Well, it seems that way. From where I’m living in Cuenca, Ecuador, the El Centro (old historic district) is straight up. Come, walk with me as we head up to El Centro.
I live in a part of Cuenca called El Vergel, a popular area with expats and Ecuadorians. It is composed of commercial and residential buildings. Let’s start by walking a few blocks of the business district, walking past the ubiquitous MacDonald’s and crossing a 4-lane street. We then arrive at the relatively large Parque de la Madre. This park is busy day and night with individuals, families, and groups. We are likely to see a bunch of young kids playing games or running off their energy. There’s probably an adult exercise group of some sort. We pass by some venders, cross a street to the Tomebamba River. Cuenca has four fast-flowing rivers with walkways alongside.
We’ll cross a bridge which I call the Women’s Bridge. Everything in Cuenca has a name, but very few structures or streets have these names posted. This bridge has been painted on each side with the yearly number of reported abuses against women. It’s a sobering observation.
Now our ascent starts. We will climb 88 steps to reach the edge of El Centro. I do this several times a week (good exercise for the heart) to reach my part-time job at Carolina Bookstore, the only English-language used bookstore in Cuenca (the store also has growing Spanish language sections). At the top of this ascent, we land upon Calle Larga (Long Street) which runs along one edge of El Centro.
Now, if you would prefer a shorter climb, you can walk up river to the next set of steps, a mere 84 steps 🙂 which rise alongside the Selina Hotel. Further upstream is another set of actual stairs (uncounted for now) coming from Cuenca University (there are 3 universities in Cuenca) paralleling a curving road.
Reaching the top, we find the streets of the old town jutting out in a grid pattern. Easy to circumnavigate? Yes, if you don’t care to know which direction you’re going. This grid, sitting askew to much of the rest of the city, is likely to have been structured by the river below. Despite the traveling I’ve done, I am totally confused with directions here. I’ve been lost numerous times and have had to ask how to get where I want to go. I made the mistake of thinking my base street ran in one direction when, in fact, it ran the other direction. I continue to have problems rotating my directions by 45º.
Having reached “up top,” we’ll explore El Centro next week. Come back and walk with me through this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Fact: Cuenca is described as the most beautiful city in all of South America
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