Completely unlike the capital, and only a fraction of its size, Guatemala's second city, QUETZALTENANGO (XELA), has the slightly subdued provincial atmosphere you might expect in the capital of the highlands. Bizarre though it may seem, Quetzaltenango's character and appearance is vaguely reminiscent of an industrial town in northern England – grey and cool with friendly, down-to-earth inhabitants. Ringed by high mountains, and bitterly cold in the early mornings, the city wakes up slowly, getting going only once the warmth of the sun has made its mark. The main plaza, heavily indebted to Neoclassicism, is a monument to stability, with great slabs of grey stone belying a history of turbulence and struggle. The heart of town has the calm order of a regional administrative centre, though things deteriorate as you head away from the plaza, with thick traffic and fumes blighting the highland air, particularly around the main bus terminal. Locally, the city is usually referred to as Xela (pronounced "shey-la"). Meaning "under the ten", the name probably a reference to the surrounding peaks.