Cochabamba is a nice city where we stayed for several days in between trips to the nearby places (Toro Toro and Tunari National Parks as well as the ruins of Incallajta). What we loved most about Cochabamba was the food, including the best steak we'd ever had, served with an excellent sauce at the restaurant Paprika. The city also has a huge market (the largest open-air market in South America), with tens of thousands of stalls, which we had a look at when searching for a new pair of sandals for Radek. It took a while to find them, but it was well worth it - the sandals are comfortable and seem to be of very high quality.
Indeed it is possible to start sweating gravy and to shop till you drop in Cochabamba. To prevent succumbing to either fate, we decided to visit the Santa Teresa church and convent. For centuries, the cloistered Carmelite nuns would live here in chastity. The place is a bit dark and mysterious, with a church inside a church: they didn't have the technology to finish the cupola of the older church, so they just made a new one inside it.
|Santa Teresa convent|
The Palacio Portales (the palace of portals or gates) was another place we visited. This beautiful complex was built for the "tin baron" Simón Iturri Patiño and his family. While working as a miner during his youth, Simon I. Patiño discovered a very rich vein of tin, which allowed him to gain control of nearby mines, and later of the international tin market. For most of his life, he lived outside of Bolivia and his birth town Cochabamba, but was always planning to return there, and thus mandated the construction of the palace. Unfortunately, he died on the way there from Europe, and never lived in the house. At the time of his death, he was considered one of the wealthiest men in the world. His palace is now used as a cultural center.
|This pool at the Palacio palace has a glass layer inside - it's beautiful, but does not permit actual use of the pool|
We also really enjoyed visiting the archaeological museum of the Mayor de San Simón university, because our guide was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the various indigenous culture-related objects on display. We learned, for example, that some cultures used cranial deformations among people of higher social status - this was done by applying force to a baby's head.
On one of the hilltops in Cochabamba there is a huge statue of Christ. Cristo de la Concordia is a bit higher than the famous statue in Rio de Janeiro - 33 m and a bit, because Christ is said to have lived 33 years and a bit. We wanted to visit it, but I was not feeling very well, so Radek went to see it alone. He had some trouble finding the right microbus to take in that direction, but eventually found his way. We'd heard about robberies occurring on the stairs leading to the statue, so Radek bought a ticket to the cable car. However, there were very many people queueing for the cable car, which could fit about 25 people at a time. Once he'd estimated that he'd need to wait about two hours, and saw people walking up the stairs, he decided to risk it and followed them. With so many people there, he felt quite safe. The view from the top was quite good. After receiving some confusing information and some more waiting, he could also go up the statue and have a peek some small holes (10 cm in diameter) in the sculpture's sleeves.
|Cristo de la Concordia|
|The view from Christ's sleeve|
All in all, we loved the city. More photos of this wonderful place can be seen here.