October 2-3

I arrived yesterday in the late afternoon under dark skies and a persistent drizzle. I went to my hostel, walked into town, ate some food, came back. I didn't take a single picture because I didn't know what to make of it.

I didn't know what to make of it, but I woke up this morning feeling much better and had an excellent day.

I'm staying in the place marked by the yellow sign. As it turns out they did not have a room with both a bathroom and a window..one or the other, so I took the window since shared bathrooms don't bother me as much as a room without a window.

This place has a 91 rating on booking.com, almost perfect. It is definitely not almost perfect but it has it's charms mostly in its location and that the rooms for backpackers are spacious and comfortable.
I'm two blocks from the first of the two downtown parks. The guy at the hostel and a server at the restaurant last night were quick to point out how safe it was in Asuncion, 'not like Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires', two cities they both chose to mention without my having told them where I was going!
At the little café in the distance they were playing a lovely sweet instrumental version of Hey Jude. I could not help but sing along.

There were definitely a lot of trees around the downtown.
More of the park.
The old buildings were in general not so lovingly restored but interesting to look at.
On the right is the restaurant that might be the only restaurant I eat at while I'm here because it is fantastic.

Last night when I was in my funk I stopped here for some food because it was crowded and everything other people were eating looked so good and so unfamiliar. I got excited to eat everything on their menu.
These crocheted wonders are a craft that has stolen my heart. They come in many shapes and all in amazing colors but they are stiff and probably should not be folded or rolled. I really want some. What to do what to do.
I had a guide in the afternoon for a walking tour and learned about this mural. I'll tell about it later.
A line! Get in that line!
What you get at the end of that line. The guy was taking money and passing out the product. The component parts are a fresh fruit cocktail that was utterly scrumptious and a white and a brown half solid cream of some sort, I don't know what it's made of, but the combination was amazing.
I was to meet my guide here at the Panteón Nacional de los Héroes.

"In October 1863, the then president Francisco Solano López ordered the construction of the chapel of the Virgin of the Asuncion, which was designed by Italian architect Alejandro Ravizza, in collaboration with the builder Giacomo Colombino.

"But as a result of the War of the Triple Alliance, the building remained unfinished and scaffolded for over 70 years. Only after the Chaco War in 1936 was it possible to finish and it was inaugurated on October 12 of that year, to become by presidential decree the National Pantheon of Heroes."
The War of the Triple Alliance is a huge event it turns out, and one I don't remember knowing about. It was Paraguay versus Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina.

Paraguay did not prevail. From wiki "According to some estimates, Paraguay's pre-war population of 525,000 was reduced to 221,000, of which only 28,000 were men."

"The war ended with the total defeat of Paraguay. After it lost in conventional warfare, Paraguay conducted a drawn-out guerrilla resistance, a disastrous strategy that resulted in the further destruction of the Paraguayan military and much of the civilian population through battle casualties, hunger and diseases."

There was a changing of the guard here and I was chatting with their supervisor who told me about all his insignias.
Here's Belen. We had a great time!

Belen, a law student and delightful person, told me at the beginning that the tour included 12 sites.

1- Cabildo
2- Catedral Metropolitana
3- Ópera de Los López
4- Archivo Nacional
5- Plaza Uruguaya
6- Estacion Central de Ferrocarril
7- Escalinata de Antequera
8- Museo de las Memorias
9- Palacio Benigno Lopez
10- Casa de la Independencia
11- Palacio de los López
12- Bahía de Asunción

Belen at the Museo de la Estacion Central del Ferrocarril Carlos Antonio Lopez, the historical train station.
The first structure built by the Spanish when they came to Paraguay by river from Brazil..
On the plaza of the Catedral Metropolitana, this plaque is embedded in the wall.

Look at how happy that indigenous man is to be in the arms of that Spanish man.
The inside.
This was designed to be an arts center but it now serves as a block-sized location to pay your taxes.
Plaza Pública Uruguaya. According to Belen Uruguay was the only country of the Triple Alliance that came to Paraguay's aid after the war and hence the great affection for Uruguay as expressed in this park and statue.
In honor of a writer who was expelled from Paraguay and is now a national hero.
I don't remember but we walked up there and then around the neighborhood.
Walking along, a tree splits a building.
They were hosting the Qataris so we couldn't get past the gate.
The story on these murals: In August 2016, Asunción was the first non-Peruvian city to host LatidoAmericano, a Latin American festival for urban art.

"During the week-long festival, the artists worked passionately on the rediscovery of Paraguay. The end result is amazing: 44 murals in 40 different places, done by 35 artists from 12 different countries. Many different styles and techniques united by the spirit of Latin America and the mystic history of Asunción."
More from LatidoAmericano...
...and more from the same wall.

I told Belen that they need to do a Street Art Tour and tell about these great murals. No one else is doing it!
Belen and I ate at the same place I ate last night where we ordered three of the national dishes to share. I have a clip from the menu and will put it in here tonight...which I haven't done yet...
Aww, so sweet!

October 4

Here's a reminder of where Paraguay is in the world.
I changed hotels today for a place that has both a window and a bathroom. This is the view from my bed. Nice.
The whole downtown is sprinkled with these older buildings that you've seen many of from yesterday.
This looks like government workers painting a mural?
At the new hotel the guy at the desk and another guest who was chatting too, both recommended this steak place as the best meal in Asuncion, so I decided to go for lunch.

And yes indeed the steak was truly delicious, and I couldn't resist the big bowl of cheesy rice or the cassava fries, and red wine? Oh yes please, I'll have red wine.

After this meal I went back to my comfy hotel, looked out my big ol' window and slept until five pm.
October 5

I had a big tour today and it's taking time to get the pictures together. We went to the following places, looking at crafts, admiring views, and buying and eating snacks all along the way.

Luque; Areguá; Ypacarai; San Bernardino; Caacaupe; Piribebuy; Paraguarí; Yaguaron; Ita.
I organized a private tour for the day to get out of town and see a little more than just Asuncion. I agreed to go with Raul who only spoke Spanish because getting an English speaker would cost double. I got to practice Spanish and get some pointers too.

Our first stop is probably the most well-known, Luque, home to a long street of jewelry stores specializing in gold and silver filigree.
Between my two excellent tours and Wikipedia I have learned a lot. For example, mate, terere, and the difference between the two.

First I should mention Guaraní (pronounced Goo-a-rah-NI), is the name of and the language of the local people and the name of the money. The language is widely used and many Guaraní words are part of the Spanish vocabulary, including mate and terere.

So mate "is prepared by steeping dried leaves of yerba mate in hot water and is served with a metal straw from a shared hollow calabash gourd." People are drinking mate now from a metal cup with leather insulation.

And terere "is an infusion of yerba mate, similar to mate but prepared with cold water and ice rather than with hot, and in a slightly larger vessel." I've been seeing everyone drink terere out of uninsulated metal cups.

You just put the chopped yerba mate leaves into the cup, pour water over, hot or cold depending, and then drink the beverage through the straw. You can see the way the leaves get filtered out through the straw in the lower left.

Also notice the thermoses, large and small, found in every car and beside every person who is just sitting around. One drinks mate only in the early morning and terere all day long.
Luque is also a center of production of guitars and Paraguayan harps. The ones we saw were not of a high standard but it was just a stop on the side of the road.
Look Lilly, Piggiecorn!
It looks like the clay is fired, then painted, then lightly fired again or maybe painted with a shellac since it doesn't feel like a glaze - I'm not sure of the technique.

Should you want to buy something, the money in Paraguay is called the guaraní and because of inflation guaraní has a lot of zeros. One thousand guaraní is worth seventeen cents.
Those fancy crocheted pieces I showed before are inset into these dream catchers.

We didn't go to the town that specializes in them and I forgot to ask if we could go there, the lace is called Ñandutí and the town is Itauguá.
A view of the pottery street.
Areguá Church. Raul told a long story about the church but I didn't catch it all and I can't find details yet on the internet.
Lake Ypacarai. There's a whole genre of sentimental music the surrounds this lake - we listened to several of the songs on youtube.

I wanted to see the place shown in the video but no luck because in real life the lake has not been cared for and the pollution from up-stream factories is untreated. Raul was not pleased about this.
Areguá, the city of strawberries. I bought that tart and we ate it in the car.
There were these stands for about a mile down both sides of the road.

We stopped at this one for very yummy juice.
San Bernardino, founded in 1881 by German and Swiss immigrants and now a town of summer homes for the gentry of Asuncion. There are many German settlements in Paraguay having grown from the migration of escapees after WWII.

This is the other side of Lake Ypacarai that we visited earlier in the day.
We're walking up flight after flight of stairs and here they were taking pictures of each other. Me too!
Virgen de la Aparecida.
Who could resist? Not me.
"Caacupé is best known as the site of the Virgin of Caacupé, which is housed in the enormous basilica that stands in the center of the town", The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Miracles, created as a territorial prelature in 1960.
This was the good part.
On our swing out of town we pulled up here to buy more snacks, the ever-pressent chipa which started out as a doughnut shaped bread and the minced meat ball, I don't know the name yet.
We made a special stop to enjoy this waterfall...
...and then we chased off after this motorbike because there were four riders and it was our/my goal to find one.
Ita, the place of honey.

Here's Raul getting into the swing of pictures of people selling us food! These are a honey bread shaped like doughnuts.
Asuncion is not a big city but it has big city traffic problems. It took us two hours to get something like eighteen kilometers. It took Raul three hours to get home on this Friday night. Crazy, right?

I'm leaving at the crack of dawn to get to the bus station for the eight hour transfer to Puerto Iguazu in Argentina. I have to cross three borders - Paraguay to Brazil, Brazil to Argentina. I could have organized this more efficiently!

And Raul was outside the hotel waiting to take me to the bus station. He slept less than I did.
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