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Sights and sites visited by a single man exploring the world at human speed.
|Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2015-04-02 17:32:20 | Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador|
Keywords: Colonial, UNESCO
|Ecuador got two magnificent colonial cities. I already talked you about Quito when I arrived in this country. Now that I'm leaving it, I stopped by the other major colonial city : Cuenca. There's a friendly revalry between the two cities as to which is the most beautiful. After spending two weeks in both, I can tell you they're very different and are both very interesting, for various reasons.|
Cuenca was founded
in 1557 and represents an astonishing example of inland Spanish grid
cities in the Americas. The old downtown area, just North of the
Tomebamba river (one of the four rivers in and around the city), is
very well preserved. It features narrow cobblestone streets with
Although the city is
in a bowl valley surrounded by mountains all around, the city itself
is rather flat with a few plateaus on the North and South ends, so
the location allowed to have streets extremely straight, which is one
fo the differences with Quito.
The other major
difference with Quito is the variety of the architecture. Quito is
like a colonial postcard, expecially since most buildings have been
renovated in the last 25 years, due to damages caused by major
earthquakes. In the capital, most of the buildings are made of white
cement with color accents.
Narrow street of Cuenca with rich architecture.
In Cuenca, you'll
find an extraordinary variety of architecture, with much more
elaborated ornaments and structures. You'll also find many more
colours and textures. Here, you'll find not only cement but also
lots of bricks and stone(including massive pieces of marble). That
will make you gasp and say « Wow! » at almost every
street corner. You will also see stunning houses on the cliff near
the river and you'll wonder how these houses can hold in place.
Newer buildings are
present in the Old Downtown, but their architecture matches well with
their neighbours. The only problem I found with Cuenca is that the
streets are very narrow and the buildings rather tall, so it's hard
to fully admire their beauty.
Most of the river
banks are accessible and feature line parks and pathways. The rivers
are with heavy current and when you're walking along the cliff side,
the noise from the water covers up the noise from the traffic just 50
feet away, although it's often masked by the trees along the river.
An example of rocks use in Cuenca.
Cuenca is a small
size city (about 600 000 inhabitants) that vibes a lot to the arts,
especially music and painting. With a stable weather all year
around, it's not that surprising to see that many foreigners chose
Cuenca for their new home. There are over 10 000 expats living
here, especially retirees. Yes, there are many Americans, but also
many French and Quebecers as well, and there's a chapter of the
Alliance Française promoting French culture and events.
The city was
initially planned right next to the Pumapungo Inca settlement. The
buildings were tore down by the Spaniards but the archaeological site
is now right next to the historical part of Cuenca and it's free to
visit. That site also features llamas lots of info about the birds
and plants of the area. From atop of the ruins, you'll have a great
view of the new city. There are also a few very interesting sites
not too far away from the city which make great day trips.
For all those
reasons, Cuenca was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1999.
Panama Viejo and Casco Viejo
Cathedral of León
Modern Ensemble of Pampulha
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