What makes Guatemala such a special place?
The people: Whether they are wearing their traditional Maya clothing - a long brocade wrap skirt with matching blusa-
hawking freshly squeezed orange juice on the street or greeting everyone they meet with Buenos Dias, Buenas Tardes or Buenas Noches, one can never feel alone.
The sights: Volcanoes like Fuego erupting or just being - green and lush. Lake Atitlan, which some say is the most beautiful lake in the world, although badly polluted, provides a gorgeous vista from the shores of its dozen or so pueblos or from high on a hill. Antigua Guatemala, a former capital with its terrible streets made of rocks and sidewalks that hide the sewer and water pipes and that go up and down, up and down. Xela, a true city, not a tourist town, with its collectivos and no tuk-tuks, but cold weather, especially difficult when there is no central heating and homes are not entirely closed off from the elements. Semuc Champey - beautiful limestone pools and Tikal - ancient Maya ruins-
The food: frijoles y arroz, fried pollo, tortillas, frijoles y arroz, manzanas, excellent coffee, huevos, ceviche, frijoles y arroz, cerveza, nachos y queso, lousy wine, piña coladas, frijoles y arroz...
The transportation: Collectivas with the 'helper' hollering the destination and trying to pack just one more person in. Chicken buses - pimped North American school buses that stop everywhere and often to pick up passengers. Goods are strapped to the roof and it costs just pennies to go anywhere. They are like an enclosed shopping mall. At stops, hawkers board selling ice cream, sunglasses, dried plantains, gaseosos, candy, gum and everything imaginable. Lanchas offer cheap and fast trips across lakes and rivers.
The religion: Churches are everywhere! One is either a Catholic or a Christian (that is so funny to me) which means Evangelical-
and lots, sometimes secretly, visit Maximón, a (nasty) Maya folk Saint who I was lucky enough to see 4 times!
The uniqueness: Feral dogs roaming the streets, howling during the night, lots of howling. Tortillas, tortillas, tortillas. I will never forget the clap, clap, clap sound when approaching a tienda. Women and girls wear traditional clothing everywhere. It's not just for special occasions. Each area of the country has its own way to decorate the blusa and its own colors and style of skirt-
Spanish is spoken everywhere and there are many indigenous languages that are fortunately being kept alive. Music blares at all times of the day. Neighbors have no respect for each other, singing or playing loud music! Rough cobblestone streets, sidewalks go up and down, up and down. Volcanoes blow their tops! Diesel fumes. Religious processions and celebrations-
The noise: Gallos crowing, buses blowing their 'train' horns, tuk-tuks, bombas, parades and fiestas with live music-
This is Gorgeous Guatemala!