What a country! After my return to Vienna it’s now time to reflect on the impressions gained during my one month travel throughout Peru. I’ve to admit that prior to the travel I had some quite strong stereotypes in mind – it’s time to rethink about them! Therefore I wrote down three prejudices and answered them in a more comprehensive and reflective way. Let’s start!
1. Peru is Inka and Spaniards, that’s it!
Yes – Machhu Picchu is mystical, awesome and gives you the impression of being a damn poor individual travelling the Gringo-trail. But even the holy site Macchu Picchu is not everything what pre-Columbian societies, such as the Inka left to recent societies. The variety and diversity becomes clearer when visiting also further ruins, museums and archeological sites of various cultures with more or less regional relevance. Even though pre-columbian leftovers are effectively promoted in most cities then Spanish left-overs are even more present: colonial-style buildings are everywhere. Most impressively Spaniards built the first churches, upper-class housings and designed Plaza the Armas in Cuzco, Lima and Iquitos where . Today Peruvian people, but most important tourist agencies focus on these times. Nevertheless it’s important to acknowledge that Peru today is working on its own, probably collective identity with increasing self-confidence. Designers integrate elements of Pop Art mashed up with more traditional forms of representation into fashion, architects plan differently according to three climatic zones and cooks have already established an internationally recognized Peruvian Cuisine. I never thought about the variety of climatic zones in Peru before; but the impact on the landscape is clearly visible. A huge rain forest in the lower and upper East, high-rising Andean mountains and arid coastland produced a variety societies and ways of living already in pre-Columbian ages. Peru is definitely more than Inka and Spaniards, even though both have still impact on the society also in social, cultural and political spheres. Ancestry, cultural heritage and marginalization are dominant topics in today’s multiplural Peruvian society.
2. No worries, we can travel all over Peru in one month!
When sitting in a Viennese apartment room it’s hard to imagine distances not only within cities, but also on state level. In Europe national territories are fragmented and it’s hard to find one, where you need more than ten hours by car for crossing it. It is one hour and forty minutes by plane to get from Vienna to Frankfurt. Eight hours are enough for travelling from Vienna to Bolzano (I) and crossing the Alps by train. In Peru this is all very different. Primary roads such as the Panamericana, route 3S to Cuzco and newly constructed Interoceanica are major streets in Peru and interlink Peru with its northern, southern and eastern neighbors. Even though most of the main roads are in good shape a travel from Arequipa to the Canon the Colca can take you more than six hours when using public transport. From Peru to Piura in the northern parts it’s ten hours on the fastest bus connection and Macchu Picchu requests at least a one night stop-over at Aguas Calientes. If you plan to visit Iquitos an important decision is needed to be made: either spending three days on a boat on the Rio Maranon or taking an airplane. Taking the boat was a wonderful decision and enhanced my personal interest on surviving in the rain forest. I can’t imagine other possibilities for getting an idea what it means to struggle with fast-rising plants, ubiquitous animals, but enjoying and respecting the power of nature. Travelling Peru in one month is difficult not only because of distances but mainly because of the variety it offers. Even though I sometimes tend to hop quickly while travelling most of the sites invited to stay longer, add another day or two…
3. Peruvian cuisine is only rice with meat!
Rice is still the most important component of Peruvian foods. Rice feeds the masses and a vast majority of Peruvians are still relatively deprived – especially those migrating to Barriadas at the cities‘ edges. Beans and chicken ar a common side dish. Beyond rice with beans and chicken Peru comes up with local specialties: Fish from coast and the Amazon River, Mangos, Avocados and hundreds of types of Bananas play an important role for nutrition. One of the most stunning vegetables cultivated is Yucca – delicious when formed into Gnocchi’s, steamed or mashed like potatoes. In the southern Andean region guinea pig (only for the upper classes) became more prominent again. Most representations of the Last Supper in Peru show the guinea pig as a main dish. Not to forget cebiche prepared differently in every single region. Most prominently Gastón Acurio represents a new, self-confident Cousine playing an important role in the international community.
Coming to an end the fascinating about Peru is the power and self-confidence that people have. They are knowledgeable about political, social, economic and ecological challenges but face them with patience and willingness. During our travel we had the opportunity to get in touch with people of different backgrounds. They all knew they are different, but they also know that it’s important to stay strong in order to make it an even better place to stay.
If you’d like to see more photographs taken in Peru click here!
Restaurant Tipps: La73, Lima_Barranco / Cappuccino, Piura / En Frior y Fuego, Iquitos