Day 1,998 of Traveling the World | Guatemala City, Guatemala | July 22, 2023

Guatemala – land of earthquakes and volcanoes. The capital city, Guatemala City, and the former capital, Antigua, were both almost completely destroyed by the 1917-18 earthquakes, leading to more modern architecture than most capitals. There are 37 volcanoes in Guatemala, which is about the size of Ohio. Three are active and are still erupting. Volcan de Fuego (Fire Volcano) has been erupting violently since 2002, so long that it has created 22 cones, marking different eruption periods.

We took a ship’s excursion to the capital city, as it was about 2.5 hours’ driving time from the port. Even knowing that we typically don’t like ship excursions, we wanted to see something different. Of course, it was a mistake. We felt like two trapped prisoners, unable to explore as freely as we are accustomed. The only stops were a museum devoted to native dress, the city’s main plaza, and an outdoor Relief Map museum, which they claim is their country’s architectural treasure. We spent five hours in a bus and three hours in the city, limited to those three places. The description said we would have free time to explore, but that consisted of 15 minutes to take photos in the main plaza. It was dismal, and just not for us.

Because we were captives on a bus, the tour guide chattered on and on and on and on about every aspect of Guatemalan culture. There was no quiet time to rest, look at the volcanoes, or even talk with other passengers – just constant noise from the tour guide, who had a very loud microphone. We did learn a lot about volcanoes, and were delighted to hear about “chicken buses” (photo below). Guatemalans love to buy old school buses not in use from the US. They drive them through Mexico to Guatemala, paint them and fix them up, and transport people around the country and cities. They don’t hire certified bus drivers – just anyone who has a driver’s license. People crowd on with all sorts of animals, even chickens, so they call these conveyances – chicken buses. They are cheap, ubiquitous, and anything goes – hence, their popularity.

Agua Volcano – the Water Volcano. The photo is slightly blurry because it was taken from a moving bus.
Two volcanoes, known as the Fire Volcano and Acatenango Volcano.
Lots of textiles for sale.
We think he/she is used here as a mannequin for jewelry, but it sort of looks like Frankenstein with the bolts (earrings?) on his neck!
All along Avenida La Reforma are beautiful gardens and walking paths in the median separating one traffic direction from the other.
More of the Avenida La Reforma – the president at the time had visited France and was enamored by the Champs Elysees, and so attempted to recreate the same feeling in the capital city.
The Presidential Palace, known as Palacio Verde (the Green Palace), or El Guacamolon (the Big Guacamole). Oxidized copper coats the exterior, hence its green color.
The Cathedral. We asked the tour guide what its name is, and she shrugged and said, “Everyone just calls it The Cathedral.” Google maps identifies it as “Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago of Guatemala.” So, it is named after St. James (Santiago).
The Cathedral’s interior was very bright, very clean. Midday Mass was taking place, so we sneaked a quick photo from the back.
We visited this museum, which is a museum of indigenous dress.
Outside the museum is this sculpture of molten glass, called La Libertad, by Arturo De La Riva.
A drawing on the wall inside – everyone looks evil and/or unhappy – even the rabbit!
An entirely new, Mayan, take on St. Augustine.
This necklace looks a little too fierce to be used as casual jewelry – perhaps it was intended for ceremonies.
A wooden ceremonial mask.
Just a little creepy…
She was 10 feet tall, so – just a little creepy…
The Relief Map of Guatemala. Construction began in 1904 by a famous local architect, Domingo Pineda. This is one of the best (!) things to see in the capital city. There was much discussion about how much work he put into researching the topography in the days before satellite photography, lasers, radar, and GPS, but nobody in our group was very impressed – it looked like a school project.
The turtle and whale trash cans were a little bit more fun at the Relief Map museum.
A chicken bus! (Apologies for the blurriness – this was also taken from the bus, as we sped along the highway!)
Sunset as we headed to Guatemala.
Sunset as we left Guatemala.

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