Today was the perfect day to explore Cusco. The weather was mild with no rain. We mapped our route of the Museums that appealed to us and visited three of those while the fourth was closed. Barb and I are famously fastidious museum guests. We start at the beginning and go the end, examining each exhibit and read every explanation that is available. I do say that the quality of the museums was good, the exhibits well organized and English was provided. Although, why is the explanation on one exhibit three pages long in Spanish and only one in English? What aren't they telling us? We started at the Natural History Museum where we found beautiful collections of butterflies, beetles, spiders, corn and quinoa. Also every mammal, bird and reptile in Peru was stuffed and on display. This included the 6 legged Alpaca in a jar. Who knew there is a brown skunk? From there we walked to Museum of Machu Picchu which told the story of the "discovery" of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham. Many of the items in this museum are items returned from Yale University a couple of years ago having been absconded by Bingham and taken for the University collection. I particularly enjoyed the black and white photographs from the two expeditions Bingham made, clearing the vegetation and starting to excavate the site. His excavation techniques were not known for their scientific application. We were wondering how the vegetation could be removed (repeatedly as it grew back) without disturbing the rock foundations. We are hoping for the answer when we visit the site in two days. Our final Museum of the Inka concentrated on the civilizations that preceded the Incas and were mostly conquered by them. Fascinating the items that belonged to each geographical tribe and the techniques they were using especially in metallurgy while Europe was coming out of the dark ages. By the time we got to the Spanish invasion there was no English translation and I was done. All together a fine day about town. Our hostel is right in the center of town behind the main cathedral. The view out our window is the brick rooflines of the church and its tower. Beyond that at night are the twinkling lights on the hillside. Tonight looks like a full moon, maybe a super moon, but we have a cloud cover.
Tomorrow we start exploring outside of Cusco and the next day Machu Picchu.
Ditto to all that Barb said above. I love museums, and find it fasciniting, particularly in the smaller ones, what choices they make about what to display. The Natural History museum reminded me of the rather erratic collection of some amateur explorer from Victorian times. You know, lots of glass topped wooden cases; one with insects, one with beetles, one with butterflies, etc. Then suddenly a case labeled genetic deformities (after the beetles, I think), with siamese guinea pigs, animals with two heads, or two bodies and one head, etc. Then on to a case of taxidermied birds... And many dioramas filled with animals which always remind me of going to the museum as a kid. It all smelled fainted of dust and moth balls, which is perhaps the odor of the one that got away? Anyway, I love that kind of eccentric stuff.
Barb and I are becoming experts at crossing the streets here; a feat of combining bravado, agility and a whiff of danger. There are many crosswalk signs, none of which any vehicle deigns to respond to. There is no waiting for a break in the traffic, so one steps out and the cars just seem to move around you. Sadly, I fear that if I try this at home I will come to a bad end...
Loving Peru so far! Off to explore ruins tomorrow.