Guanajuato is sprucing itself up for the visit of El Papa, Pope Benedict, this weekend. The city has probably never looked this good or been this busy (not that you could tell from some of these photos taken early in the morning …). This area of multi-coloured houses is right near our place.
Everywhere trees are being trimmed, plants are being planted and/or pruned, fountains are being turned on, streets are being swept and flags and banners are being hung.
Some of the church effigies of Jesus are really quite arresting and bizarre. Benedict’s image is everywhere, as are signs advertising balcony viewing space for rent; if the expected 700,000 people do actually descend on this small city, there will be no room to move and every seat, balcony, window, and park bench will be occupied. Down by the Jardin de la Union one can choose to have one’s photo taken with a cutout of either Benedict or John Paul – guess who’s most popular …
This is one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever seen; the colours, decorations, architecture, foliage, and vegetation are stunning, especially against the backdrop of the most incredible cloudless blue sky. Guanajuato reminds me of cities in Italy, like Florence, with its narrow cobblestone streets lined with old buildings, and Rome, with its beautiful piazzas and café culture; it also reminds me of places in Turkey, like Cappadoccia and Gumusluk, because of its location in a valley ringed with scrub brushed hills.
The temperature is like that of Ibrahimpasa, the small village in Cappadoccia where I stayed in 2009; it is cool at night and in the morning and warm to hot midday, with a dry atmosphere. Mariachi bands and individual musicians are out in force here, especially around the central Jardin de la Union, the main plaza, where they lounge under the trees waiting for the right time to strike up the band.
The city has many lovely small plazas, lined with restaurants and bars, and shaded by huge trees. So far, my favourite is the Plaza de San Fernando, where we had lunch today, serenaded by a lone guitarist.
Ty and I wandered through the narrow, steep back streets,
seeing some interesting street art, investigating the Museum of the XIX Century and the Museum of the City of Guanajuato,
the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato,
as well as a couple of other multi-coloured churches. We strolled through the Jardin de la Reforma, past the University,
and the Jardin de la Union,
watching the preparations for Benedict’s arrival, including the setting up of grandstands and large video screens.
Guanajuato is a town made wealthy from silver; it has many elaborately decorated multi-coloured Spanish baroque churches, haciendas, and hotels. Unlike everywhere else we’ve been this trip, here we have been approached very little by people wanting to sell us things. This city does its own thing and the people seem not to depend much on tourism. I am really enjoying savouring this city.
See more pics here.