Introducing Antigua Guatemala
As we continue to explore our extraordinary world, our senses become increasingly attuned to the small details permeating any given location. We not only see a new landscape but also recognize it, identifying traits and atmospheres from old treaded paths.
Recognition is suddenly traipsing in front of discovery’s footsteps, leading to a surge in sentences such as “This reminds me of…” or “That … looks exactly like the one we saw in…”, ultimately providing most voyages with a sense of, if not déjà-vu, at least eerie familiarity.
Stepping into Antigua, a charming city in the central highlands of Guatemala, we were immediately reminded of one of our favorite spots in Mexico – the lovely San Cristóbal de las Casas, where our initial plan of staying for one week turned into 3 months of chocolate, alternative cinemas, coffee tours and all the little moments brightening days and nights spent meandering through quiet corners and bustling markets.
Antigua’s vivid colors, cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, vibrant gastronomy and stunning geography made it, at least in our eyes, seem like a more polished version of San Cristóbal. However, soon other places were joining the mnemonic fray: Mérida, in the Mexican Yucatán, and a couple of surprising apparitions, such as the villages around Mt Fuji in Japan and the city of Porto, in Portugal.
This geographical avalanche had a surprising effect: Antigua felt like home, which to us seems to lie at the vortex between nowhere and everywhere. Old shops, smelling of wood and sugar, reminded us of childhood errands and endless summers, whereas the clouds shrouding the magnificent Volcán de Agua rising on the southern side of Antigua made our steps sometimes echo the ones we took during our days in Japan.
Distant past and more recent journeys coalesced into a mad yet strangely affecting patchwork of smells, impressions and sun-soaked glimpses into a near-forgotten time and a personally constructed place.
Every beautiful ruin, every turn of the head southwards, every misplaced step in the cobblestone maze, every whiff of bread leaving the oven on a sunny early morning, every flicker of light in a warm night, every sudden recognition of an ancient sight from a faraway land, every touch of a wall steeped in history and dust have made our days in Antigua a constant stroll through a plateaux of mirrors – we recognize versions of our world and ourselves, but they are only reflections of a life spent traveling, in years and in strides.
At least for now, Antigua Guatemala, the ancient city surrounded by fire and water, shaken by devastating earthquakes but never entirely abandoned, beaming at dawn and scintillating at dusk, is home. We can only smile in appreciation and continue to wander, lost but also found.