August 6, 2012 by t4li
Fun fact: we’ve heard two explanations for why Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru and our home for the last 5 days, is called The White City. One is that all the buildings are made of sillar, a porous white volcanic rock that is the architectural result of building a city in the shadow of three volcanoes.
The other is the city’s genetic heritage was, at first, almost entirely immigrants from colonial Spain, and the city is named after their white skin. These two sentences do a fair job of aesthetically describing Arequipa – blinding white buildings made of volcanic rock, colonial Spanish architecture. You feel like you’ve been dropped into Sevilla, or something.
In this beautiful city we went to a beautiful convent – the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, an enormous complex that was founded 400 years ago and takes up an entire city block. Today it’s separated into a historical section, open for tourists, and a functioning section that still houses the extant nuns of the convent. Also it’s TOTALLY GORGEOUS.
The nuns made an entire city for themselves, in the middle of the city. We were taken on an hour tour, to explain the more interesting and pertinent points of the convent’s history, and found we wanted to go back afterwards to poke into the many fascinating corners we hadn’t had time for.
It almost goes without being said that we also paid a visit to the Mercado Central, to try Peru’s flavor of fruit milkshakes and home-cooked meals. We weren’t disappointed.
But our main adventure in Arequipa didn’t involve the city at all – we went on a three-day exploration of nearby Colca Canyon, reputadly the deepest in the world. Our next post will be about this somewhat harrowing tale of heroism and danger. Stay tuned!!