The two days we spent in La Paz were a unique and important addition to our understanding of Bolivia. La Paz is the capital of Bolivia with a metro area hovering around 2.3 million. It is also known as the highest capital city in the world at altitude of just under 12,000 feet. I was happy to learn about this fact because I was starting to get worried about my level of physical fitness after being winded going up a few flights of stairs.
The skyline is quite the sight to take in as the city is built into the mountains in a sort of bowl where downtown is in the center at the bottom, and the outskirts of town look down into the city center from above on all sides. I have never seen a city like that before nor have I seen driving as aggressive and dangerous. Pedestrians disregard oncoming cars, and signals seemed completely ignored as things devolved into a game of survival of the fittest. This combined with the incredibly steep hills drove the necessity to have your head on a swivel.
The city was not originally built to hold as many people as there are today and countless private buses drive along the street with signs of their planned destinations posted in the windshield and passenger windows. Passengers jump in an out quickly while the vehicles are still moving with no defined stops along the way. They function as buses but a large majority of the vehicles were large vans of varying age, color, and repair.
We spent the day walking the downtown area of the city in search of the Witches Market. A few streets were lined with these spooky little stores where women in traditional garb sold all kinds of herbs, remedies, and spells for every ailment under the sun. Also, available for purchase were prepackaged herbs you could buy in a box that promise wealth, fertility, virility, or relief from tension, or bipolar disorder to name a few - with colorful illustrations on the box that could be out of a 1950’s magazine. There were also dried stillborn llama fetuses hanging by the walls in the dozens. Apparently in the local tradition, buying and burying a miscarried llama fetus under the foundation of a new home will bring you health, protection, happiness and good luck. While it was all incredibly interesting to see, I was slightly relieved when it was time to leave.
We capped off our visit with an amazing dinner at Ali Pacha. The restaurant had great reviews and we decided to give it a try. What we didn’t know was that it serves an all vegan menu with multiple course food and wine pairings. For a pair of carnivores, it was the mark of an amazing restaurant that we enjoyed our meal as much as we did. This city in the clouds didn’t disappoint and we would highly recommend it to those who want to see a unique version of city living. // Jeff