Lost in Antigua
Getting lost in Antigua Guatemala is a tried and true tourist tradition. No matter how much you study the map, you are bound to lose your way here. This is not a problem unless you are a complete control freak and always operate as if you are on your way to a job interview. Get over yourself and just drop the expectation that you are easily going to get from A to B, and instead, enjoy a winding path to wherever it is you’re going. Yolkobsens have tried getting into a cab to avoid this issue, but found even some taxi drivers can be stymied by the city‘s layout. To their credit, most of them are pretty good about turning off the meter when this happens.
First thing to know is that the city is designed on a grids so it’s not like the streets curve to dead ends or jog over one road as is the case in many European cities and even some North American ones. So, the basic principle to grasp is that the “avenidas” (avenues) run north and south and the calles (streets) run east and west. If you lose your orientation, always bear in mind that “El Cerro de la Cruz,” Hill of the Cross is north and can be seen from many parts of the city.
Most tourist maps are of limited help because once you leave the avenidas and calles immediately surrounding the Central Park (Parque Central) there are no consistently reliable signs indicating what street you are on or whether you are now on the eastern or western end of the calles or in the southern or northern direction of the avenidas. Instead, you will find all the old names of the streets, which bear no resemblance to the names on your modern map.
The people of Antigua are very good about trying to help you find your destination.
“?Donde esta Iglesia del Carmen?” ”Where is the El Carmen Church?” It’s located on the 3rd avenida North, between the 2nd and 3rd calles. Though friendly, the locals will send you in the general direction of the sight you seek, but have long learned that a lengthy set of verbal directions to gringos doesn’t work. They know, as you will learn, that the best thing to do is ask the general direction and then ask another person and then another person until you arrive. This is a very pleasant way to spend the day as locals will likely ask you where you’re from and how you are enjoying Antigua Guatemala. Try that in Paris, mi amigos, and see how much conversation you get or how much closer you get to your destination.
But modern technology has found a way for you to avoid at least some of the pitfalls of navigating this 16th century town. Enter good old Google Maps. If you have access through your laptop or can find an Internet cafe (there are plenty in Antigua Guatemala) just do what you do at home. Yolkobsens have found this method to be about 80 percent correct, and often find that we still need to get into the “Donde” or where-is-it mode with Antiguans.
In Antigua Guatemala, technology will only take you so far when orienteering so this method is the best of both worlds. Click first and then talk and interact with real folks for directions. Pretty good. Either way, don’t be in a hurry. ”Tranquilo” is the byword of Antigua Guatemala.