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I heard the guide say several times that we were going to visit “Sexy Woman.” Kathy and I were curious to know what that might be. When we arrived, the sign read, “Sacsayhuaman.” All of our fellow travelers, who had also harbored a silent inquisity about where we were being taken, were in awe as the bus carried us to a major Inca Fortress on the hills above the Inca Imperial Capital of Cusco, Peru. “Sacsayhuaman” was impressive. The foundations of the ruins still remain–huge stones weighing up to 1,000 tons. Twenty-thousand workers labored years to build the Fortress–quarrying, cutting, transporting (on sleds pulled by human hands) and setting the stones in beautiful precision. Such ingenuity and persistence!
The day began with a Cusco city tour to the archeological site of the Temple of the Sun. Covered in pure gold, it was an instant attraction to the invading Spanish conquistadores, who took all the Inca gold (22 carat) and silver (pure) that they could find and had it shipped to Spain. The temples were often torn down to use the stones in other construction, and colonial cathedrals were built on top of the remains. An earthquake exposed the Temple of the Sun’s foundations, and now it is a protected site.
We arrived in Cusco on the major holiday in Peru, Corpus Christi. Huge parades had brought ornate, larger than life-sized statues of the Virgin Mary from churches in the area to the city cathedral. When we toured the cathedral, the statues were on display. We admired the altars clad in 22 carat gold. “Look, but don’t touch, and no pictures.” We gazed in wonderment at the massive painting of “The Lord’s Supper” by a Peruvian artist as he used the inspiration of Leonardo daVinci’s famous painting, but personalized it for a Peruvian audience using tortillas for the bread and roasted guinea pig for the meat in the Passover meal. Judas was portrayed as Fernando Pizarro, the invading Spanish conquistador.
Outside was a big party! Thousands of people–young and old–were parading in native Indian costume (do not think North American Indian–there is no comparison in dress or music) with bands playing native music. It was beautiful and an explosion of color. You really did want to dance along.
We had another evening of “dinner and a show.” Kathy and I had mountain trout, and we both thought is the best trout we have ever eaten–and we have eaten trout around the world! The music and dancers showcased the Peruvian art forms over time. It was fast-paced, colorful and entertaining.We have met some outstanding folks on this trip. I have a special fondness for two widows from Florida who were New York transplants. They could be my older sisters. They are not only cute but funny! They both have a joy for life and, although alone, they found each other and risked traveling together. What a hoot! They do not cook any longer and Marcia told me Charlotte doesn’t even own pans. I tease them about this and, when they went to the cooking class, I told Charlotte that I was going to be watching closely. She responded that I would have to eat her food! Marcia said that would be the end of my trip. Well, I’m still standing. WEG
P.S. We could not post this blog yesterday. So, it is a day late. Today, we flew into Juliaca and then drove to Lake Titicaca, taking most of the day. This short note will suffice for today’s blog. There will be pictures and descriptions of the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world in tomorrow’s blog as we get back on schedule.
Dan Berg has been looking forward to visiting the Beretta Gun Show Room in Milan for months. I took pains to make sure we could work it into our schedule. “Beretta is the oldest gun manufacturer,” said Dan. Since Dan hunts and has a gun collection, he knew that Italy contained some of the finest and most expensive weapons manufacturers in the world. Today, we set aside the morning for the guys to go to Beretta and the gals to go to the original, as in centuries old, galleria close by. Dan had made sure to have the directions, having looked on the internet prior to leaving Texas and reaffirming the location with our hotel clerks. We took the Metro from our hotel to the area close to the show room. Off we went since Allen had the location pinned on GPS–how could this be the wrong direction? The GPS signals were confused by the buildings. Back we went. Around we went. Down we went, and up we went. City map out–compare it to the GPS. Dan did not write down the address. Dan did not have the directions from the hotel clerk. Scratch heads–walk further. All of the sudden, Dan said the location looked like what he had seen on the internet. Yeah–a Beretta sign. At last! WHAT, where are the guns? This is a woman’s fashion center in a fashionable part of town. “Dan, did you verify on the internet that this was a gun show room?” “No, I saw Beretta Gallery and assumed it was guns.” “YOU WHAT!?” We had walked almost two miles searching for a Beretta gown not gun. We made Dan purchase some “fufu” for his guns. Later, we verified with the tourist center that there has never been a Beretta gun show room in the city in Milan’s 2400 year history.
The afternoon was spent in Milan’s majestic high Gothic Duomo (cathedral). Soaring and many spired, clad in marble, the Duomo is the fourth largest Christian church building in the world. The interior is breathtaking and can hold 60,000 people. The stained glass tell the Bible stories, both Old and New Testament. Since most people were illiterate during this time, the stained glass was their Bible. Over 50 massive and image-carved marble columns reach upward to a ceiling that is filigreed in an intricate design. A beautiful high altar and canopy point heavenward. Encased high above is one of the nails used at Christ’s crucifixion. Brought from Jerusalem in the 300s, it is one of the better authenticated relics found in churches throughout Europe. Only twice a year is the nail brought down to observe. Near the entrance of the Duomo, a thin gold line crosses the floor the width of the cathedral. From noon to 1pm each day, the sun light shines through a hole purposely built into the wall, and the rays fall on the day of the year on that gold line. Amazing.
The visit to the famous Teatro alla Scala (La Scala opera house) was a treat. The opera house has near perfect acoustics, and we stood in the highest level “pigeon” boxes (every seat and every box has an unobstructed view) and looked down on the golden room and upon the world’s largest production stage.
Later in the afternoon/early evening, we were privileged to view Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, “The Lord’s Supper.” Painted on the wall of a Dominican monastery in the late 1490s and located just off the city’s old town, we first had to go through two decontamination rooms before entering to see the massive and fragile wall painting. The painting barely survived World War II, since a bomb blast shattered the entire building, but left the painting intact and in the open air until the building around it could be reconstructed. We learned some interesting facts–the painting was conceived to portray the moment Jesus said that one of the disciples would betray him, as, of course, Judas would do. Da Vinci painted Peter with a knife in his hand ready to kill anyone who would try to harm Jesus. Judas has a pouch in his hand that contained the 30 pieces of silver. The great artist used a girl’s face as a model for John because John was a teenaged disciple and not yet a man. What an inspirational joy those short 15 minutes were!
The evening found us at an outdoor restaurant enjoying some of the culinary specialties for which the city is known. My risotto with parmesan and white truffle sauce was very good! WEG – Wednesday, September 9, 2015