Monday, May 18, 2015

Chichicastenango Sunday Market & Iximche

San Tomas Church steps

From the top looking down

The smoky look is from the insence burned at the top of the stairs and the flowers for offerings
Chichicastenango is a town in the El Quiche department of Guatemala, known for its traditional K'iche' Maya culture. It's famous for it's market, held twice a week on Thursday and Sunday - the best in the country. And it's HUGE. Most of the town streets around the central church of San Tomas are filled with booths and artisans from all around the region. It is built atop a Pre-Columbian temple platform, and the steps originally leading to a Mayan pre-Hispanic temple remain venerated. K'iche' Maya priests still use the church for their rituals, burning incense and candles. In special cases, they burn a chicken for the gods. Each of the 18 stairs that lead up to the church stands for one month of the Maya calendar year. Mayan priests were waving inscense burners at the top of the steps and in the church hall young men and women showed off hand made costumes of newspaper that portrayed the characters in the traditional dances. We were lucky as May is off season for tourists and there were very few visible. Scott and I are not shoppers so 2 hours was more than enough to stroll around and look through the merchandize. If we were staying the night I would have been happy to sit on the stairs and watch the people. Taking photos is hard as many people object in general and I just clicked away quickly and hoped for the best.
We thought about taking a tour bus from Antigua but Daniel at Chez Daniel suggested we hire Adolfo for the day instead - luckily as we were able to include a visit to Iximche, a little visited Mayan city ruins on the way back. This lovely peaceful national park is little visited by foreign tourists but popular with local Maya and Guatemalan citizens. It was the Capital of the Kaqchikel Maya kingdom from 1470 to it's abandonment in 11524.
Adolfo picked us up at 7:30am as it was a 3 hour ride to Chichicastenango. Iximche was two hours back towards Antigua after an excellent lunch at Chichoy - a huge roadside restaurant packed with families for Mother's Day. We were back at Antigiua at 5 pm - it was a great day!
The inside of Santo Tomas church is very simple

This looked like a blessing for babies

Offerings are both Catholic and Maya

This young girl portrays a Malinche princess

Folded pierces of cloth often serve as hats

Or elaborate braided headdresses are often worn

I bought one mask from this gentleman

And one from this lady

These three women followed us around for awhile

The church looms up in the background

This market is for the local people really!
And every kind of merchandize is for sale
handmade tortillas are everywhere
pots, pans - you name it.
The courtyard of the beautiful Santo Tomas Hotel
Where we had tea/coffee
And admired the beautiful parrots that filled the garden
A detail of the amazing coloring
Do you think there's room for one more?
Actually 3 more managed to get in!!! (not sure "in" is correct)
You can get an idea of the road to Chichicastenango from this shot - happily it was paved.
Beautiful fruits grow in this area
Adolfo presents me with a Mother's Day rose
Which these children were giving out
A map of the Izimche ruins
The ball field is still in use!
The park like grounds were peaceful and lovely
Many Mayan families were visiting and having picnics
There is a separate area for current Mayan religious practices

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bicyling & Walking in Antigua

Scott, Sebastian, Heather and David with our bicycles

The Chocolate Factory

the shrine outside it

Jim, Sharon, Scott, Heather and Sebastian sample the fruit liquors at another stop

We've been in Antigua many times now but tried something quite different on Friday - a bicycling tour. Old Town Outfitters is the best in Antigua and they recommended the Valley tour for us. The bicycles were very new looking and to our delight we were the only customers for this trip. And then, they assigned us 2 terrific young guides; David and Sebastian. We arrived at 9 am and finished the trip a half hour late at 1:30 pm, exhausted but happy. Every tiny village center has a church and we saw a lot of them as you'll see in the photos. Coincidentally the first part of our journey overlapped a walk we took the day before out to San Cristobal el Bajo. Then we continued on, stopping at a Coffee "museum" and then to a private home selling their own fruit liquors. There we were joined by a couple from Chez Daniel that were taking a car tour of the area. The tour was booked as a beginner trip on flat terrain - as David explained later, "Guatemalan flat". Scott and I were not in shape for this we'll admit but our fun guides cheered us on and we made it (they also modified the trip some as well). Afterwards we all went out for a great lunch at Santa Clara restaurant. More photos document our walking trip and an evening in the main square of Antigua. Today we're leaving at 7:30 am for a trip to Chichicastenango, the famous indigenous market town and Sunday is their biggest day.
San Juan del Obispo
The Plaza with Volcan de Agua in the background

Fountains in front of churches were used as a water source

Scott's bicycle was in great shape and the right size!

San Gaspar Vivar,- the fountain is above with Scott
Temple of San Pedro Las Huertas

This huge  laundry basin could be used as a swimming pool!

Sebastian and Scott stop for a water break

All crosses were decorate for a holiday

San Miguel Escovar

Scott gets his shoes shined!

The central plaza at night

The main cathedral
A shady nursery was a treat for a break

School children learn to pot plants
One of the chapels at El Calvario

Santa Isabel Antigua - a beautiful spot

San Cristobal El Bajo - we visited twice!

Los Remedios - a lovely ruin

Fun slogans at Toscana Restaurant

Where we had lunch after our walk