Busy Day Sightseeing in Potosi

Trip Start Jan 08, 2014
1
15
18
Trip End Jan 25, 2014


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Where I stayed
Hostal Tuko's La Casa Real
What I did
Museo Moneda
Mercado Artesanal
Campana

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Today was our first full day in Potosi and we made the most of it I think.  We were out shortly after nine am - after having breakfast at the hostel complete with scrambled eggs and fruit salad.  I didn't find coffee, even Nescafe, so opted for hot chocolate.  So breakfast consumed, we were on our way to the tourist office where we picked up a better map after failing to enlarge the one the hostel gave us because both of us couldn't really read it - I because it was black lettering on gray and Astrid because she lost her reading glasses somewhere along the way.  Armed with our new materials, we decided to visit the bell tower at the Compana where the tourist office is located.  There was a pretty nice view from there and I think we saw the remains of the old silver mines up on the mountain above the city (Cerro Potosi or Cerro Rico - it goes by two names I guess).  We could also see several other bell towers that Astrid was ready to climb to get views of Potosi.

Our next visit was the Museo Moneda.  Or was it?  There was a tour starting in English in something like 20 minutes or less so we hurried down the hill to the Museo to catch it.  The tour was quite good and covered many rooms in the complex which had 4 courtyards and around 200 rooms.  I got a special ticket to take photos that I had to wear and because I tried to take photos of things I was usually one of the last people to leave a room.  Consequently, I sometimes missed the English explanations - which was a total shame.  (Now that I am home, I even forgot that it was a tour in English.)  There was a young man who was usually leaving about the same time as I was and we sometimes got in each other's way.  Once, it must have taken me so long to finish up my photo taking that the guide and group were no longer in sight and I made a wrong turn.  I scanned the people in the courtyard and none looked familiar so I asked first one guard and then another for the English group and the second directed me to the right room.

The complex had old coins that had been minted as well as a great deal of the machinery used to create money in the various periods.  In the early days, they produced the pieces of eight in silver presumably because they had lots of silver in Potosi - with the silver mine on Cerro Rico.  Now there is no more silver and Potosi has gone from one of the richest and biggest cities in the world to one of the poorest.  There are around 200,000 people now and when they were bigger than London, Paris and Seville, they had 165,000 to the other cities' smaller numbers.  Seville was the biggest of the three at 110,000 I think and London only, 40,000.  One of the presses from later on came from the USA - which was a surprise to me.  She also showed us the symbols put on the coins to designate where they were minted and the dollar sign we use in the US actually comes from the "si" of "Potosi."  The letters were placed on top of one another.  Now the mint buildings have been converted into a mint museum - I think there were also some paintings there too - and all the minting is done in Chile after being done in Switzerland, Germany and somewhere else.

After this museum, Astrid felt  the need for coffee so she headed off to her favorite cafe - the Cafe de la Plata ( Silver Cafe) and I wanted to be efficient and not waste time because everything shuts down between 12 and 2:30 or 3 pm so I went to the Cathedral.  At first I was worried that I wouldn't get in because the front doors were all locked but I started walking around the church and found an open door in the back, paid my entrance fee, and stumbled in.  They are renovating the church and it mostly looks brightly painted and quite spiffy except for a few paint cans and other paraphernalia scattered around.  A man approached me and started telling me about the church, but when I asked him if his services were included, even though he said yes, he went off to talk to some other people.  He did come back occasionally, but usually left me alone to take photos to my heart's content.  I liked the church because of its bright, white walls, simple design but still lots of glittering gold to catch the eye!

I got back to the cafe before noon to join Astrid and I had a cappuccino.  When we finished, we went off in search of lunch.  Astrid had something in mind - I can't remember what exactly, but we struck out several times - oh, yes, I think it was another guide book and hotel recommendation but she didn't like the menu, so we ended up back at the cafe.  It does have a very congenial atmosphere and good food as well as good coffee.  We ended up each having dessert as well.

We thought we might catch St Teresa Convent open at this point since it was not open when the guide book said it had English tours.  We managed to get in for a tour - but in Spanish.  Astrid was very impressed with the guide's knowledge.  This tour, like the Museo de Moneda, was very thorough and we went from one room to another, up stairs and down stairs, through various passages, where I managed to trip and bump my head several times so that the guide would tell me to be careful - this after I managed to fall down in the street and skin my knee and put a hole in my pants.  The ladies in traditional dress - along side of me when I fell - and probably the innocent cause of my fall - were quite compassionate as I got up and tried to regain my dignity.  In any case, the convent had more art - religious art for the most part - religious vestments, crockery, culinary implements, rooms for prayer, chapels, rooms for meeting with family, etc.  You could get a picture of life for these women - entering the convent at 15 years of age, silent except for 2 hours a day, making lace and sweets for sale, praying and singing and playing instruments for mass.

Our convent tour was over 2 hours and it was now around 5 pm so it was hard to imagine fitting in any more churches or museums.  I asked Astrid if she thought it would be worthwhile to check out the Mercado Artisanal in the short amount of time we had left, but even though it took us awhile to get there, it was more than enough time since there was hardly anything there.  So we walked back to our hostel to find the heat that I had tried to turn on was certainly on by now.  I moved a chair next to the heater and put my sox on it since the heater itself was too warm.  It is time to check it now to see if it has cooled off.

I can hear Astrid talking in the courtyard.

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