Sunday, May 15, 2005

Bolivia´s Two Capitals

Here´s your bit of trivia for today: did you know that Bolivia has two capitals? Sucre is the actual capital, and La Paz (which is considered by the rest of the world to be the capital and thus earns its own superlative, the highest capital city in the world) is the seat of government. I´m not actually sure how it works, and I am still undecided as to what I would respond if forced, by, say, Alex Trebek or Regis Philbin, to choose one.

Anyway, after Potosí, we headed to capital #1, Sucre. We got there last Saturday, in time to head out the little town of Tarabuco for their famous Sunday market. I´ll post on that later...hopefully I should have some good photos. Sucre is a really nice place, very relaxed, and thankfully, at 2,500 meters, it´s a little warmer than Potosi or Uyuni. It has a central square, Plaza 25 de Mayo, with palm trees and benches, surrounded by colonial buildings. Our hostel had a lovely garden where we spent some hours in the sun with Greg and Fanny, two friends that Thibaut had met in Patagonia, Valparaiso and again in Potosí. (It´s funny how you run into people...on the Uyuni tour, I ran into a German guy I met in Ushuaia!) There was also a hilltop café with a view over the city and some nice music. And after nearly giving up on a visit to the church of San Felipe de Neri--all the church doors were locked, but finally we found the entrance a couple of buildings down--we had a private tour of the church and former convent, including the roof terrace with a panoramic sunset view of Sucre. The city center´s buildings, which are almost all white, are generally about two stories high, which means you can look out over all the houses all around, with their red clay tile roofs and their central courtyards.

Sucre also has a big central market where all kinds of fruits and vegetables were on was really fun to pick out some fruit for breakfast, but unfortunately it was pretty disappointing. The avocados were hard as rocks, the oranges were moldy after 12 hours and the cantelope tasted like fish! It shouldn´t have come as a surprise, considering we had already realized that Bolivia is not what one might call a culinary hotspot. Between worrying about how meat is stored and cooked and trying to avoid anything that has touched the water (salads, drinks with ice cubes), I´m basically functioning on a steady diet of pasta and cookies. Luckily, they do make some good cookies.

Wednesday night´s planned bus trip to La Paz (capital #2) was foiled by some striking miners blocking the roads, so we had an extra unplanned day in the sun before leaving for real on Thursday evening. Unfortunately, it meant that Thibaut spent the evening of his 31st birthday in a bus, which wasn´t all that exciting. Road blocks and strikes are a pretty common method of protest here for working conditions, salaries, etc. (I tease the French people that it must make them feel right at home) And in fact, a country-wide indefinite road block is planned for tomorrow, so that should be very interesting. But La Paz seems like a great city so far...and if I was stuck here for a week I think it would be ok.