February 11 - 13, 2005

While Honduras is a beautiful country, as we´e said, it is also a pretty rustic one in general.  After several weeks of low end backpacking, it was nice to land in Copan Ruinas.  The town is essentially a very quaint and attractive collection of hotels, shops, art galleries, restaurants and other services built to take care of visitors to the Copan Archaeological site, which is 5 minutes away.  The town also seems to have a pretty robust population of European and American students studying abroad.  Having said this, however, it still impressively manages to avoid "San Miguel Allende" syndrome, in that it has not become so overpopulated by American ex pats that you literally hear more English than Spanish on some of the streets.

A few nights before, Pat and Stacy had scoped out hostel Via Via for us, which was pretty cheap, but was a very nice place and had a great attached restaurant with some of the best liquados and breakfast we have had yet.  The town itself is prosperous, with cobblestone streets, a great central plaza, interesting architecture,and very friendly residents who don´ t seem to have become too annoyed with tourists yet.  However, we´re sure they will be in 10 years; a la most of Costa Rica. Oh, by the way, if you ever make it here, make sure to have dinner at Carnitas Nia Lola and have the brochettas, which are essentially Honduran style shish ka bobs cooked on an open grill.  Incredible!

As for the ruins themselves, while they are not the most impressive example of Mayan pyramids (go to Tikal in Guatemala . . . more on this later), the site contains an unbelievably beautiful colelction of "stelae," which are 10 foot high stone carvings of each of the respective Mayan kings in Copan between 300 and 820 AD. The detail is very impressive, as is their preservation in light of the fact that they have been standing outside for 1200 to 1700 years.  The site also contains very eerie, but very cool, stone altars where both animal, and human (at least under the final king, who married an Aztec) sacrifices were offered.  Moreover, the entire history of this Mayan city is fairly well preserved in a "Heiroglyphic Staircase" which is about 5 stories high.  Finally, and perhaps the most unique part of the ruins is the "Ball Court" which is nearly perfectly preserved and served as the stadium for a popular Mayan sport. Teams from neighboring cities would compete in a game where the object was to keep a large ball on the stone sloped sides and stop it from falling into the grassy center.  And, in what we though was a strange twist, the winning team´s captain got to be sacrificed after the match. That´s right, first prize was death.  Not sure what happened to the losers.  Our guide spoke decent english, but not that decent, and he seemed to answer every question with a "yyyeeeeeeeesssss" response, though often times we would realize later that the answer to our question was not, "yyyeeeeeeesssss."  Anyway, it a great place, and worth checking out, especially with kids.
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