BWhen leaving the Jesuit church, one of the houses of God lined with incredible amounts of gold, which the Spaniards left on the ruins of the Inca empire, a shrill wailing song blows through the alley and energizes the thin, soft evening air of the highlands. You can’t help but follow it. Sitting on a bollard, his hands in his lap, a boy, perhaps seven years old, smashing a Mariachi song from the depths of his lungs that his soul but his head still cannot understand: “La de la Mochila Azul” by the Mexican Pedrito Fernández , It’s about a boy who doesn’t get the attention of a revered girl because he can’t read. With a nod, the artist thanks him for applause and pennies and trudges wearily to his parents’ vegetable stall. The moon hovers in the blue of dawn over Quito Cathedral. A Kichwa woman offers scarves, beautifully traditionally colored, two for five dollars – since inflation in the late 1990s, Ecuador has been paying with US dollars.
“Look, a new art installation.” The artist Miguel Alvear points to the barbed wire that shields the portico of the government palace. A sardonic joke. Since the violent riots in October due to the rise in petrol and mass transit prices, respect for the government, which, whether left or right, is no different than corrupt, authoritarian and incapable, has fallen even further. Unfortunately, the number of tourists, as hotel managers say. In addition to Galápagos, Amazonia, palm beaches and mountain rainforests, the reasons for traveling to Ecuador are increasing. And right here, in the capital, Quito, which is known for unusual culinary delights like grilled guinea pigs and has recently had what it takes to become the new insider tip for biodiverse, ecologically conscious and delicious food.
Miguel Alvear grew up in Quito and remembers how in his childhood the Jesuit Church La Compañía, a showcase of the “School of Quito”, which merges Moorish, Flemish, Italian and indigenous influences, stank of piss because it was so dark that it was public toilet replaced. In 1978 the old town with Kraków was the first to be declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Nowhere else in Latin America have so many colonial treasures been preserved in such a small space. In his childhood, Alvear says, hundreds of families and artisans lived here, and now there are four rich families left.
Over there, next to the archbishop’s seat, the windows of the “Pekaraz” restaurant, where we had lunch, glow with a view of the cathedral and Mount Panecillo. We had a fabulous Locro, the typical Andean city soup made from corn and potatoes (there are 351 types of potatoes in Ecuador), wonderfully airy turkey with peach sauce and an aromatic cucumber and tomato salad that was refreshed with coriander and onions. A particularly fruity aji, the chilli sauce, with popcorn. A chocolate tart for dessert, fresh guava juice. Everything for 11.99. At the next table a group from the government palace. You can eat extremely well in Quito for little money. And outstanding from fifty euros.
Fifteen years ago, Jan Niedrau, once an asset manager in Hamburg, opened the “Zazu”, which is still the first address. The highlight of his tasting menu is the variation of a national dish, the ceviche. The otherwise densely stuffed fish cocktail comes here as a pink jelly with fine strips of fish, crumbs of corn, nibbles of bright quince orange emulsion and a thread of eucalyptus leaf. In the “Zazu” you can also try the most expensive chocolate in the world, To’ak, for which the Austrian Carl Schweizer and the American Jerry Toth tracked down the oldest trees of the finest cocoa variety Nacional and had them re-grown, in Laphroaig barrels or in to let fragrant sawdust from the Palo Santo wood ripen.