Sucre & Potosí

Sucre

Sucre is one of the best places in Bolivia for Spanish lessons, which is why I seized the opportunity and stayed for three weeks in total in order to improve my Spanish. Apart from the occasional parade (and there is a lot of them in Bolivia) and a car race, there wasn’t really that much going on here which is probably why it is a good place for learning Spanish.

I chose Kultur Café Berlin (5,50€ / 50 Bol per night in a 8-bed dorm, incl. breakfast) as my place to stay which is a nice hostel with a colonial style, run by a German named Klaus, who emigrated to Bolivia a couple of years back after meeting his wife here in Sucre while he was passing through as a tourist himself. Apart from the hostel, Klaus also runs the Sucre Spanish School which offers private one on one lessons at a very reasonable rate of 5€ / 46 Bol per hour.

Apart from that, there really isn’t that much more to write about since the sole purpose of me staying in Sucre for three weeks were the Spanish lessons.

Potosi

Potosí is a three hour bus ride (1,65€ / 15 Bol one way) away from Sucre and claims to be the highest city in the world at an altitude of 4,090 meters above sea level. But apart from its altitude, Potosí is mostly famous for its former wealth during the colonial silver exploitation and once used to be South Americas most wealthy city.

To this day, the silver mines are still active, although most of the silver has been depleted, making tin the main product. What makes Potosí interesting for tourists is the fact, that it is possible to visit the active mines (e.g. with Koala Tours, 4h tour, 11€ / 100 Bol). Part of that money goes directly towards the miners (or at least the tour operator claims it does) and enables them to buy equipment such as electric wiring, dynamite and shovels.

Miners of all ages, from about 14 years up, are working under harsh conditions in order to earn about 6,60 – 11,00 € / 60-100 Bol per day. The polluted air with traces of arsenic and the tight mine shafts with a lack of security measures make it place you don’t want to work in. Over the centuries, the mines have claimed millions of lives either through collapses of the mine shafts or due to illnesses such as silicosis (Quartzstaublungenkrankheit) caused by the poisonous environment.

If you put aside the ethical aspects (e.g. children working in the mine) as well as the fact that the miners have to work under quite horrible conditions, the mines are definitely worth a visit and are quite interesting. At times the shafts are tiny and it is barely possible to squeeze through. Also, every now and then you have to jump out of the way of a mining lore (little cart with which the rocks are transported out of the mine) coming through.

Although the tour is neither flawless from an ethical point of view, nor hazard-free, it is definitely interesting and quite an experience.

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