Hello Fellow Travelers:
Welcome to our world of business information, museums, adventure, birding, botanical gardens, dining and fine wines. This newsletter provides you with “The Welge Report for Guatemala. Visiting Guatemala was a lifelong ambition for Dee for several reasons.
The Mayan Civilization and Culture was a permanent part of her Spanish teaching program, and more recently we have become involved with flora and fauna. Specifically, Dee’s involvement with the Narberth Garden Tour, her garden club and lastly our joint involvement with the Philadelphia Horticultural Society via the Philadelphia Flower Show.
Please share it with your friends, customers and associates. You can also access more than 100 cities on our website plus lots of other helpful travel tips at: thewelgereport.com/
Recognition: We extend special thanks to the people who manage and/or own the institutions, museums and restaurants featured in our guides. In some instances we have relied on their descriptions and photos.
Birding Opps: Info for our birding friends. Guatemala is a birders’ paradise. Here you will see hundreds of species including macaws, toucans and wild turkeys.
Business Info: This is a good site to start (doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/guatemala/).
Chances are you will enter Guatemala via Guatemala City. Guatemala City is the capital of the country. All the main highways start at Kilómetro 0, located inside the National Palace (see below) in the Historic Center. Guatemala City became the capital after Antigua had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1773.
With a population of around 3 million people, Guatemala City is the largest and most modern city in Guatemala, however, it is not a tourist destination.
After driving by the National Palace (shown above) we suggest making a beeline for Antigua.
Transportation: In almost any town in Guatemala, you will find a bus that eventually will take you to Guatemala City. The second-class extra-urbanos are often crowded and uncomfortable but cheap.
They are known as Chicken Buses as they are used to carry everybody and everything including live chickens going to market and were once American school buses.
The photo above is our group inspecting a chicken bus. To learn more about the Chicken Buses or Las Camionetas as they are called in Guatemala we suggest that you check out a documentary video by Mark Kendall titled La Camioneta – The Journey of One American School Bus.
For your trip through Guatemala we suggest using a tour company or hiring a guide and driver.
Antigua was founded in 1542 and has a strong Spanish aura, partly because everyone is speaking Spanish and partly a result of the architecture. It’s a comfortable town. There are lots of mom and pop grocery stores, (it seems like 2 on every block) street vendors and local artisans.
Churches dominate the scene. Lots of Catholic churches.
We found a nice place for lunch at La Fonda de la Calle Real – B,L,D: Daily, 5 Avenida Norte #12, Tel: 50278320507 located very close to the Zocalo.
Dee had the Pupusas which were tortillas with cheese, chicken and salsa, and I had the Lomito al carbon or grilled steak with black beans and rice and a salad.
We shared a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. We enjoyed La Fonda so much that we returned for lunch again, and shared a charcuterie platter and a bottle of chardonnay from Argentina.
After lunch we had a little time to visit the local craft market located on the main street a few minutes’ walk from the restaurant.
Dee found a few things that she couldn’t resist.
We then visited the Casa Santo Domingo – 3a. Calle “A” 8-38, Zona 10, Tel: 2339 3794, which is a cultural complex that has a stunning hotel, beautiful grounds with loads of parrots, macaws, toucans and other birds and wildlife. This is where you should stay in Antigua.
Casa Santo Domingo is restoring this colonial monument to preserve and highlight its artistic manifestations. The Museums Promenade is a cultural route created by an agreement between San Carlos de Guatemala University and Hotel Casa Santo Domingo.
The route makes it possible to visit the museums installed in what was the church and convent of Santo Domingo and Santo Tomás de Aquino (Saint Thomas Aquinas) College. Every step is a visual adventure.
Our favorite museum was The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and Modern Glass that has classic Mayan art displayed along side with modern glass art sculptures by several different artisans from countries that include Sweden, France, Italy, U.S. and others.
We found a great place for dinner at Sobremesa – L & D: W-M, 4 ta Calle Poniente, 502 7832 3231
It was small and the draw for us was the art. Alex Ferrar, the owner, chef and principal artist (shown above) is a spirit.
We split a charcuterie plate and a bottle of Aliwen Carmenere. Dee started with a mojito that she deemed excellent.
At breakfast, we witnessed a smoking volcano. What a great backdrop.
One of our activities included a stop at a tile yard.
The bricks and tiles were made individually by hand. The volcanic clay was brought down from the mountain; water was added then worked with their feet to get the correct consistency.
After molding and resting they were fired in a wood kilm and sold for about $1 each.
A lot of travelers visiting Guatemala go to Lake Atitlan, the deepest lake in the western hemisphere, considered by the Maya as the home of the gods. It is surrounded by volcanoes.
On our trip the lake was not happy. Boarding was very tricky, and the crossing was a “why am I here?” event . We were lashed with water from above and below before it calmed.
Santiago was a part of this excursion where we saw vendors and churches as was San Antonio where we stopped to buy a chenille scarf from a local artisan.
The main reason we came to Guatemala was to visit Tikal. Tikal is the largest known Mayan site whose population at one point exceeded 100,000 inhabitants. At the very start we spotted a Toucan which our guide Pablo got a great photo.
About 15% of the area is excavated and restored, including Temples, palaces, an observatory, a ball court and housing for the upper class. The temples were created for the Mayan Kings and Queens.
The Mayan calendars were explained to us by Pablo, our guide. The calendars were accurate and complex.
The Mayan Calendar consists of three separate corresponding calendars, the Long Count, the Tzolkin (divine calendar) and the Haab (civil calendar). Time is cyclical in the calendars and a set number of days must occur before a new cycle can begin.
The Tikal site comprises 6 square miles with about 3,000 structures and flourished between 300 and 900 AD. Now its home to howler monkeys, macaws, toucans and wild turkeys.
At the completion of our tour we enjoyed a nice lunch at Tikal consisting of soup, lomo with grilled vegetables, tortillas, salsa and a local beer.
Until next time, best wishes and happy travels,
Dick & Dee Welge
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