So, here I am in Arequipa, Peru. Due to some unforseen travel fails… I’ve been here for longer than expected. However. Thank goodness I got stuck here. It’s a beautiful city, full of things to do and places to see. If I hadn’t lost my debit card, I think I would have passed through too quickly, and missed some really great things. First up on the blog… the monasteries.
In Arequipa, there are many. I went to two of them. Monasterio de Santa Catalina, and Monestario de le Recoleta. Before arriving in Arequipa, Recoleta was the number one place I wanted to see. As things turned out, I went to Santa Catalina on my first day in town, and Recoleta on nearly my last.
Santa Catalina is pretty much the most famous place in Arequipa, and one of the most important religious places in Peru. It covers an entire city block, and includes what is basically an entire city within its walls. There are still nuns living there, though their current area is off limits to visitors. Also, since the Pope’s visit several years ago, they aren’t fully cut off from life outside the walls, though it is still very rare to see them outside.
Though it is a bit expensive (around $12) I had been told several times that it was worth it. And it’s true. I spent several hours walking around the monastery, it was incredibly peaceful and picturesque.
Back in the day, it was a big deal for families to have a daughter in the convent. They had to pay a lot of money, and if the girl decided to leave, it brought great shame upon her family.
While walking around, I was struck by how pleasant it was. It felt like a place I might not have minded being sent to. But then I realized that a life spent in silence, chastity, and solitude may not be the right fit for me. And that doesn’t even touch the whole ‘pledging my life to God’ aspect. So, maybe a good summer retreat… but probably not a permanent lifestyle.
The most important person to live in Santa Catalina was Sister Ana, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1985.
Now, as I said, Recoleta was at the tippy top of my to do list when I arrived in Arequipa, mostly because of its library. However, because I didn’t pay attention to the opening hours (9-12, 3-5) the first time I went, it was closed. And the second time I went was a holiday… and it was closed. But, third time’s a charm! I gathered up some book loving friends and we journeyed over.
Because it’s not in the city center (an easy walk over the river, or a quick, cheap taxi ride) La Recoleta remains a bit under the radar of many travellers in Arequipa. Most people I talked to had never heard of it, but when I told them all I knew, they were all interested in going.
It’s also considerably cheaper than Santa Catalina or some of the other monasteries in town. Only about $3. It’s a GREAT DEAL. I enjoyed it so much.
Monasteries are mostly made up of courtyards surrounded by cells where the inhabitants lived. Santa Catalina had preserved most of these cells to give an idea of what daily life was like living there. La Recoleta used these spaces as small museum rooms. The contents were a bit eclectic, when turning into a new room, my friend yelled out, “oh! Taxidermied animals!” And in fact, it was a display of taxidermied animals of Peru. These are my favorite kinds of places. Expect the unexpected.
Or, “Oh my gooddness, why are there so many dolls?!”
There were also rooms dedicated to Pre Incan Peruvian artifacts, and religious icons… but, really… taxidermied animals and dolls.
And then we came to the library. I can only talk about it from a gushy, book nerd stance. But even if you aren’t really into books (heathen!) it’s an incredible place.
Founded by Fransiscan monks, most books are from the 16th-18th century. Because they’re old, you can’t actually touch the books. You can only look at them.
And smell them. Oh the smell. That distinct ‘old book smell’ wraps around you like a hug as soon as you walk in. It’s hard to take a picture of a smell. But trust me, it was there, and it was wonderful.
Now, the library was very cool, but what I thought was the most interesting thing in the library was a timeline of the world.
It is nearly impossible to describe how amazing it is without just showing it to you,and pictures do it NO JUSTICE.
It’s about 9 feet (3 meters) by a foot and a half (.5 meters) and it shows all the countries histories, from Adam and Eve till the present day, 1890. And in each country’s timeline was all of their leaders. And intermixed with all of that, notable people’s lifespans were on there as well.
One thing that I found shocking… and maybe this is common knowledge for other people, but it wasn’t for me, so I’m still a bit mind blown by it… Shakespeare and Galileo were contemporaries. They were born in the same year (probably.) That really surprised me for some reason. Romeo and Juliet is as old as heliocentrism. Mind. Blown.
Now, because it wouldn’t be my blog without some flower pictures tacked to the end… and because I took some of my very favorite flower pictures of my life in these two places.. here ya go!