Friday, 21 September 2007, Lago Yojoa, Honduras
After having just one more dinner at "Muktab'ar", where we had eaten many wood fired pizzas while in Pana, filling our freezer with the wholemeal bread we had enjoyed so much, and completing our last 2 Spanish classes, we left Panajachel on Wednesday last week and drove to Antigua. The drive is not long and took us part way along the road on the eastern side of the lake again, which gave us some beautiful views for our last look at Lake Atitlán. We were really looking forward to exploring the former capital of Guatemala, which we had heard and read was quite beautiful. It is and we ended up staying for 5 days. Not only did we stay for 5 days but we treated ourselves to a very nice hotel for those 5 days. It had cable television and WiFi. We spent the time exploring the city at a leisurely pace, catching up on movies and news programmes, including Deutsche Welle and BBC, and also using the internet in a relaxed time frame. It was an extremely restful and pleasant time.
Even though the town is quite small, and doesn't really warrant the title of city, there are plenty of interesting things to see and do. We spent several hours exploring the hotel and museums that occupy the site of the former Santo Domingo church and monastery. Many of the old churches in Antigua have been all but destroyed by a series of earthquakes over the centuries, but the ruins are still there for all to see. The hotel and museums of Santo Domingo have been developed while still preserving all the history that is stored in the ruins of the original buildings. We went there particularly to see an exhibition of "Fotokids". This organisation was started by an ex-Reuters photographer in 1991, when she gave cameras to 6 kids, who lived on the Guatemala City garbage dump, and encouraged them to start taking photos. You can find out more about the organisation on their website - we were just blown away by the quality of the photos taken by kids as young as 10, who are growing up in extreme poverty. The programme is giving them an opportunity to change the direction of their lives.
While at Santo Domingo we visited other museums and exhibitions and were very interested and impressed by the Museo de Arte Precolombino y Vidrio Moderno (the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and Modern Glass). It houses an incredible exhibition of pottery from pre-Columbian times juxtaposed to a collection of modern glass works collected from some of the most prestigious glass-workers from around the world. They are exhibited side by side, and the congruency between the pieces, which were created centuries apart, is quite astonishing.
We were in Antigua for Guatemala's celebration of their Independence Day on September 15. A couple of days before that, we happened upon some sort of formal ceremony in the main square in front of the cathedral. There were flags everywhere and children dressed in costume, but the highlight for us was listening to a small boy singing the national anthem [Link to a small sound snippet - wav file 814 kb]. He couldn't have been more than 5 or 6 and he belted it out with great feeling - he wasn't always quite in tune, but he couldn't be faulted for his enthusiasm.
On Independence Day there was a parade, which we watched a good part of - lots of costumes and marching bands [Link to a small sound snippet - wav file 1013 kb], and sometimes even marching girls. It was a colourful spectacle and everyone seemed to be out, dressed in their best, celebrating. We headed back to the hotel early that day and ate dinner in the camper - too many rowdy people and fireworks to keep us roaming the streets.
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