Me in front of the National Palace in Guatemala City
a 10-hour journey in an old american school bus, a nightly arrival in front of a locked hotel, a beautiful national palace and a conclusion about my time in Guatemala
Hecticness at the bus station
I found myself in the Terminal Minerva, a dusty, noisy, overcrowded central bus stop close to the city market in Quetzaltenango. The bus ticket salesmen already spotted me and all at once were asking me where I was going.
"Guatemala City," I said.
"Ah Guate!" - said one of the men
At the same time he already packed my big bag and ran off with it without my consent! The bus he ran to had already left the station. Now hurry, hurry! Get in! Get in! If you can't cope with so much hectic and chaos, you are strongly advised not to take a public bus in Guatemala!
The man had attached my big luggage on top of the roof of the bus and covered it with a tarpaulin, because there would have been no room for it in the interior. Under no circumstances should you put valuable things in a bag that you are not allowed to take on the bus. I met some travelers who had their cameras or laptops stolen from their luggage stored on the roof of the bus.
A nightmare trip to the capital of Guatemala
Next I was facing a five-hour journey on a Chickenbus without a break. A trip in such an old American school bus is something special. The engine was roaring. The cheerful music sounded from all sides. Again and again it honked when one car wanted to overtake another. Quiet moments are rare in these buses.
Anyone who wants to ride along, just stands on the side of the road, stretches out his arm and the bus stops for him or her. There are no scheduled stops. Locals get in with all kinds of things. They carry huge luggage with them, just to take it to the next village or to sell it at the market. Often they sell the things directly in the bus, get out after a few hundred meters and then drive back in the opposite direction and repeat the process. That alone makes a trip in such a bus quite exciting but also tedious.
At that time I had no idea that the trip would take much longer.
Not even half of the distance had been completed, the traffic came to a standstill and nothing was moving anymore. What had happened?
After about 3 hours without anything moving, I snapped up the words manifestación and maestro with my miserable Spanish. So teachers had blocked the main road in protest, like the teachers in Mexican Oaxaca. They dare a lot here, the teachers in Latin America!
At least I could use this time to take a leak, because there are no pee breaks or even a toilet on board of the bus, even if there were 5 hours scheduled for the trip as in my case.
Luckily for me there was a very nice young Guatemalan couple sitting next to me, who probably had a little pity for the poor German, who again was lacking in food. They generously gave me some of their food.
Arrival in a dark, lonely alley
Of course the traffic jam didn't suit me at all, because that meant that I would arrive in the city after dark and as I meanwhile knew, this rarely ends well. In addition, most tourists avoid Guatemala because it is not only considered a Moloch, but also dangerous.
The journey had already taken 10 hours, twice as long as originally planned. Finally we reached the capital, which is located in a high plateau, surrounded by mountains, at an altitude of about 1500 meters. The climate is somewhat more pleasant than that of the previous cooler city of Quetzaltenango.
The first real picture I remember of the city is that of a half-dead drug addict lying in the middle of a busy sidewalk and people simply marching past him without sympathy. Welcome to Guatemala City!
I asked a Guatemalan girl on the bus if she could help me book a taxi so the taxi driver wouldn't fool me. This time I had booked a hotel room in order to be able to sleep in quiet. My hotel, the Hotel Estacion Gerona, is among the most affordable hotels in town.
The taxi driver dropped me off at the correct address and told me that the city was indeed quite dangerous, especially the area around my hotel. That probably also explained the cheap price of my hotel haha
All I found at the hotel was a barred metal door. I tried knocking and shouting, but nobody opened it for me. I cursed and thought about what I could do. I did not have an address of another accommodation or internet to search for one. And the dark deserted street didn't seem like the best place to stroll through with my huge backpack.
I asked some women who just happened to be passing by, but they just ignored me. After waiting for minutes, someone finally came. It was the boss of the mini hotel and he opened the door for me. By the way, there was also a bell a little further out, but I had probably overlooked it in my stupidity and in the darkness.
In my life I have rarely met such a friendly person as this Guatemalan hotel manager. He really did everything possible to make my stay pleasant. He showed me on a map the most important sights of the city and he described to me where I could find something to eat in the evening and that I should not worry about the security. At the same time he told me that he had already been mugged three times here and had to hand over his mobile phone to the criminals.
Who cares, my hunger drove me foraging. Not far from the hotel there were the small stands with street food at a low price, so typical for Central America.
Satisfied again, I reached my hotel. It was nice to have some privacy again. The hotel did not accommodate many people. Many stay, like me, only for one night. And the hotel was perfectly adequate for that. Everything was fine, with the exception that some insects gave me some very itchy stings that night.
The beautiful part of Guatemala City
The next day I only had a few hours left in the city because I wanted to go to El Salvador at noon. The hotel was located about 30 minutes walk from the main attractions of the city.
I liked Guatemala City better than I thought, also because it felt more authentic than the other cities. Finally no tourists!
The passage to the National Palace was beautiful to look at and could easily be seen anywhere in Europe. In the large square in front of it, an enormous number of pigeons gathered. There, the Guatemalan flag proudly fluttered in front of the National Palace. Beautiful!
I wanted to buy an ice cream from the ice cream man there, but he didn't have enough change to be able to change a bill of the equivalent of $10. That made me realize again how few money the people there actually have.
I went back to the hotel to get my things. The hotel manager helped me again to find my bus to Santa Ana in El Salvador. Obviously, only a few tourists visit my next country. Many tourists avoid El Salvador completely because it is considered to be one of the most dangerous countries outside of war zones. After a few phone calls he found the correct bus and organized my taxi to the bus station, where I got on the bus to El Salvador a little later.
Conclusion of my stay in Guatemala
All in all I can recommend to everyone to visit Guatemala. The country offers a lot for a good price. Some of the highlights are:
the colonial Antigua with the picturesque volcanoes in the background
the huge Mayan ruins of Tikal, its extraterrestrial scenery and its many animal inhabitants
the colourful and huge market in Chichicastenango
the many and good Spanish schools
the many adventure possibilities whether in the jungle or on volcanoes
For me personally, Guatemala left me a little disappointed. Unfortunately it was rainy season in Guatemala, so some of the sceneries lost their beauty and I didn't want to do the planned volcano ascent. In general I had imagined the climate here to be more tropical, as it is in the north of the country, but the south of the country (with the exception of the Pacific coast) has an almost cool climate, so that I caught a cold right away. I also found the high number of disrespectful party tourists somewhat repulsive.
The misfortune pursued me here probably like in no other country of my journey. As soon as I arrived, things went wrong. Even when I returned to Guatemala just a month later to take a plane, the next misfortune happened and I missed my flight. I don't even want to know what would happen to me if I come back again.