Posted by: Jessie Kwak | September 10, 2009

Day 7: Old Lima is busy and stunning

Yesterday (9-9-09) we finally got around to making the trek to Old Lima, lured by the promise of colonial architecture, catacombs, gory museums, and China Town.

The architecture of Old Lima was mainly colonial, ornately sculpted stucco cornices and wooden balconies, wrought iron gates and painted tiles, all overlaid with a coat of black soot so that even the most beautiful old houses were dingy and grimy. The amount of exhaust from badly-maintained old cars combined with the fact that it doesn’t seem to rain so much as get misty here contributes to the problem. A striking amount of the older buildings are painted mustard yellow, with dark wood balconies and black wrought iron gates.

Lima's Plaza de Armas

Lima's Plaza de Armas

The two things we were really interested in seeing were the Church and catacombs of San Francisco, and the Inquisition Museum. Both didn’t disappoint with their levels of gore and bones. In the church we were taken through by an English-speaking guide, and in the stone-paved corridors the English tour groups and the Spanish were easily distinguished by sound if not by sight: our sneakers and hiking boots squeaked and their high heels and dress shoes clicked.

I for one had hoped to see full skeletons laid out in rotting coffins, Indiana Jones style, but the San Francisco catacombs had been cleaned and organized for display, and there was a disappointing lack of rats and Nazis.

San Francisco catacombs

San Francisco catacombs

The highlight was wandering through the Barrio Chino, where Rob was looking for a soccer jersey. We encountered huge galerias of anything you would ever want to buy–four- and five-story warehouses that took up entire blocks, each filled with women’s clothing, food service supplies, children’s toys, fine jewelry. After an hour of asking around, we finally stumbled on the galeria of soccer jerseys. The first few floors were crammed with booths, each with a different selection of local and world-wide teams (everyone had Barcelona, of course). As we spiraled our way up through the maze we began to come across the manufacturers, men and women cutting through ten layers of fabric at a time with mini bandsaws to the soundtrack of clattering sewing machines. The uppermost story was filled with screenprinters and embroiderers, the designers sitting in front of their computers, scanning artwork. Interspersed with all these were cramped booths selling screenprinting paint, thread and fabric.

The finished wares were stacked on chairs and balcony railings–childrens’ athletic shorts and jerseys for local school teams, copies of popular teams’ jerseys to sell, flags and bandanas. I think I’ve seen more than enough jerseys for the next few weeks.

Busy Lima streets

Busy Lima streets

Tomorrow (Friday) we leave for Huancayo at the bright and early hour of 7am. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Lima, but I’m getting antsy to travel on to a new place. I’m not sure what internet access will be like once we really hit the road in the Andes, but we’ll be writing and photographing just as often, and we’ll upload our thoughts and photos whenever we can.

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