Wow - What a Big City You've Got! All the Better to get Lost in :)
Mexico City Travel Blog› entry 21 of 21 › view all entries
We got the early bus from Oaxaca to Mexico City, getting in late in the afternoon. We made our way on the metro system to a central station near the Mexico City Hostel, which had good reviews. First impressions are quite impressive, however the dorms (or at least the dorm we ended up in) was cramped and cold, plus the bathrooms for ladies and gents were on alternating floors. The hostel is massive and just didn't have a very warm and friendly feel to it. We stayed for one night.
After grabbing some food we wondered around the main square which was dolled up in garish Christmas decorations.
The following day we moved to the hostel - Los Amigos - much smaller and friendlier, we even managed to get a private room for the three of us for our first night there.
After the museum we went back to the cinema as the movie - Avatar had just come out on 3D and we were keen to catch it. I know it has been said a million times already - including by myself - but what an awesome movie. I really enjoyed it immensely and had a moment of wanting to become a Navi.
There are many free walking tours you can join through the hostels in Mexico City, and Los Amigos had a City Walking Tour which we decided to go on. Our first stop was the very first hospital of the Americas, built in 1524 - Hospital De Jesus. Our guide - Monica - talked us through the mural painted in the hospital during the 60's to record Mayan culture and how it integrates with the land, and how it changed when the Spanish arrived. As we were walking around Monica pointed out a random sculpture, which was once part of a Mayan temple and now formed part of one of the more modern buildings. Monica explained that this type of incorporation of Mayan sculpture happened often post the destruction of the Mayan temples.
From the hospital we walked to the main square - Plaza de la Constitucion, to visit the Palacio Nacional, where Monica showed us the murals painted by Diego Rivera - Mexico's history... very political and confronting. At the Palacio Nacional Monica also explained how Mexico City is sinking, as the area that the city is built on was once a lake with lots of islands, she explained that when the Spanish conquered the area they bought with them disease and in order to help combat the spread of disease they filled in the water ways. The land was filled in with destroyed Mayan ruins and general rubble, so the ground was not solid and compact when they built on it.
The murals were fantastic, first depicting the struggles of the Mayans against the Spanish, through to the modern day struggles of the local peasants. Diego makes a particular point of depicting the Catholic Church as a prostitute - i.e. collecting money from the poor who have nothing themselves, only to find that money is being distributed by the Pope to other aristocrats. We were at the murals for some time, as they main mural was so large and needed to be viewed in three sections, in addition there were other smaller murals around the Palacio Nacional which Monica talked to.
Our guide - Monica, made an interesting comparison between the physical similarities between the Mexicans and the Asians, noting that they both have very similar genetic codes to those of the ancient Mongolians. Monica also highlighted that the backs of their heads are flat, whereas Europeans tend of have more rounded heads - which she demonstrated on one of the guys in our group. Monica also explained that when the church was introduced by the Spanish, they used a plain cross without Christ - because the number 4 is symbolic to the Mayans and the cross has effectively 4 points. Furthermore, when they did introduce Christ he was made of darker or stained wood to represent the local population.
Once we'd finished viewing the murals Monica told us about the cactus gardens at the back of the Palacio Nacional - which were worth a quick visit.
From here we headed back out to the plaza and made our way over to the Plaza Templo Mayor, which was accidently unearthed when works were being done to try and rectify the sinking of the surrounding buildings - highlighting clearly how once the Mayan temples stood in the place of the modern day Mexico city. Apparently this is where the Mayans are thought to have seen their symbolic eagle with the snake in its mouth standing on a cactus - they believed this was the centre of the universe.
Our next stop was the Grand Catedral Metropolitana - as impressive as any European cathedral. The main organ in the cathedral was donated by Spain.
In one section of the cathedral was located a stand covered in padlocks and written messages - gossip and secretes. Monica explained that every day people come to the church to leave a note about the gossip and/or secretes that someone else is sharing about them. They then attach a padlock to help close that person's mouth to stop them from gossiping. The locks and notes are cleared at the end of the every day, and every day the stand fills right back up!
We then walked passed the oldest pastry shop in Mexico City before stopping at a little quesadilla stand for lunch.
Our last stop was the most amazing Pasteleria ever! The designer cakes were incredible to look at, but then the actual pastries, breads, cakes and cookies were to die for! It was most definitely like being kids in a candy store, wanting one of everything. I used my restrain and settled on a chocolate muffin and some evil cake covered in chocolate, topped with custard, which looked like it could be almost as big as my head :).
We ended our epic day with a group trip out to watch some Lucha Libre - Mexican wrestling. Our guide was the crazy bar owner from the hostel - Jerry, who poured tequila down everyone's throats before we headed out.
For my last day in Mexico City we decided to mission to the floating gardens (i.e. the Embarcadero Belem), which are just outside or on the edge of Mexico City itself. Mexican families tend to go to the gardens for a day out, as you can hire a boat and bring your own food, or buy your food and drink from local sellers on the canals. I guess a bit like a floating picnic. Well, we joined forces with some other gringos, to keep the costs down, and enjoyed our hour and half ride along the canals. We floated past loads of mariachi bands playing for parties, or anyone really who wanted to listen.
After the floating gardens we decided to find these Christmas markets that Maree had heard about called 'Fusion', which turned out to be less of a Christmas market and more of a local artists crafts market - not much in the way of knickknacks. We therefore decided to head back to a cool market we'd stumbled on the day before, called the Centro de Artesanians La Ciudadela. I spent money... I bought a cool silver ring with amber stones. I even did the test that Monica had told us about i.e. how it doesn't heat up that quickly if it's real silver and makes a certain sound when you drop it.
When we got back to the hostel I had to get out of the room, as technically I was no longer checked in - my flight wasn't until 7am, but having to leave around 4am... couldn't see the point on a Saturday night of paying for a room. So I sorted out my things and put them in the hostels storage, as the hostel was hosting a party - which turned out to be quite a send off. We started our evening with some 2-4-1 drinks, and a crazy local cover band playing some cool tunes. The highlights of the evening were crazy bar owner - Jerry pouring tequila down everyone's throats again.
The party ended after midnight and most people moved on. I stayed because my bags were in lock up and my taxi was booked for 4am... didn't want to miss my flight back to London. It was a long, freezing cold wait in the hostel lobby... poor Maree and Al waited to see me off, and Jules got back just in time. Mexico City airport is nice and shiny and new... but confusing... and I ended up queuing in ques that I'm sure I didn't need to be in. I flew back via Atlanta and got delayed due to blizzards in New York... my next port of call. Thankfully the very helpful Delta helpdesk lady managed to get me on a direct flight later that evening. Now I'm back in London dreaming of my next adventure.