Christmas in Guatemala

It has been a wonderful Christmas this year – I have been celebrated Christmas all three evenings before the actual Christmas day.
On the 23rd of December I started celebrating on the afternoon with Luis in his restaurant together with Jeremia, who own a good Sushi restaurant on 6th Avenue. After three Cuba libres at Luis restaurant we enjoyed an amazing dinner at Jeremia’s restaurant. Sushi prepared by the chief and main chef of the restaurant for us. I’ve already enjoyed a lot of Sushi in my life – but with no doubt this Sushi won my personal first price for the best Sushi ever! =)
After many more Cuba libres, Luis and I stopped by the grand opening of the new Riley’s bar and I finally got back home around 2 am in the morning. ;)
As that night has been awesome, we decided to repeat it on the following night, celebrating the official Christmas party for all restaurant workers. Again we enjoyed the world’s best Sushi and laughed much by drinking many Cuba libres. At that point I have to mention that the Cuba libres in the Caribbean are way better than anywhere I’ve been so far. Might help to know some good chefs over there, who know everything about food and drinks combined with their personal secret formulas ;)
24th of December, the actual Christmas evening in Austria, I celebrated together with my sweet girlfriend. After a busy day of sightseeing and shopping, we visited the family of her sister and enjoyed eating the traditional Christmas food “Tamales”. It’s kind of sweet or a little bit salty stuff with chicken, rice and corn covered in banana leafs and cooked. I more preferred the salty version, as chocolate and chicken isn’t a usual thing to mix for me. Still I have to say honest, chocolate and chicken taste much better than it sounds at first. =P
And later on my girlfriend and I enjoyed spending our Christmas evening privately together. =)

visiting all Guatemala’s tumulos

My girlfriend and I just returned back to Antigua after a very interesting round trip for the past days.
It took us actually quite a time to start on Saturday 18th of December off to Panajachel. When we reached the Lago Atitlan, it has already been night. Close our goal we had to depressingly find out that the last road has been closed due to road constructions. Facing the fact that we won’t make our way this night to Panajachel, we drove back to Tecpan were we enjoyed the night in our favourite hotel. On the next morning we enjoyed breakfast in the secret hidden restaurant El Pedregal close Tecpan in Santa Apolonia.
When we entered the restaurant I’ve been amazed as suddenly somebody jumped up and called me by my name. First I couldn’t trust my eyes – it’s been my friend Javier I’ve couch surfed at, about one year ago in San Salvador, El Salvador. He has been born in Guatemala and told me, that he is now working again as architect in Guatemala.
After a very delicious breakfast we continued our way. Our goal was to reach Xetulul in the evening.
As I met my new friend Jorge in the airplane on my way to Guatemala, I used the chance to convince my girlfriend to stop by at his town in Huehuetenango. Well, we didn’t know at that point that his town is off the road for a total of 4 hours … =P
We gave him a call and after a loooooong drive, we finally ended up in Huehuetenango, were we met my friend to talk with him for about 20 minutes. He offered us a hotel room and it would have been great to spend more time with him, but in order to fulfil our time schedule we had to move on. Well, moving in Guatemala is quite a challenge. On the big streets you can still only go a maximum of 60 km/h, as people living and walking right on the street all along the way. As it’s already a challenge to not hit some people or get hit by any of the other crazy driving cars, another big trap are the many tumulos – in English: bumps on the road. Many of them are unmarked and very hard to see in the night. I would say at present my most spoken Spanish phrase is: “¡ten cuidado – tumulo!”
So we drove another 2 hours through the black night to get back to Quetzaltenango (Xela) where we stopped at Pizza Hut for a nice dinner. We decided to keep going from there and 1000 tumulos later reached IRTRA by 1 o’clock am.
We planned to stay in a very special hotel, my girlfriend already got good experience with. But badly we had to find out that the hotel was overbooked and so we had to stop by a different hotel.
IRTRA is kind of a DISNEY-land, separated in a water- (Xocomil) and an entertainment park (Xetulul).
On the next morning we enjoyed the Xocomil water park, which got amazing water slides. To get a picture of the fun in Xocomil I recommend to follow this link. In the night we enjoyed a big dinner at Pollo Campero in Mazatenango and spent the night in the Hotel del Sol.
On the way between our hotel and IRTRA we passed a few times a big sugar factory. It’s been amazing to see, how the big trucks bring the sugar-cane to the factory. Around that place you can taste it in the aroma of the air, that they are producing sugar. And of course the Coca-Cola factory isn’t far from their too. ;-)
On the next morning we enjoyed the entertainment park of Xetulul, offering many roller coasters.
We finished our fun tour around 5 pm and started our way back to Antigua, Guatemala. After a looooong drive back and many tumulos more, we arrived glad in Antigua on Tuesday 21st of December around 10 o’clock pm.
It’s been a very adventurously and interesting round trip, which clearly showed me a new picture of Guatemala and it’s many tumulos! =)
Check the following Google Map, to see where we’ve been around.

3rd day in Antigua

Actually we were thinking about leaving on our third day for a small round trip in Guatemala. But as we got up very late again, we decided to postpone our round tripe to the next day.
We enjoyed lunch in a small restaurant and decided to walk to Santa La Cruz where we’ve taken some amazing photos.
On this day a palace opened ceremonially at the central park, after they have renovated it for many years. It’s been destroyed in the past trough a big earthquake and now forms a new tourist attraction in Antigua. We decided to listen a few minutes to the vice president talking about this building and decided to take dinner at Cafe Condesa, which is located as well right at the central park.
Later on we enjoyed a sweet chocolate-banana Crepa at a new place also located at the central park and made our way back home.

2nd day in Antigua

Again we got up very late and enjoyed breakfast at home. Before lunch I tried to fix my girlfriends notebook and took it totally apart. I found the problem and glad fully could still make it running after building it together again. =b
Still her notebook is broken and only works by performing a special trick.
As crazy as it sounds, because the thermal conductance paste got a problem and you can’t change it as the central processing unit is fix integrated in the motherboard, you can only turn the computer on, after you put him for 15 minutes in the fridge. Do never try this trick at home – and definitely make sure to take off the battery ;)
Later we enjoyed lunch in a small restaurant for Crepa and been walking a lot around in Antigua for the rest of the day. We’ve enjoyed a wonderful tea break at Cafe Condesa combined with “the best” tres-leches cake ever! =)

Back in Antigua, Guatemala

It’s been one year, since I’ve left Antigua last December. My first review after my return – it has changed a lot to the positive. Clearly I could recognize, it has become much cleaner and also seems a bit safer. The government of the city brought up many new rules, which make living in Antigua more comfortable and attractive. They set up new laws like only horn signals in case of an emergency situation for all cars including the Chicken-busses. They also shut down all the alcohol selling places and set the closing time for restaurants to 1 o’clock in the morning. In case you want to sell alcohol in your restaurant or bar, you will need to get a new license, for which you have to fulfil some new rules like at least two CCTV cameras in your store. In my eyes that’s a bit extreme, as I’ve already been at many places including my home town, where alcohol laws aren’t as strict and still we don’t have big problems due to alcohol. Combined with the fact, that very strict alcohol laws in the USA still couldn’t solve violence problems, I think there are better ways to go. I’ve been talking with my friend Luis who owns a small restaurant in Antigua. Their main business wasn’t selling alcohol, still they are going to lose a part of their sales due to the new law. On the other hand the electronic industry, especially for CCTV cameras, will profit a lot. ;-)
I’ve been told that they are going to set up big CCTV cameras on all couple of corners to keep a better eye on the city. From my trip to Liverpool, Great Britain I know that the extra CCTV cameras do not bring any more safety into the city and I’ve read, that statistics show they don’t even help by reconnoitre crime. How ever it’s good to see progress in this city! =)

My first day in Antigua has been very relaxed. My girlfriend and I were sleeping long into the day. Later on my girlfriend had to organize some stuff and I used the situation to visit my friend Luis in his restaurant. After lunch with my girlfriend at Pollo Campero we started the project “let’s buy shoes for Sebastian”. I’ve decided to use the opportunity to buy very nice leather shoes in Guatemala as shoes in Europa are usually very expensive. My plan was to buy 3 or 4 pairs of shoes, which will be produced to fit exactly on my “Donald Duck” feet. Well, to be honest I’ve expected the process of buying shoes in Guatemala to be a little bit different. Like everything in Central America buying shoes happened very relaxed – “very relaxed” ;-)
It took us pretty much two hours to order the shoes, including very interesting conversations, many jokes and many short breaks, as the shoe store also sells lottery tickets. Every 10 minutes some people stopped by the shop, we’ve done a short break and the chief of the store looked up in a special news paper, if that person has won some money.
We even got such far with our conversations to find out, that the chief of the shoe store is the father of the doctor, who helped me last time I’ve been sick in Antigua. He is already producing shoes since 50 years and if he does his job as good as his son, I’m looking forward a lot to the final result.
After 2 hours I’ve ended up ordering 6 pairs of shoes.
Because of possible problems running through costume control in Europa , I decided to not take real crocodile leather for only € 5,- extra. Even they for sure wouldn’t kill the crocodiles only for my shoes. ;-)
Later on we went a bit shopping in Antigua and enjoyed dinner at home.

crocodile

Arrived good in Antigua, Guatemala

I’m sorry for the few very fatal English mistakes in my last post.  Typing on my iPhone after an eleven hours flight in Costa Rica, losing the bad WIFI connection all couple of minutes, wasn’t the ideal situation for posting some correct English. ;-)

… coming back to the point I had to hurry up typing to get on board of my next flight to Guatemala.
They rebooked me on a later flight, as the eleven hours flight from Madrid to Costa Rica has been 50 minutes delayed.
The eleven hours flight actually started already delayed, as we had to wait ready for take-off 30 minutes long on the airfield, until we finally got permission to start.
I actually got a window place, but decided to change it with a small boy, for who it has been his first flight in a big airplane.
At all the flight has been okay. I’ve been talking with the French family of the small boy quite a lot and could glaze with the three French phrases I know. (“Bonjour”, “Merci” and of course the most important “purée de pommes de terre” ;)
Actually Iberia organized the re-booking quite good. As soon as I got out the big airplane, someone informed me about the re-booking and hand me over the new tickets.
Still it would have been nice to get a little bit more information on the big flight itself. There been quite a lot of people with connection flights and we all worried, as the staff in the airplane couldn’t give us any information about our connections.

Finally in Costa Rica I glad fully found an open WLAN spot, connected with my iPhone and called my girlfriend over Skype, to inform her that I would arrive later than planned.
The following flight with the Copa Airline has been very nice. I’ve been talking a lot with Jorge from Guatemala. He is a really cool guy! =)
After a short flight (compared to the long eleven hours one ;) we finally arrived at 7pm local time in Guatemala where my sweet love was already waiting for me at the airport.
After a 30 minutes drive we arrived good in Antigua, Guatemala. =)
First impression of Antigua, since it’s been a year ago I’ve left the city, will be published in my following post! ;)

Transfer stop in Costa Rica

Last night I’ve arrived on time in Madrid, where David picked me up from the airport. We enjoyed both a few drinks in an almost empty bar on a cold Monday night. Still the empty bar couldn’t stop us from having a very funny and interesting conversation – my friend David is definitely a cool guy! =)
As he got a job application meeting on the following day, we went to his flat around 2am, where I’ve enjoyed a short but very comfortable 6 hour sleep in his guest room.
Same day at 8am we got up and started our way to the airport after a very delicious breakfast.
Short version, as my plan is starting the boarding: the flight over the Atlantic got 50 minutes delayed, which made it for me impossible to get my connection flight. Iberia rebooked me now over flight, now leaving two hours later to Guatemala.
More news later! – SEBI from an open WLAN at San Jose, Costa Rica =)