty big deal.
Our next stop was Iglesia de Santa Domingo an example of a colonial building that was built on the foundations of an Inca sight- Qorikancha (golden courtyard). The mix of the surviving Incas walls and terracing combined with the colonial structure and bell tower is rather bizarre. Qorikancha would once have been completely covered in gold and used for religious ceremonies, sun worship (gold represents the sun) and monitoring celestial activities.
Our final destination of the day was a good prep for the Inca Trail we were about to embark on the following day. We visited the Inca museum which tells you all you need to know about Incan history although some English translations were a bit sparse. As well as a good history lesson we saw trepanned skulls and mummies. Trepanning is a rudimentary operation where a piece of skull is removed in order to allow space for swelling in the case of injury, or for those who were more superstitious to release the bad spirits that maybe trapped. Mummies were an important aspect of Incan life. Those viewed to be more important would have their body preserved (and be given all they needed for the next life) and put on display in sacred buildings.
Fingers crossed we require neither as a result of the Inca trail…..