Quito the city of volcanoes
Quito has a fascinating attraction, the volcanoes are worthy to visit, the streets of the Ecuadorian capital harbor an unparalleled charm. It is the largest historical center in Latin America where golden churches, impressive viewpoints and sacred mountains await.
In Quito the wind blows with force and the mountains steal the breath. The one who goes for the first time, perhaps, requires some courage, because they are not common mountains: they are volcanoes, and many.
There are so many that even the people of Quito can not agree on their quantity. Some speak of 20, others of 50 and there are those who venture to say that there are, at least, around one hundred. There are active, small, large, asleep, there is even one capable of covering the entire country with ash if it were to wake up: the Chalupas. There are snowy ones, like the Cayambe, the Antisana and the Cotopaxi; and there are even historical ones, such as El Pichincha, where the liberators fought against the Spaniards.
All have a strange magnetism, a mixture of fear, respect and interest that invites us to contemplate them, and to visit them. From every direction they watch the capital with dissimulation, and to the west, as a kind of leader, the Pichincha observes them, whatever they may be. There, between its two peaks (the Rucu Pichincha and the Guagua Pichincha), surrounded by giants of fire that observe it from above, the adventure begins in Quito.
The Historical Quito
Narrow and long, the Ecuadorian capital is more than volcanoes. It is, like Krakow and since 1978, the first city declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, achievement achieved by its historic center, the largest in Latin America and one of the most beautiful.
Despite this heritage distinction, the center of Quito was abandoned and in disrepair until ten years ago, when the restoration began that today make it one of the main attractions of the city.
Currently the mansions of the center, full of gates, windows and balconies, recovered their pastel color. Through the cobbled streets proliferate travelers eager for history, merchants with their handicrafts, art galleries, fruit markets, good restaurants … Among the terracotta tiles, the towers and domes, numerous and monumental of the different temples that attract tourists, as well as volcanoes.
Arriving at Garcia Moreno Street, or the Seven Crosses, which takes its name from the seven churches and convents that were built on its sides at the time. Of these, today there are three testimonies: the church of the Company, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Basilica of the National Vote.
The smallest of the three is the first. That does not make it less interesting than the others: on the outside it is made with Pichincha volcanic stone, inside, each wall, each column, the altars and even the vaults of the roof are covered with 55 kilos of sheets of gold leaf of 23 carats, engraved with entangled Moorish structures, which make the site look more like a work of art than a temple.
Built by the Jesuits, many other curious details appear, such as the representation of cherubs with indigenous features in the roof dome, its conversion to a museum – the entrance costs US $ 5 and contains the remains of the first saint of Ecuador: Marianita de Jesús .
Two streets away there is the Metropolitan Cathedral, the oldest church in Quito, built in 1562 and rebuilt several times over the years because of the earthquakes, which has combined the presence of several architectural styles in one place . There is the body of Marshal Sucre. The enclosure is known for its fifteen domes, which can be climbed in a narrow, steep and demanding route.
From this place, you can appreciate a 360 ° view of the ancient Quito, with the Plaza de la Independencia covered with pink arupos, the basilica and its massive towers, adorned with gargoyles that, instead of mythological animals, represent the fauna local; the Monastery of the Augustinian Sisters, the church of San Agustín, La Merced and the three sacred hills that surround the historic center: the Itchimbía, or Temple of the Rising Sun, the hill of San Juan or Huanacauri, where the moon was worshiped, and the Yabirak, or Panecillo, where the Temple of the Sun was.
From there, and at the beginning of Panecillo, you have to take a moment to walk along La Ronda Street, whose layout, it is said, exists before the arrival of the Spaniards, which is why it is very traditional and today has an attractive, Sevillian look. for tourists, artists and bohemians.
Like most of the streets of historic Quito, it is pedestrianized and full of captivating venues, such as Luis Jiménez’s workshop, which teaches tourists how to make their bargueños, wooden boxes designed to hide secrets; or the Humacatama, by Luis López, who makes hats, and the Dulce Placer ice cream shop, which offers 600 flavors of ice cream such as dog poop, named for its texture and color, made of toasted corn sweetened with panela, the purple and the chocho, a frisol very rich in almond-flavored calcium.
Finally, it is time to visit the Panecillo, which houses one of the most important symbols of Quito: the Virgin, of the apocalypse for some, immaculate for others. Pregnant, winged and erect on a threatening dragon, the statue is the largest aluminum representation in the world, is inspired by the Virgin of Legarda and overlooks the Ecuadorian capital from above.
His face, calm before the urgent threat of the beast, represents the way of being of the Quito people, who for centuries have known how to live in harmony with the volcanoes. The image is turning its back on the Pichincha, as if it does not bother him.
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