Cochabamba in the Heart of Bolivia

Located in the center of Bolivia, Cochabamba is a wonderful city to start an adventure in this diverse country. Like many cities in South America, Cochabamba has a history that was dominated by the Spanish and many of the buildings and churches date back to 1500’s. In addition to the city itself, Cochabamba is also an excellent location to launch several different short trips, including going to Carrasco National Park. Cochabamba is considered the gastronomical heart of Bolivia as well and was where we had our first taste of Pique Macho.

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Fountain in Downtown Cochabamba
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Templo de la Recoleta
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Dome in the Santa Teresa Convent
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Parrots Outside of Our Hotel
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Church Tower

There are several churches in Cochabamba, including the Metropolitan Cathedral, Iglesia Santa Teresa with its accompanying convent, and the colorful Templo de la Recoleta. The Santa Teresa Convent has been converted into a museum and is definitely worth taking the time to tour. In addition the churches, another noteworthy site to visit is the Palacio Portales, which is a mansion that was built by a local tin baron who actually never lived in the beautiful building. The palace also offers tours in both English and Spanish and is worth spending the time to visit and to walk around the beautiful garden.

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Courtyard at the Convent
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Walking the Hallways
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Metropolitan Cathedral
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The Main Square of Cochabamba
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Beautiful Church

One of the things that makes Cochabamba such a wonderful city to visit is that the temperatures remain spring-like all year long. There are several parks and squares in Cochabamba with beautiful flowers that take advantage of the moderate temperatures. Families come out to these common areas to play, relax, and walk through the open air markets that are located nearby. As is typical, these parks and squares feature fountains and monuments at their centers. To get better views of the city, you can take the cable car to top of San Pedro Hill where the Cristo de la Concordia overlooks the city.

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Colorful Flowers in the City
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Families in the Main Square

 

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Cristo de la Concordia
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Beautiful Park Downtown
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Colorful Building in Cochabamba

One of the day trips that we took out of Cochabamba was to visit the ancient ruins at Incallajta. Walking around these amazing ruins was truly amazing, especially due to the fact that we were able to walk all around this historic site without any other visitors. Making our day even more interesting was the discovery of an old Spanish church on the road to Incallajta that our guide had never seen before. At the end of the day, we went to the “ghost village” of Chimboata where we saw how truly difficult life can be for the rural people of Bolivia.

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The Ruins of Incallajta
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Ghost Village of Chimboata
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Ancient Spanish Church
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Santa Teresa Convent
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Walking Among the Ruins of Incallajta

We also took a two-day trip into the Amazon Jungle where we stayed at an ecolodge and had our first taste of the rainforest. We took what was called a canopy tour, which was really an afternoon of ziplining from the tops of trees across rivers and canyons. The following day we took a tour in Carrasco National Park that had us hiking through the jungle, climbing into caves with rare birds and bats, and seeing cocoa fields that were intruding onto the park lands. Driving from Cochabamba to our ecolodge was probably as interesting of an experience as seeing the park itself and would prepare us for our trip down “Death Road” later during our trip.

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Soaring Through the Jungle
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An Interesting Drive
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Getting Into Carrasco National Park
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Looking Out of the Convent
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Palacio Portales

With so many opportunities for adventure, Cochabamba is a wonderful city to visit in the beautiful country of Bolivia. The people are extremely friendly, although you will not find too many people who speak anything other than Spanish or Quechua. We spent about five days in Cochabamba, which was about the minimum amount of time if you want to take advantage of doing some day trips from the city.

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Unique Architecture in Cochabamba
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Condors are an Important Symbol in Bolivia
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Statue Outside of a Church
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View from San Pedro Hill

 

The Best of Bratislava’s Old Town District

The historic old town district in Bratislava, Slovakia is a fascinating area with wonderful medieval architecture. It is a very popular area for tourists as well as different artists selling their crafts or playing music. Like many other medieval cities where the city center was originally surrounded by walls, most of the walls have been removed to allow the city to grow, but some of the original walls remain as well as one of the original gates. St Martin’s Cathedral is also a dominant feature of the old town with its bell tower making it the tallest building.

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St. Martin’s Cathedral
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Walking the Cobblestone Streets
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Michael’s Gate
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Building with Part of the Original Wall
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Colorful Architecture

The wealthy citizens of the area all built their homes within the walls of Bratislava, each trying to show their prestige, which makes walking the streets of old town architecturally interesting. Michael’s Gate, or St. Michael’s Tower, is the only remaining entrance to the fortified city of the four original gates that previously existed. It is certainly one of the most recognizable features of Bratislava with its clock tower and it was the gate that future Hungarian kings would enter through while on their way to be coronated in St. Martin’s Cathedral.

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Looking Up at St. Michael’s Tower
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Walking the Path of Kings
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Schone Naci Statue
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Inside of St. Martin’s Cathedral
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Ornate Artwork Inside of the Cathedral

Like all cities in the region, the history of Bratislava is one of occupation from a variety of different conquering armies. Much of its history was under the rule of Hungary and for several centuries it served as the location where the kings of Hungary were crowned. There are crown emblems in the cobblestone streets that denote the path that the king would follow from his coronation to the celebration of the citizens. During this period, from 1563 to 1830, the kings were coronated in St. Martin’s Cathedral making this church an important location for both Slovak citizens as well as Hungarian.

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Historical Piece in St. Martin’s Cathedral
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Figurines on the Pews
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Interesting Features Inside of the Cathedral
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Walking Towards Michael’s Gate
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City Wall

In addition to the different buildings in Bratislava’s old town, there are also several statues and monuments that are worth seeing as well. Some of the most well known are the Watcher, which is a worker coming out of a sewer to look up women’s skirts, and the Schone Naci Statue, which is a statue of a former citizen who was extremely friendly and had a childlike demeanor. Crowds gather around these statues to take photos of themselves with them, which isn’t particularly our style.

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The Watcher
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Family Pews with Figurines
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More Artwork in the Cathedral
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Another Church in Bratislava
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Old Building in Old Town

We spent about three hours wandering around the streets of Bratislava’s old town and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The buildings are quite colorful and architecturally interesting making every street unique. Although there were quite a lot of people on the streets, we found our time in Bratislava to be quite relaxing and even bought a piece of art from an artist near the main square.

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Bell Tower of a Church Above the Streets
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Clock Tower in the Town Square
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People Walking in One of the Squares
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Monument in Bratislava
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Roof Inside of St. Martin’s Cathedral

 

The Cave Church in Budapest, Hungary

Located at the base of Gellert Hill, the hill that the Citadella (fortress) sits atop, is a system of caves. One of the caves was converted into a chapel in the 1920’s and even served as a hospital for the Germans during WWII. Known as the Cave Church, it was certainly one of the most interesting places that we visited during our time in Budapest. A cross on top of the hill denotes the location of the church, which is also located near the famous Gellert Baths where people gather to enjoy the therapeutic thermal baths.

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Altar Within Cave Church
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Seating for Religious Ceremonies
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Cross On Top of Gellert Hill
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Church Exterior Outside of the Cave
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Historic Artifacts
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Courtyard in the Church Exterior
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Intimidating Shadow

The atmosphere within Cave Church is interesting due to the lack of natural light and the rugged cavern walls. After its conversion to a hospital by the NAZI army during the war, it returned to serving as a church until 1951 when the Soviet Union had it shut down. The chapel was raided by the Soviet Army, the monks arrested, and the cave sealed up until Budapest regained their freedom in 1989. Today, the monks of the Pauline Order continue to operate the church and hold religious functions on the site as well as maintain it as a tourist attraction.

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Walking into Cave Church from the Entrance
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Hungarian Artwork
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More Art in the Cave
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Statue Outside of the Church
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Museum Display
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Flowers in Remembrance
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Main Altar

There is a nominal fee in order to enter the church and walking through the cavern will take you about thirty minutes to fully explore. In addition to the statues and artwork inside of Cave Church itself, there is also a small museum with additional historic artifacts. Exploring the church and understanding its history is certainly worth the effort of walking along the Danube below Gellert Hill. We combined it with our visit to the Citadella, which sits high above. It may not be the most well-known site in Budapest, but if your itinerary allows, we would recommend visiting.

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Ornate Confessional
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Statue Lit Up Against the Cave Wall
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Stained Glass Inside of the Cave
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Wood Carving in the Museum
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Painting in the Museum
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Wooden Statue Embedded into the Cave Wall