Sunday, December 02, 2012

Two Views of Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, situated in the central highlands of Guatemala, was the country's third capital and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site for its Spanish colonial buildings and churches. Anitgua was hit by an earthquake in the late 18th century, and the buildings that didn't crumble were preserved by the fact of the government moving away and by economic decline.
 It is also noted, as are many places in Guatemala, for its textiles and other handicrafts. In addition, many people travel to Antigua to learn Spanish by the immersion method offered in private language schools.
By chance, I know two people who have been there recently but have differing views of the place. One enjoyed it, partly because he got a very good deal on a resort hotel. The other, who visited early in 2012 on a cruise stop, thought the place was beautiful but said the persistent merchants almost spoiled her experience.
Both these friends are Baby Boomers who live in Canada, but otherwise they are quite different. The male is tall and an old Guatemala hand with native-level Spanish. The woman is short and speaks only a smattering of Spanish.
The man said he hardly noticed the hassle of merchants, compared to what he has experienced in southeast Asia, where people on scooters drove him crazy. But he said his command of the language probably helped too.
Just goes to show that different people can have very different experiences of the same place. I can relate to the merchant hassle, having experienced it myself, particularly in Egypt.
Incidentally, my recent post on Jordan may have been ill-timed, since that country has been experiencing some unrest in recent days, especially in Amman. I suspect several governments have warnings about travelling there.
When I visited in 2003 Jordan was also on the danger list, so much so that I was told my travel medical insurance would not be honoured if I were to be injured or fall ill. I went anyway, and had a very good time. It is wise to be cautious, but too much worry about travel can keep you glued to your chair.


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