We’ve been in Guatemala since Wednesday (Aug. 1st) and we’ve already seen so much. The first night we were here our couchsurfing host (Ricardo, or Rick for short) invited us to an art show. A friend of his, Maria, was showing her art–which was fantastic–along with a handful of other local artists. All of the work being presented was top-notch. The creativity, craft, and execution were very impressive. Unfortunately, the photos we took were none of those things. Sorry.
Thursday was a day filled with walking and really experiencing the streets of Guatemala City. The walking began early with a trip to buy our bus tickets for the trip we will be taking in a couple of days from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango–the town that we will be spending three weeks in studying Spanish. Our ever helpful couchsurfing host, Rick, offered to drop us off near the bus station just as he was heading off to work. It was a very last-minute ordeal, so we had to throw our stuff together and hadn’t yet eaten breakfast. As he was driving us to the station he was giving directions on how to get back on our own; telling us street names, directions, bus numbers and advice on how to stay safe–like don’t flash your camera around.
The bus station was very easy to find after he dropped us off. Communicating with the staff at the station with our broken Spanish went surprisingly well. Did I mention that the people here have been really polite and helpful thus far. The tickets cost 57 Quetzales (about $7.27) per person, for about a 4.5 hour bus ride. Not bad.
The weather here is pretty mild, mid 70’s or so, so we decided to hoof it all the way back from the bus station to the apartment we’re staying in. This was partly because we didn’t want to cram onto the buses that were filled with morning commuters. Also, we’ve read and been warned by Rick that traveling by bus here is not recommended for tourists. The walk back let us experience the city in a little more up close and personal way. There were tons of people out and about, most likely on their way to work. We passed several areas with street vendors, none of which hassled us–as we’ve experienced in other international cities. It was nice being able to walk around and observe without being approached. Some of the city is easily walk-able, with sidewalks and people bridges, while other sections less so. In many areas there are no sidewalks or stop lights to allow pedestrians to cross. You see crosswalks but they aren’t typically recognized by drivers. It’s not uncommon to get a toot of the horn encouraging you to hurry across the street. The pace of vehicle traffic is pretty fast, so crossing the street requires your full attention and some sprinting at times. The walk back to the apartment took, in total, about an hour and a half.
Rick’s place has a doorman that controls who enters the building. The doorman that day was different from the one we’d met the day before. Because are Spanish is terrible, we weren’t able to effectively communicate with him so that he would let us in. Fortunately, we found a pay phone and contacted Rick so that he could straighten things out. Once we got into the apartment we ate lunch, then I napped while Sarah researched places to visit during the last half of the day. Then we hit the streets once again.
We headed to an area of the city supposedly known as the ‘Old City’. By ‘old’ I assumed several-hundred-years-ago-Spain-colonial-days old. Not the case. Most of the buildings we saw were built in the 1930’s and 40’s. Nonetheless, they were beautiful buildings. Here are some of the pictures we took of the National Palace of Culture and the Ministry of the Interior. Click on any image to view them in ‘Gallery’ mode.
After a long, yet successful, day of walking around the city, we made sure to catch the bus in time to get home before dark. The reason being that we were given warnings to be off of the streets by dark. It’s hard to know if the advice we’ve been given is founded or just people being overly cautious. Whatever the reason, we’ve decide it best to follow the advice. I mentioned early that bus travel was advised against, yet I just explained that we caught a bus home. There is one bus line in the city that’s considered safe for tourists–the green line. The construction of that particular line, and all of its stations, was completed about 5 years ago (approximately 2007). All of the stations are guarded by transit police and the line is considered safe for travel by tourists. It certainly felt that way to us. Here’s a shot of the bus. It’s pretty modern looking.
On Saturday Rick is planning to take us to Antigua. A guided tour by a local sounds pretty cool. We’re looking forward to it.