The Friday Fun challenge has the prompt “dead centre.” I am interpreting this as a “center for the dead.” Where do the dead hang out? In the cemetery (or graveyard), of course! This is a good theme for the recent “All Souls Day” and “Day of the Dead.” While in France last June, I visited a graveyard – which is what it is called if it is next to and associated with a church – in Merville-Franceville-Plage, next to our farmhouse Airbnb. I love to wander around cemeteries and speculate on the inhabitants’ life stories.
The church is no longer in use.
This plaque is at the entrance to the graveyard.
As I wandered among the graves, I didn’t always notice a connection between war and the people buried there, but their lives may have been touched by war. Probably most were parishioners of this church.
A few, such as the graves of children, are particularly poignant. This nine year old boy died in an aerial bombardment of World War II on April 20, 1944.
Baby Jeanne had less than one month of life. Her grave is well taken care of.
How sad, the abandonment of Louis Bayard’s grave, an 8-year-old child…
Some of the graves were in a terrible state of abandonment, and were given this placard. I don’t speak French but I was able to figure out enough of it to interpret its meaning. It encourages someone to volunteer to preserve the grave.
France being a Catholic country, it is not surprising that many of the graves contain a statue of Jesus on the cross.
Some graves were very old…
While many were in bad shape, some were well-tended.
Lots of the graves have “souvenir” plaques and other items placed on them.
A woman in her 90s, who had the same first and last name, was buried alongside her parents, who died in their 60s. The grave’s in good shape, but some flowers would be nice!
WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge this week is Weathered. Krista says that she looks at “these relics from the past and wonder what they’ve been witness to over the years…They’ve survived decades of sun, wind, rain, storms, and even floods.”
Here are my interpretations of weathered:
My mother on her 96th birthday:
An old building at The Grove Nature Center, Glenview, IL:
Window of a ruined convent (Antigua, Guatemala):
Old tombstone at Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA:
Our final stop on the HopOn HopOff route was the cemetery where the 150 Titanic victims were buried.
The graves, most provided by White Star Line, were arranged in three rows which curved down a hill, to resemble the hull of a ship.
Each gravestone, set neatly alongside each other, was engraved with a name, if known, the number assigned to that body, and the date of death – always the same: April 15, 1912.
A female guide dressed in a long tartan skirt and woolen stockings took groups of us up the hill and gave explanations at a few of the graves.
If the name was engraved on the top of the gravestone, it meant that the person was identified prior to the time of burial; if the name was on the front of the stone, the person was identified afterwards.
At the grave of the unknown child were many small toys and stuffed animals left by visitors.
At the front of that stone was a separate plaque and a photograph of a baby (provided by his descendants), indicating his identity. Identification was made possible recently by extracting the DNA from a piece of bone and tooth found in his mortuary bag. Even so, the original headstone has been left as a memorial to all the children who were never identified that died at the sinking of the Titanic.
One headstone is labeled “J. Dawson.” For a long time, girls infatuated with the Jack Dawson character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 1990s movie about the Titanic would leave flowers and love letters at the grave.
In fact, Jack Dawson was a fictional character; the J. Dawson buried here was named Joseph. James Cameron, director of that movie, may have used the name on the gravestone in the creation of his character, because he had visited this cemetery, but it could also be a coincidence! (The guide told us that a person, in all seriousness, had told her that she saw Rose visiting the grave – that person apparently saw some elderly lady there and was convinced it was Rose – also a fictional character!) An older version of the Titanic story was the British film A Night to Remember – apparently a more accurate account of the disaster.
We returned on the next HOHO to the pier, arriving back on the ship in plenty of time before it sailed.
Reading the book North Dakota Curious, I was intrigued by the references to two Jewish cemeteries in North Dakota. Jewish pioneer settlements were mainly in two rural areas of North Dakota: Wishek/Ashley in the southeast produced two relatively famous (or infamous?) people – Ted Mann (founder of Mann theater chain) and David Berman (notorious gangster in the Twin Cities). Sophie Trupin wrote a book called Dakota Diaspora that tells the history of these Jewish immigrants. I had wanted to go there, but it turned out to be out of our way as we decided to head north the day we left Fargo.
The other area that Jewish immigrants settled in North Dakota was in the Devils Lake area. A group of these settlers established their homesteads about 40 miles northeast of Devils Lake, near a tiny town called Edmore. We decided to drive out to look for the Sons of Jacob cemetery. We drove along deserted country roads, past farm fields and machinery and the road seemed to stretch on forever. I gave up hope of finding this remote cemetery that was obviously not well-marked. We reached the town of Edmore, where Dale made inquiries. A man outside the only store in town seemed to know where it was. He gave us more specific directions – about 11 miles west, we would see a sign alongside the road pointing the way to the Sons of Jacob Cemetery.
Miraculously, we found it! I could see why we missed the sign the first time – it was not very big and was not where our guide book said it was. We turned onto the rutted country road that seemed to lead straight into a field of crops. Instead, on a hill to our right, we saw the cemetery.
Getting out of the car, it was extremely windy, as most of North Dakota seems to be, especially on the prairie. And these settlers undoubtedly shared a lot in common with the Ingalls family of the Little House on the Prairie series.
The small, well-kept cemetery may be remote but it is obviously well looked after. It is surrounded by a wire fence and at the entrance is a gate with a sign that welcomes visitors and invites them to sign the guest book, which we did.
The tombstones were scattered across a recently mown lawn.
The most poignant were the graves of children. I left a stone on each of their graves.
Some graves were too old and weathered to read.
Dale and I looked out at the landscape beyond the cemetery and tried to imagine what life had been like for the people here. Instead of farmland, most likely there were fields of waving prairie grasses which would have been the view that these immigrants would have seen from their modest homesteads.
Sigtuna, the oldest town in Sweden (founded 980 AD), is not far from the airport. It has a renowned boarding school and is often a destination for church retreats. The name of Sigtuna comes from an old English word for town (tuna), which was originally a Viking word. Its history before the 11th century is recounted in old Norse sagas. Its population is currently about 8,500 inhabitants.
First things first: Lunch
First stop: an inn or house where tables were already set with glasses, tableware, napkins, bread, and plates of salad in a large dining room. Soon after we got there, two more tour groups from the Eurodam arrived to have lunch with us.
After the salad and bread, we were served an entrée: chicken breast over julienned vegetables. For dessert we each got a wedge of chocolate cake that was like eating fudge! We could help ourselves to coffee or tea. On shore, I always had coffee when given the chance, because the free coffee on the ship was American style (to get good coffee I had to pay for it!).
Runic stones and mythology
At a park, Britt showed us stones with runic writing, which came from the Vikings. The runic writing encircles an illustration in the middle. For example, on one stone there was a cross, indicating that the subject was a Christian, and also a weapon. Plaques near the stones gave a translation of the writing. By reading them, I realized that these stones were like gravestones, extolling the virtues of important people who had died. However, it was fairly common for an important man to create stones about himself during his lifetime. One chieftain erected at least five stones dedicated to himself! Britt told us about an ancient creation myth in which a god threw a giant into the air. The giant’s cranium became the sun; to keep it up there, the gods created the directions: north, south, east and west. The giant’s bones became mountains, his blood became rivers and seas. Eventually the gods fashioned the first two people out of tree trunks, and they were endowed with life, soul, and intelligence. Their names were Ask and Embla. Hell was a cold place of snow and ice – nothing else.
Thor was a hammer-swinging god, associated with storms, thunder and lightning. The word “thunder” derives from the Norse word “Thor.” Odin was the god of wisdom, who learned from suffering. He was associated with healing, death, knowledge, and the runic alphabet, among other things.
The ruin of a church
We saw a couple of these stones, then crossed the street to see the ruin of an old church. High up on one of the remaining walls was another runic stone. In those days, people would sometimes use stones with writing on them as building materials, not realizing their future archaeological value!
St. Mary’s (Mariakyrkan) Lutheran church
Next, we visited a now Lutheran church dated from the 13th century, which is in remarkably good condition, an example of brick Gothic architecture. It was renovated in the early 20th century and then again in the 1960s. Surrounding the church is a burial ground.
Inside was dark and peaceful. The walls were painted with designs as well as Biblical figures and scenes. Light slanted in through the stained glass panes of arched windows.
In front, to the left of the altar was the tombstone of a family, most likely a prominent one, with the couple carved on top. Next to the carving of the man was one child (a son). Next to the carving of the woman were five children (five daughters).We then were free to walk around town – little shops along a couple of streets, the Town Hall, and off to the left, Malaren Lake, on which Sigtuna is situated. We went into the Town Hall, to see the contraption put on people who were taken to jail because they were drunk. There were two rooms inside – one room was lined with chairs, where people could wait for an audience with the officials. This room also had furnishings of a dining room and a green marble fireplace.The
other room would have been used as a jail for temporarily holding delinquents.
After that, we strolled down the street with lots of souvenir shops.
Then we headed down to the lake on a sloping street past picturesque houses (some quite large) with pretty gardens.
Along the lake was a park, including a spiral path with a faux runic stone in the middle, a miniature golf course that used tiny versions of local buildings for the holes, and many ducks who hoped for tidbits from an old couple sitting on a bench. There were lots of ducks in the lake as well, and I took a nice picture of a little girl on the lake shore trying to attract them.
When the bus dropped us off in Old Town Tallinn, the first thing I noticed were the hordes of people everywhere! Since there were six cruise ships in port, each containing an average of say, 2,000 passengers – plus Tallinn has become a popular destination in Europe – Old Town was swarming with tourists. (Never mind the people that actually LIVE there who were navigating those same spaces!) The sidewalks were narrow and so many people passing that you were often forced to walk on the uneven cobblestone streets. This also meant that groups led by guides, who held up signs with their tour’s number, often stretched along considerable distance and it was hard to keep up, especially if, like me, you often wanted to stop to take a picture. Which I did, often.
Uve told us we could have some free time to explore shops and go to the bathroom. There were several amber shops with beautifully decorated doorways.
Although we were right next to Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Church, we
didn’t go in because of the crowds and Uve said we’d see Orthodox churches in St. Petersburg.
We did, however, enter St. Mary’s Church, built in 1240 and now a Lutheran church.
Family crests covered the walls, some quite large due to one-upmanship. Uve told us this was a common and prestigious thing to do. Families also had their own pews, each sectioned off by a small door with the family’s name on it.
The organ was the most impressive thing in St. Mary’s Church. It is the largest in Estonia and has over 5,000 pipes.
Both St. Mary’s church and Alexander Nevsky cathedral are in the area of Old Town called Toompea. Our group headed to a lookout platform, where we could see Old Town Tallinn below and take photos. To get to this advantageous spot, however, you first had to patiently wait for someone to move and then worm your way through the crowd that was clicking away. Meanwhile, there was a teenager there who was doing fancy soccer moves for the public, a red cap on the ground in front of him for tips.
Another young man was standing in front of a sign that said “Toompea Coin Minting”. After creating the coin, he would sell it to you on a lanyard.
When I finally reached the vantage point to take photos of the town below, I could see why it was such a popular place for tourists. Below us lay Old Town Tallinn and beyond, as far as the dock where our ship was anchored, the Tallinn Balloon floating overhead.
Back on the walk, I got behind again – it was near a turn into another narrow street – and lost sight of my group and Uve with the sign. They’d obviously turned a corner, but which one? A crowd of people were ascending a narrow alleyway, so I went with the flow, figuring I’d catch up with the group at the top. Just then a man was coming the other way wheeling his daughter in a stroller and I had to move aside to let him pass. Meanwhile, a stream of people squeezed their way around me on my right. When I reached the top, I looked left and right – by that time, there no sign of them. So I guessed: I went right. I came to another lookout point in a small square where outdoor restaurants were full of chatting customers, and on the right was part of the old wall that once surrounded the town, and a tower which may have been part of a gate at one time. There were steps going up the side of the wall to a restaurant located in the tower, and I saw people climbing the stairs. Not many though and I was sure it wasn’t my group.
I asked myself if there were any hints about where they might be. I had heard Uve mention something about checking with the café to see if our lunch was ready. Did he really say that? If so, they could be on their way to lunch. Did anyone know I was missing? Uve always counted – surely he’d know. But how would he find me?
I left the square with the old wall and busy restaurants and tried to retrace my steps. I got back to the street that I’d been on before turning into the alley, and peered down other streets leading off it. No sign of them.
I began wandering aimlessly, trying to think and not panic. I came up with nothing – no plan of action and feeling sorry for myself that I’d miss lunch! Eventually I found myself once again in front of the orthodox church where there were hordes of people coming and going and as I approached entrance to the church, I spotted a green Eurodam sticker – more than one! Yes!
This group’s stickers had the number 10 on them. At least they’d be returning to the same ship. I asked a man if I could stay with their group, that I’d been separated from mine. Was there room on their bus?
He said yes, but I should talk to their guide. He led me to her; she was among the throng now inside the church. A golden wall full of icons was visible above all the heads. I took one picture. (I later learned no photography was allowed inside the church!)
I explained to her my dilemma and she called the company she (and Uve presumably) work for. A stream of Estonian followed but it sounded encouraging. My group, she said, was at St. Nicholas Church, which was a bit complicated to get to from here. However, after that they were going to a restaurant in Town Hall Square. I fished out a piece of paper advertising the upcoming Russian bazaar on board from my bag, and also provided her with a pen. She wrote down the name of the restaurant – MAIKRAHV – and told me it was located inside the town hall. She was emphatic on that point.
She also offered to let me stay with them (but they weren’t having lunch and were leaving earlier) or go to Town Hall Square to look for my group. She told her group that she just needed a minute to show me the way.
The way was simple. She pointed out the street and told me to continue down it – “Go down, keep going down” until to the right I would see the square. It was a big square, she said. I couldn’t miss it. I decided to go, so I thanked her and off I went, tucking the piece of paper into my pocket.
I descended the long cobblestone street, passing along another section of the old wall on my right; on the left, free-lance artists displayed their work for sale. After passing under a gate, I saw a large square to the right, full of outdoor restaurants with shade umbrellas over them, all of them bustling with people. The square was lined with tall, colorful buildings with streets leading off it like spokes of a wheel.
As soon as I stepped into the square, I spotted a young woman wearing an apron, obviously a waitress or something. I pulled out the piece of paper and smiled expectantly at her.
“Do you speak English?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“Can you tell me where this restaurant is?”
I showed her the slip of paper with the restaurant’s name. She didn’t say anything; she seemed to be at a loss for words but led me to the front of an outside restaurant near the one where she’d been standing, and gestured with her hands, holding them open like, “here it is.”
What? This made no sense. Where was the town hall? I thanked her and then went up to a young man standing in front of the next restaurant.
“Can you tell me where is the town hall?” I asked him.
He pointed to an old medieval building across the square that had looked like it might have been a church at one time. I thanked him and headed over there.There was a door open, which led down a few stairs into a dark interior. A sign outside indicated there was some sort of art exhibit inside. I saw a man wearing a uniform standing in the shadows. I approached him and explained that I was looking for a restaurant inside the town hall, and showed him the name. He said the town hall did have a restaurant, next door, but it was called Dragon.
“Perhaps it had this name before, I don’t know. You can ask them.”
Strange. Why would the guides’ company give me a name of a place that no longer had that name? Even so, I went next door to check it out.
As soon as I entered, I was pretty sure this wasn’t the right place. A woman wearing a long striped dress with an apron over it and a fitted cap was ladling out soup into cone- shaped ceramic bowls. She was also in charge of the register and dealing with customers.
“Excuse me,” I said. She turned and looked at me.
“I’m looking for this restaurant.” I showed her the slip of paper.
She glanced and said, rather brusquely, “across the square” and nodded in that direction. I didn’t interpret her tone as rudeness – she was just very busy and hadn’t time for pleasantries. So I crossed the square once more and came to the same guy in yellow I’d talked to before; only this time, I showed him the name of the restaurant. He pointed to a doorway – sure enough, the name was printed overhead. I wouldn’t have noticed it before, what with all the tables outside and people sitting at them enjoying the outdoors. I was now beginning to understand what the first girl had been trying to show me.
“It is our restaurant,” he said.
He hadn’t seen the group wearing stickers like mine, but perhaps they were inside the restaurant. He led me partway to the entrance.
Sure enough, down a short flight of stairs, I saw Uve standing there! What a relief!
He did know that I (or someone) had been missing, but said they’d waited for five minutes for me, then had to go on their way. They had just arrived at the restaurant, and I saw everyone sitting around tables in the dimness. There was an empty seat next to a bearded man, and I asked if anyone was sitting there. The man said it was available, so I sat down. His name was David and his wife, sitting across from him, was Paula. They were from Halifax.
The meal was excellent and came in three courses: salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing; chicken breast over julienned vegetables, in a sauce that was very tasty if a bit peppery; and dessert cake: two layers of white cake, with a filling and topping of gelled blueberries and raspberries.
On our way to our last stop – shopping – Uve showed us the ruined wall of a church, where tombstones from the 14th and 15th century were displayed. Finally it was time for shopping! Paula and David were not going to let me out of their sight! Uve told us to meet in front of McDonald’s in half an hour. The three of us stuck together while shopping, and I probably bought at least one thing I wouldn’t have otherwise. In retrospect, I wish I had purchased a piece of amber jewelry – expensive, but I may never have another opportunity!
By the time we arrived in Savannah, it was after 4 pm, and we went to Bonaventure Cemetery, which would close at 5 pm. Locals who achieved fame, Johnny Mercer and Conrad Aiken, are buried there. There are no guided tours and we wouldn’t have wanted to go on one if there were. We just wandered around, enjoying the statues and ornamentation on some of the graves. It’s common to have a stone frame around the grave instead of just a headstone. Many graves were like this. Many family plots were also delineated with a low stone wall or border.
More “framed” graves
Cemeteries fascinate me because every family buried there has a story. Hints are provided by the design of the plot and epitaphs on the graves. The details are meaningful to the surviving family members. I like to speculate on these departed loved ones’ life stories.
We returned by plane to Lima where we were to spend the day, then board a flight to the U.S. that night. We were given a “day room” at a hotel in the Miraflores district, where we were able to keep our luggage and rest.
Today was an interesting but frustrating day. Jayme, Dale and I spent the morning at some local tourist markets – lots of mass-produced stuff at rip-off prices. Being our last day, I was very anxious to do something interesting.
Around lunch time we ran into Val and Sharon and decided to take a cab to a local restaurant that was near some ruins located in the middle of Lima. We decided to cram all 5 of us into the cab, against the driver’s wishes! He took us to the periphery of the ruins – no one was quite sure where the entrance was, and we decided to try to find a restaurant nearby, which we did.
I looked for my bag containing my wallet in order to pay for our lunch, but realized I didn’t have it with me! I must have left it at the hotel, although I could swear I had it when we left. Oh well, with my ADD brain, it was very possible I was mistaken. I worried, though, about leaving it at the hotel, exposed to getting stolen. Dale said not to worry – our room was locked up and no one would go in there. No maid service was necessary, because we hadn’t spent the night.
We walked to the site of the ruins, walking all the way around the outer wall before we finally found the entrance! I had very few coins to my name at that point (I’d been trying to use up all my Peruvian money) and had to borrow from one of the others to pay the entrance fee.
These ruins, known as Huaca Pucllana, belonged to the people known as the “Lima Culture” and remains were also found belonging to the Wari Culture, (500-900 AD) which influenced the Lima Culture in its final century.
The Lima Culture flourished along the Peruvian Central Coast during the years 200-700 AD. The Huaca Pucllana site, located in the Miraflores district in urban Lima, was built as an administrative and ceremonial center. The central pyramid, made of adobe and clay is constructed from seven platforms. It is surrounded by a plaza and a large structured wall which divides the complex into two sections, one ceremonial and one administrative.
This diorama shows how the thousands of bricks used in construction were made.
The pyramid was built to express the power of the elite priests to control the natural water resources of the area, including control of the valleys of Chancay, Chillón, Rímac and Lurín, as well as their religious domination.
The administrative sector and the urban zone were located towards the east of the surrounding wall and were probably used for public meetings, to discuss control and improvement of production. A number of small buildings, including storage rooms completed this part.
In the ceremonial sector, including the pyramid, on the western side whose enclosure is over 500 meters in length, 100 in width and 22 in height, the priests conducted religious ceremonies honoring the gods and ancestors. Here deep pits were found in which offerings of fish and other marine life were made to appease the gods.
Archaeologists found many artifacts that shed light on the Lima Culture’s economy. These included textiles, decorated ceramics, bones, stone tools and remains of alpacas, guinea pigs, ducks, fish and other molluscs, corn, pumpkins, beans and fruits like cherimoya, lúcuma, pacae, guayaba. Labor included fishing, working on plantations, gathering and hunting, manufacturing of handicrafts, textiles, basketry and tools. They also constructed and maintained irrigation canals. Textiles were simple, made from alpaca or vicuna wool, and pottery included ceremonial jars decorated with snakes and fish, in black, red and white.
Burial sites were also found in the pyramid, most notable of which contained remains belonging to the Wari Culture (500 AD-900 AD). Among them were the remains of the “Señor de los Unkus” (The Lord of the Unkus), which belonged to the first tomb within the ceremonial center to have been discovered completely intact. In this tomb there are three burial shrouds containing the remains of three adults and a sacrificed child.
Wari graves were subsequently destroyed by later cultures, and by the time the Incas arrived in the region, this site was already considered an “old sacred village.”
However, in October of 2010, archaeologists announced the finding of an undisturbed grave, containing 4 mummies from the Wari Culture, including an elite woman and three children.
Another interesting feature is a series of cave-like holes carved out of a section of the pyramid wall, apparently destined to be tombs of Chinese immigrants, which were also found in other sites along the coast. Those at Huaca Pucllana were presumably never used, as they appear unfinished and no remains have been found in them.
Excavation was begun on the site in the middle of the 20th century, when the top of the pyramid was exposed. In 1991, it became a historical and cultural park, which now includes a museum , a park with native flora and fauna, a handicraft gallery, a tourist restaurant and of course, a store.
Upon returning to our hotel, I searched the room for my wallet, but couldn’t find it. I asked at the reception desk but nothing had been turned in (I thought maybe I’d left it in the lobby). It soon became clear that the bag containing my wallet had fallen onto the floor of the taxi and I didn’t notice because 5 of us were crammed in the back, sitting on each other’s laps. Since it was never returned to me or to OAT, whose Lima address was included in an ID in the bag, I have to assume the annoyed taxi driver found it and kept the contents, which included quite a bit of cash. I had already exchanged my soles for U.S. $200 to give to our guide, Boris, which is what everyone else was giving him also. I had no choice but to go to an ATM and withdraw another $200 to give him. Fortunately, however, my passport was not in that bag.
We spent the late afternoon at Lima’s modern mall, from which there was a splendid view of the ocean. This was our farewell to Peru. Later that night, we were on a bus to the airport and by early the next morning, we were back on U.S. soil.
This concludes my Peru Journal! I hope those who have been patient with me and followed it over the last year have found it interesting and enjoyable!
We were up early once again, for a final discovery-packed day of our “Extension” trip to southern Peru. On the agenda for today were the ruins of Sillustani and site-seeing in the city of Puno. We came down for a wonderful breakfast, as usual, at the hotel, and were on our way by 8:00 a.m.
I haven’t talked much about the breakfasts we’ve had in Peru. All the hotels we stayed at had wonderful meals for us. There was always some type of grain, like oatmeal, yogurt, bread, cheese, and the “usual” fare catering to Americans – eggs, bacon, etc. I generally steered clear of that in order to partake and savor Peruvian food. (When in Peru, do what the Peruvians do…OK, I was a tourist so I was hardly having a “typical” Peruvian day, but whatever I could try or see, whatever I could learn, I was eager for).
We stopped at an overlook of the city and environs on our way to Sillustani. It was an amusement park, of sorts – there was a giant puma and a giant snake’s mouth that you can stand inside of. Apparently there was a giant condor there somewhere, also – but I never saw it. The snake, puma and condor are the three sacred animals of the Inca religion, representing the sky (condor), the earth (puma) and the underworld (snake).
Another “attraction” was standing behind one of those life-sized pictures or statues of people with an oval cut out for people to put their faces in and have their pictures taken. Which was exactly what we did – cheesy!!
Puno is not a particularly beautiful city, but the view from above of the city on the hillsides overlooking Lake Titicaca, stretching out toward the horizon, was quite lovely. On the far side of the lake is Bolivia.
The ride to Sillustani took about a half hour, and along the way we saw many farms dotting the landscape, and crops planted alongside a lagoon.
The Sillustani site is located on altiplano (high altitude plains). It is a burial site constructed by the Kolla (or Colla) people, an Aymara speaking culture pre-dating the Incas, around the eighth century A.D. It is dominated by funeral towers, called chullpas, which were used to bury family groups, primarily the ruling class. The Kolla practiced ancestor worship, and visited these chullpas to honor their dead for hundreds of years.
The towers have different styles, indicating different time periods. Some show evidence of the Inca architectural style, which could mean that either these people adopted Inca techniques, or that the conquering Inca culture reworked some of them.
Grave robbers sacked these chullpas long ago, and there are no bodies left at the site. However, archaeologists say that the people would have been buried in fetal position. Although the bodies were not mummified intentionally, due to the dry climate created in the closed tomb, the bodies survived for centuries.
These above ground funeral towers exist all over the altiplano, but Sillustani is the largest site and the structures relatively well preserved. Some of the stones have carvings on them, although it is unknown who carved them or why.
A spiritual “aura” is said to exist here and there is a custom of standing within a semicircle of small stones and sprinkling coca leaves on the ground, in order to feel this aura. I’ve never been able to feel anything at vortexes or other such sites.
Sillustani looks over the Umaya Lagoon, apparently an “offshoot” of Lake Titicaca. It has a unique beauty with its contrast to the stark, rather barren landscape surrounding it.
On the way back to Puno, we visited a local farm, where we met a farm family and heard about the economy of the farm. They grow potatoes and other staples, and raise llamas, alpacas and guinea pigs. Guinea pigs are commonly eaten here: many host families will serve guinea pig to guests (ours didn’t) and it is usually on the menu at restaurants. I never did try it so I can’t say anything about the taste!
Back in Puno, we visited the Carlos Dryer Museum, which has many archaeological artifacts of regional pre-Columbian civilizations. The main attraction was the Archaeological Sillustani section containing 500 pieces of gold artifacts from that site, as well as a replica of the Funeral Tower (Lizard Chullpa). We were not allowed to take pictures, so I have no photos of this exhibit. I downloaded pictures from Google of things I remember seeing.
Afterward we toured the center of the city, including Plaza de Armas (this is what Peruvians call their main square – every town has a Plaza de Armas).
In the plaza, there is a monument to the “Heroes del Cenepa” . I took the picture but didn’t know what it was about. Since then, I looked it up.
According to Wikipedia and other sites, the “Guerra del Cenepa” (sometimes called Guerra del Alto Cenepa) was a conflict between Peru and Ecuador, basically a border dispute that had been fought over and unresolved since the times of Simon Bolivar. It took place between January and February 1995 (I don’t remember ever even hearing about this!). The outcome, brokered by Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the USA, and ratified in Brasilia on May 8, 1998, was mostly in Peru’s favor: it gained the piece of land in the mountainous rainforest that had been disputed, and Ecuador gained access to a small section of it called Tiwinza where 12 of Ecuadorian soldiers are buried. This disputed territory is the Cenepa Drainage Basin, which lies along the eastern border of the Cordillera del Condor and borders on the Cenepa and Marañon Rivers.
From there, we went to a farmer’s market. To get there, we were transported in bicycle taxis – actually tricycles! – being riden by “drivers” behind our seats. It was called, quite aptly, “Pioneros, King of the Pedals Caravan”!
As we were walking down a street near the market to return to our bus, we saw a police band serenading some workers on a construction site!
That evening was our “farewell dinner” in the hotel dining room. The next morning we would be getting on a plane and returning to Lima. We’d have the day in Lima, then we would take our flight that night back to the USA. So this dinner had a tinge of sadness among the people of our group, bonded by this amazing trip. We’d seen so much, and yet so little…guess I’ll have to come back to Peru again sometime!