Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Quito


I once read, that Quito is considered the most beautiful capital city of South America. Therefore, as soon as I knew I will be in Colombia, I was sure I had to visit Quito as well, which in the end lead to the decision to travel through Ecuador. Because, as I soon found out and you probably already read in my other posts, Ecuador has lots of beautiful spots, not just Quito. But nevertheless, I was really impressed by the capital.


To truly discover all the city has to offer, I took some more days for it is a quite big city. Normally, every city bigger than Vienna (1,7 mio inhabitants) makes me kind of uneasy because I am just not the big city kind of girl. I always feel a little lost, especially when I can't figure out the public transport (no idea how people here actually manage it), and too crowded because of all that people everywhere. But Quito has the advantage that it's shaped quite narrow and long and therefore when being somewhere, you are always guided by the mountains left and right limiting the space for buildings.


My first impression when just walking along the streets of the historic center was being stunned by its beauty. Unlike what I experienced in Cuenca, almost all the houses still were perfectly restored and really nice to look at. There were so many beautiful plazas and colourful buildings in typical colonial style, I walked around more than 5 hours on the first day and still discovered something new everytime I turned around a corner.


And everywhere there were churches, I guess there are even more than in the historic center of any austrian city - which is quite a lot. The most impressing one was the basilica, mostly because it had a different style than all the other churches. The basilica kind of set a limit for the historic center, not far behind the commercial center started.


So on my second day, I was accompanied by a friend I met on the Galapagos Islands who lives and workes here in Quito and offered to show me around. Therefore, he did not just show me the typical touristic spots but also where people who actually live in the city go to relax (which I always find most interesting). That was when I found out Quito consists of many many parks, most of them really huge and made to perfectly meet the needs of the cities inhabitants.


While many trees enabled you to relax in the shadow, there were not as many so you couldn't enjoy the sun as well. And the whole park was filled with leisure activites, like riding a pedal boat, doing sports on one of the various sports grounds or even visiting the botanic garden inbetween.



Additionally, there is of course the Teleferico (cable car) that goes on the nearest volcano at 4000m. From here people can walk up to the top of the vulcano on almost 4700m or simply enjoy the view over Quito that is indeed impressing, because it shows how the mountains around shape the form of the city and how much space would have been for a city just one valley farther.


I did walk up onto a certain point - now after so many days at this altitude and several hiking trips it became considerably easier to hike - but then the whole mountain disappeared in the clouds and I could hardly see the way so I decided after waiting whether it would clear again to better turn around. Which was a good choice, because on my way back it started to rain. It's really a pity that now when I finally grew accostumed to the height, I would soon leave it again and it probably would be my last vulcano hiking trip on this vacation.


Also quite special of Quito is the nearness to the Equator, which is just about 20km north of the city. Of course I had to visit the monument they placed on the point they measured the Equator in the 18th century after they proved the earth to be round. As you might imagine, these measurements were not exact and therefore they now know that the Equator is about 240m further in the north, but that doesn't diminish the feeling to be on both sides of the world at the same time.


But, to tell the truth, the wow-effect was missing. In the end it was just a yellow line on the ground used to pose for photos with the midad del mundo monument inbetween. The only difference I actually experienced was that the stars look different here. I still manage to find the "big dipper" constellation most of the nights, the only constellation I know, but other than that it does not seem familiar.


I now really understand why Quito is listed to be one of the cities attracting the most Europeans that want to escape the pressure to perform - it really is gorgeous (I just searched for a better synonym and did you know that "the cat's pyjamas" means great as well?). I even found my favourite place to be - as long as it's sunny - so maybe someday I will come back and visit this place again, and maybe then I will manage to hike on top of the vulcano! I do hope I get the opportunity someday.