Recently I had been to the Central American state of Guatemala to visit my girlfriend Adriana and her family. Of course, there had been some plans to discover Guatemala a bit and AY DIOS MIO!!!!! This country! It got me right in the marvel-part of my heart and brain!
I could dedicate my entire blog to this fascinating nation, but for starters here are four reasons, why I will go there again (besides of family visits of course).
1. Guatemala City
The capital of Guatemala is a melting pot of all feelings and curiosities. It has areas of prosperity and lifestyle, such as the 6th avenue. It has places for traditional food and intercultural gatherings, such as the main plaza. It has convoluted remains of ancient civilizations, such as the Museo Popol Vuh. It has spiritual structures for humbleness and believes, such as the main cathedral.
But what really got me, what impressed me the most, what I did not believe my eyes as I saw it, was an area dedicated just to selling customized piñatas! You have Pikachu, Son Goku, Woody and many more. For the upcoming family gathering, we decided upon a Minion (as they are used to get hurt) and a traditional star.
However, no matter what shape the candy-filled punch bag has, the most amazing part of Guatemala City, to come to my point, are the people. Seldom I have met so heartily hosts, as in my few days in the capital. The family is valued high in any cultural aspect and to see the family dynamic was impressive and wonderful to see and definitely see again. And one day, maybe, become a family member too.
There are many things where the idiom “Old but Gold” does not fit: Rotten cheese, CGI effects in 90th movies, ancient silver and Antigua. While the first three are less worth, Antigua deserves to be called Old but Antimatter, which has a theoretical value of 800 trillion dollars per gram.
The former capital of the Spanish Conquistadores is a mix of European architecture and Latin enchantment, as it is full of open restaurants, ruins of churches and convents and three volcanos surrounding the city, where Vulcan de Fuego is still active. Marvel at one eruption that took place one week before I arrived in Guatemala.
I have spent New Year’s Eve and the days before there and I am still captured by its spell. Thousands of peoples squeezing through the streets, public theatre performance, pop-up food courts with local specialities, and dancing to the marimba in the middle of the street in front of 300 people. Even though the firework guided us into a new year, Antigua was, is and will be a centre of amazement and wonders.
3. Lago de Atitlan
Did I mention the three volcanoes surrounding Antigua? Guess what, there is another magical place with three volcanoes I had the chance to see. Lago de Atitlan is a fascinating lake. First Atitlan means “at the water”, translating the area into the Lake at the water! (I made this joke in Guatemala too, no one laughed). It was formed by rain filling up the cauldron left by a gigantic volcanic explosion around 11 million years ago. Another big earthquake caused the water level to drop a few meters due to a crack at the lake’s ground.
Lago de Atitlan is a wonderful place surrounded by 12 settlements, where Panajachel is the biggest and most important one. As it is a vacation destination for foreigners and Guatemaltecos, you can find various exotic restaurants, paradisiac hotels that are only reached by boat taxis and of course a giant lake for swimming and kayaking. But beware the Xocomil, as the spirit of an ancient prince tries to find his drowned love in form of a strong wind every day at 3 PM.
Do you know how the ancient Mayan civilization ended? No? Exactly! No one knows! That is exactly the beauty in this area. The region of Petén itself is covered to a large extent with untouched rainforest. Within the wilderness, however, are some oases of like the capital Flores swimming in the Petén-Itza lake.
And now imagine, you are strolling a bit around as a Spanish explorer in 1848. You just hit your head at a low hanging branch of an hundred-year-old tree, but after you turn around to continue your expedition – BAM – you rediscover astonishing and forgotten step pyramids built a thousand years ago!
Tikal had been one of the most important cities in the Mayan classical period (3rd – 9th century A.D.) and resembled the spiritual centre of the empire. I have spent 12 hours there and still have not discovered everything. The reason is that researcher spent decades on it and just recently found that there are over 3000 complexes more hidden beneath the surface, ready to be rediscovered. Tikal certainly deserves its own post, which you will find here (When there is actually an article)
You see, everything written here is just a scratch on the surface, the tip of the hidden pyramid, the drop in the volcanic lake, the leaf in the rainforest, you get my point! Guatemala is a place of wonders and astonishment, and you will definitely hear more about it here.
So thank you again, Adriana for showing me your amazing country, and be sure, that we will go there sooner than later.