Coban

Founded on August 4, 1543, Coban is the capital of Alta Verapaz district. Situated on 1,320 m (4,330 ft), and with around 100 thousand inhabitants, it is a very pleasant place, with nature resembling a bit to some parts of Europe. That is the secret of a strong German presence in this area since immigrants found Coban to be alike to the landscapes they were used to.

At the end of the 19th-century, Dr. Julio Rosal was proposing an opening of a botanical garden, as at the time it was very popular among bigger cities. It took them a while to find a proper terrain, in the end, it was donated for this purpose. The botanical garden was finally opened in December of 1922. At that time it was just a lot on the outskirts of the growing city, while today this garden is an island swallowed by the metropolis.

Botanic garden Guatemala City | Guatexplorer

An interesting fact is that some plants date from the time of the foundation of the garden. The general idea was not only to represent Guatemalan flora but also flora of the whole Central America. Today, the garden has around 1400 species on around 180 sq. ft. of the park. 80% of the plants are domestic while showing some species from other continents as well.

Botanic garden Guatemala City | Guatexplorer

Besides offering very nice walk among the plants (that becomes much better if you ask for a guided tour), the botanical garden of Guatemala offers two more important features. It holds herbarium, that was established in 1923. Also, Index Seminum was established in 1969 and exchanges information and seeds with some 300 botanical gardens in the world. Unless you are an expert, you’ll find to be less interested in that part. Nevertheless, visiting botanical garden (best to do in the morning after 8 o’clock) is an experience that can prepare you for further excursions around Guatemala, or maybe give you recapitulation of what you already saw.

 

Zone 1 is a mixture of older architecture that mirrors in many family houses, but also in the neocolonial style of the thirties and forties, in a brave modern architecture of the fifties and sixties, as well as some more contemporary architectonic experiments. Tectonic-architectonic combination.

But there was also Second World War that was not such a big news here. Guatemala remained aside and peaceful while most of the world had to take care of German and Japanese Empires. So, two architects, Rafael Perez de Leon and Enrique Riera, had a pleasant time and sufficient funding starting in the year 1940 to build Central Post and Telegraph Office on the corner(s) of 12th Street and 7th Avenue. Knowing that at the time the local boss was dictator Jorge Ubico it was obvious that this project would be huge and full of neoclassicism elements soaked in national pride and feeling of power.

Post Office | Guatexplorer

Post Office | Guatexplorer

Famous arch and the entrance to former Central Post Office of Guatemala

At the same time, Perez de Leon was involved in other large projects like Presidential Palace (today it is a National Culture Palace) and National Police building. Dictator and his architect, it sounds familiar. Nevertheless, Perez de Leon did his job very nicely and his golden era left notable buildings that are today even landmarks of the urban core of Guatemala City. If you walk around Zone 1, just ask where the arch building is, and there you are.

The arch was needed to connect two corner buildings of the Central Post Office. It resembles the one in Antigua Guatemala, but this one is much bigger and decorated with national symbols of Guatemala. Tourists can visit the building; today inside are many cultural organizations and there was still a place to leave the post office, where you can find some nice postcards. If you find yourself near, don’t miss this experience. After the visit, you’ll be a bit afraid to exit the building because you’ll think it’s the forties again. And that outside is dictator Ubico, still alive and well. But don’t worry, if this time machine place somehow throws you into the past, remember that revolution of 1944 is close. But, that’s another Guatemalan story…

Post Office | Guatexplorer

Post Office | Guatexplorer

Post Office | Guatexplorer

Post Office | Guatexplorer

But in last year more and more people with their dogs are taking over those closed streets; here you can see the taste of Guatemalans when it comes to dog breeds. They even offer you free dog training courses. It looks that behind the secured walls of family houses and apartments there is rich and vivid canine life that we never knew of. Until now.

Guatemala City | Guatexplorer

Pasos y pedales became the important part of the city lifestyle. It is important to be seen, but also a good opportunity to push some civil and political agenda. Although it is not genuine Guatemalan idea, people are grateful to the mayor of the city, Mr. Arzu, for this move. There are some other programs that he introduced into the public life that brought him popularity and reelection. Sometimes it doesn’t take a lot of money to make people happier and take the credits.

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Coban

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