Text and photos by Rosanna Mancino, Vía Mía Blog
Among colors and textures, aromas and flavors, I discovered Cuenca´s charm in this small square implanted in a city that seems like it was embroidered by hand.
At one end of this cheerful square is the New Cathedral; and at the other, Carmen de la Asunción church, as if the two temples guarded the divine spirit that surrounds Santa Ana de los Ríos.
Discovering a city is much more than seeing the sights, taking photos and passing thru. You have to feel it and in order to get it, to connect with it. How? Personally I love visiting their traditional markets; that’s where I literally see, touch, smell, taste and feel every detail. It is in these places, which seem common, that I discover the essence of their people, the local products and their customs.
That’s how in Plaza de las Flores I discovered a lot about this city and its people. I understood their sense of aesthetics and how they manage to capture, in the big picture and in the small details, a delicate beauty.
It is in this small square full of flowers where I felt respect for tradition and was dazzled by its color explosion. It is in this corner of Cuenca, where their sensitivity for art and craftsmanship excited me; and the devotion and generosity of its people moved me.
The most flirtatious and colorful corner of Cuenca
Everything in this square is an explosion of sensations. I recommend that you open your senses and be conquered by the surroundings, the lights and flowers. Enjoy the intense colors, the variety of textures, shapes and fragrances that blend in perfect harmony and beauty.
I ask, I talk and I delight myself listening to the vendors, so kind and making jokes between them. I confess I also enjoy listening to their accent. Some are cholas cuencanas, distinguished by their two long braids and above all, because they still dress impeccably showing pride on wearing their typical costumes: a colorful embroidered skirt and a Panama hat.
Not in many places you can get lost and find yourself among hundreds of flowers and petals. During this walk I distinguished lilies, orchids, carnations, roses, nards, sunflowers and anthuriums, but that day I was looking for my favorites, lilies. Why? Well, it brings back memories of my childhood days in Loja, with my grandmother, in August, when she used to take me to the Cathedral and we left those flowers in the altar of who we called “our little great citizen”, the Virgen del Cisne.
Among the most beautiful markets in the world
I confess, this small and gracious outdoor flower market captivated me; and to its charm, tourists from all over the world have also succumbed.
As you can see in the pictures, it is not a coincidence that this colorful and fragrant square tops the top 10 of the world’s best outdoor flower markets, according to an article titled “Outdoor Flower Markets” published in National Geographic international magazine.
Among the destinations that this prestigious magazine also highlights are: Marché Aux Fleur, in France; Bloemenmarkt, in Netherlands; Campo Dei Fiore, in Italy; Adderley Street Flower Marker, in South Africa; the Phool Mandi in India, and Pak Khlong Talat in Thailand.
Curiosities: Agüita de Pitimás
If you are at the Plaza de las Flores, I recommend you buy and taste Agüita de Pitimás.
To understand what this traditional drink is about, our guide, Alejandro Espinoza, explains that its name derives from two languages: Quechua and Spanish: ¨Piti, means <little>; and más, <more>. So, pitimás is like saying <a little more>, give me a little more of that water¨ he concluded.
This is the beautiful name of a drink made by Carmen Monastery nuns with more than 50 different types of flowers. Rich, fresh, aromatic and full of promised endless benefits to whomever consumes it. It is good for your health and carries several medicinal advantages.
It is not produced, nor replicated, nor exported to any other place in Ecuador or the world. So, if you go to Plaza de las Flores do not miss your only opportunity to taste Agüita de Pitimás.
Are you willing to leave a piece of your heart in this gracious and fragrant corner of Cuenca? Do not leave without visiting it.