Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Streets, Courtyards, Plazas, and Architecture

            The use of space in Cusco was extremely efficient. The roads are very narrow, most only one way. Many roads are so narrow that only pedestrians are allowed. By making the streets so small, the blocks are then small too, leaving more room for more buildings.
            The buildings themselves are also very efficient. Most have large balconies and terraces, allowing for more outdoor space with magnificent views of the Andes and plazas. I often liked sitting on these at coffee shops to get the best observations of life below. I think one of the best uses of space of the buildings are the courtyards. Most buildings have these courtyards that allow for more storefronts, restaurants, places to sit, and balconies. Many of these courtyards are beautifully decorated with tiles, fountains, and plants. These courtyards aren’t something you see very often in US cities or towns where instead the buildings are full, complete, large structures.       
            The only true open spaces in Cusco were the plazas. Of course there is the main plaza with the Cusco’s cathedral and main fountain, but there are several other smaller ones too, usually with a church and various shops and restaurants. These are good meeting places with many benches and sitting areas.
            Cusco’s use of space is similar to other small towns where we stopped in the valleys of the Andes, but very different compared to Lima of course. Lima is much more urban with multi-lane streets, tall buildings, and pedestrian sidewalks. It feels much more like an American small city, whereas Cusco felt more small-town European. However, both in Cusco, Lima, and other small towns, the Spanish architectural influence showed through.  Because I have been to Spain, I know the classic architecture found there. Colorful and stone buildings with flowered tiles and broad arches are typical, and you see this in the architecture in Peru. Especially in the classic plazas in Lima you could see the tremendous Spanish influence contrasting with the more modern, urban structures.

            Although I enjoyed Lima for its urban nature, I really enjoyed exploring Cusco’s small streets and courtyards the most. You never know what you would find in the tiniest back corner shop or café. It made every walking exploration an adventure.

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