I really pity the tourists whose only stop on their way through Peru is Machu Picchu and Cusco. They will get a completely distorted picture of this rich, vibrant country. Because Cusco, so praised and worshipped by many, turned out to be – sadly – a cultural bazaar where everything has a label “For sale” attached to it.
I walked along the ancient streets, passing the colonial churches and looking at the tourists happily buying another alpaca pullover or drinking another Starbuck’s coffee and I wondered – was I the only one that disliked Cusco? I have to admit – Cusco is beautiful. It has it all: the impressive colonial churches, old mansions, lovely narrow passages of San Blas. But, disappointingly, all this had nothing to do with the peruvian culture I’ve known for the last 6 months. None of the churches had their doors open, you always had to pay, and the lovely street of San Blas were full of trendy hostels and european-style cafes, where a tired tourist can get a muffin and a cup of cappuccino.
To be honest, nowhere else in Peru have I felt so uncomfortable as in Cusco. Travelling almost on a peruvian budget you start noticing things that an average US or European tourist does not pay attention to.
– The price of the hotel rises twice the moment the owner sees your blue eyes
– The Peruvians that you see travelling are Limenios that earn 5-10 times more than a school teacher in Cajamarca
– You cannot afford having a coffee in the center of Cusco. Actually, none of the Peruvians can, it costs as much as here in Germany or more.
– You cannot afford most of the restaurants.
– The main square of the city is usually its heart, where all the people sit around and chat. In Cusco the only Peruvians in the square are those that look for their chance to get some money out of gringos.
From above the clouds Inca Pachacutec looks down at this circus.