Just imagine that a quarter of whole German population would live in one city. This is how huge Mexico City is.
Day 21-26: 02 – 07 January 2016
I’ll keep it short here describing how cool, vivid and diverse this city is. “Endless” is probably the proper adjective to quantify any possible aspect of – endless huge, endless intriguing, endless diverse, etc. Sure enough in a city of this scale everyone will find his one or many personal favourites: spots or experiences. So I’m not gonna be guiding or recommending here anything – there is no other way but to embrace and experience this city as it comes. And believe me, no matter how much you avoid huge cities, you gonna love this one! This is how I embraced Mexico city.
La Merced or tat goes random
Arrived by bus early in the morning after 15 hours of traveling from San Cristobal. I slept a bit, was neither fresh nor tired. The check in was scheduled for the afternoon, so I locked my luggage at the bus station and headed directly to Zócalo – the third largest square of the world after Tianmen Square in Beijing and the Red Square in Moscow. The city was still in New Year celebration mood, apparently they keep cerebrating up to 6th of January, Dia de Reyes. To my total disappointment I had no chance to appreciate the architectural ensemble of Zócalo – the pearl of colonial architecture. There was a huge construction for ice sports, placed temporarily right in the middle of the square for the Xmas-New-Year Fest. That ugly thing was spoiling the views from every possible perspective. God, that was so gross!
Frustrated and a bit dizzy from the long journey I had no mental capacity to reroute or figure out a plan B, so I walked in a random direction, which was La Merced (as I found out later). I don’t know many guidebooks recommending this area for tourists, and there are many good reasons for this. It’s a busy, dirty, smelly, trashy market area, apparently the oldest market in the city. Here you’ll find solely locals and random tourists (rare persons like me, or the ones booking special tours), all kinds of street food, prostitutes and various other services, food and all possible kinds of products of various kitsch level, lots of trash, and portable saints – figures in a vitrine (or not) with a donation box and flowers randomly placed on streets. People are welcome to donate and pray on the run, just in case there is no church right in sight.
It’s a place, where all your senses are going to be overwrought. I left La Merced when my sense of hearing was stressed enough not to recognise the direction of noise.
Tat goes random again: Condesa, La Roma, Historical Centre
I don’t know how many other districts are there in Mexico City, I just managed to walk random in just a few of them to collect my impressions. In Condesa, residential area for upper class, men walk out their dogs at around 8 am. In La Roma at a post office I happen to meet an old men, who helped me with his perfect german to send a box to Germany. He was in his late 80s, telling me proudly how he, an ex-Nazi, cheated everyone writing theatre scripts for broadway. His speech was surreal, spooky but somehow memorable. In Historical Centre I discovered amazing colonial buildings among a bunch of architectural monsters, Shamans at the biggest Cathedral of latin America and Aztec rulers in roman costumes.
I loved the subway there, very safe, fast, huge and comfortable network. The subway is built on model of Paris subway– there is even one entrance imitating the Parisian floral metro portals. Every station has an Icon illustrating its name. Some of the stations are even designed to reflect the name. I heard classical music playing in The station called Auditorium. Going down for 4-5 levels in Caracol (sp. Snail) reminded me the Guggenheim museum in New York. The Polinectico is designed as a museum of natural history – you walk huge connecting tunnels and watch interesting displays about our planet and the universe, a part of it is like a planetarium – man that was cool! I really eased the pace for a moment there.
I’m so proud of myself – managed to find the best hostel in whole Mexico! Not only it has a great location, great comfort, cool staff and exceptional cleanness, but also it is a part of a fantastic historical colonial building with, housing excellent gourmet restaurants and great boutiques. Downtown Beds foreva!
People you meet make places memorable. The passion for things makes people memorable.
Day 22: 03 January 2016
Eatwith José and Luis
I’ve never tried the eatwith before, so was curious about this evening in a special way.
Despite my excitement I arrived there 20 minutes to late. I underestimated how huge this this city is, it took me over an hour to get to the southernmost area of Mexico City. The other two guest were already enjoying the starters.
José – the chef of the evening – announced the taste of Mexico. I had no idea what the menu gonna be, but that what I found as a starter blowed all my expectations – spicy grasshoppers and Mezcal from Oaxaca. I must say, I was not courageous enough to try it immediately, it took me a half of hour to pick one little grasshopper. The gentlemen at the table were having fun watching me, how I struggled for another 5 minutes before taking that little thing into my mouth. One of them said “you should chew it, don’t swallow quickly..” I did.. It was not that bad, in fact it was really tasty – the chilli makes it! The mezcal helped to finish that act of overcoming.
The next course was traditional in all respects: the bean soup a lá grandma. The homemade mole was just excellent – it is an elaborative dish prepared on special occasions in Mexico. José made some hot chocolate (also traditional preparation) to serve it with the Rosca de Reyes – Kings Ring, cake pastry eaten to celebrate the Dia de Reyes (remember, still partying in Mexico!)
Not only the food was excellent, but also the conversation at the table and the whole atmosphere were accordingly memorable.
Day 23: 04 January 2016
I decided to visit this amazing site on the only rainy day I ever experienced in Mexico. “There is no bad weather, but bad clothing” I told to myself and headed to the bus terminal on the north of the city. The public buses running from there every 15-20 minutes took me in less than an hour to Teotihuacan archeological site.
Teotihuacan was one of the largest cities in the world of its epoch hosting around 125.000 people at its zenith in 5th Century AC. The Pyramid of the Sun is at its base as large as the Great Pyramid of Giza, (Cheops) – 230m, however due to the proportion of its steps is less tall (65m vs. 146m). The Pyramid of the Sun is one of the largest and most significant constructions of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
Day 24: 05 January 2016
The National Museum of Anthropology
I couldn’t visit Mexico City and miss this museum. Looking back I can tell, it is one of the best museums I’ve ever visited. I found here the displays from all the sites I visited in past weeks: Chichen Itza, Tikal and Teotihuacan. Not only it rounded up my exploration of Mayas and Aztecs, but it also gave me a perfect overview over all pre-columbian cultures of Mesoamerica and inspired me for more! This museum is also an amazing piece of architecture. Each civilisation is displayed in a huge hall seamlessly connected with its corresponding outdoor area, where you find reproductions of buildings integrated in beautiful gardens – all matching the natural specifics of their geographical location. Really amazing! Respect! Next time I’m in Mexico, I will go there again and plan more time.
Day 25: 06 January 2016
One Day with Frida and Diego
I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, the moment when I get as close as possible to my favourite artist Frida Kahlo. Every inch of The Casa Azul, the house where she lived with her beloved Diego, is Frida-soaked. She is present there with her talent, pain, struggle and endless love, all that with enormous intensity.
As much as I was looking forward to Casa Azul, Frida was not my hero that day. My mind was drifting elsewhere – the email I found that morning in my mailbox shocked and hurt me, it vaulted me back to Frankfurt. I was told that a dear colleague of mine passed away few days ago of a sudden decease in age of 44, and that the funerals were in two days. I couldn’t find words to write back, I couldn’t ask for details – just couldn’t deal with this. In fact I still can’t find the right words to write about it. Since that day I have Martin daily before my very eyes smiling and telling me I should visit “them” in the new office… it was the last time I saw him riding his bicycle in Frankfurt downtown. I think of him, I think back of my dad, how he was struggling with his cancer. I think of the thoughts they might have had before they left. I have to quit now..
Dear Martin, you rest now in ashes and in our hearts…
Day 26: 07 January 2016
Benito Juares Airport, Mexico City, I was waiting for my flight to Lima. The mesoamerican part of my big journey ended there. I spent a bit less than four weeks here, traveling over 3000km across three countries. It might sound a lot, but it was just enough to touch just a few points of this vast cultural space and to get huge hunger for more. Mexico impressed me the most of what I’ve seen so far.
I loved the delicious food and the sunny and colourful spirit of Mexico, its urban und rural landscapes, I loved being on road there. Despite the disputed image of Mexico in terms of personal security, I can state, that there was not a single moment I felt insecure in this country: not when travelling with night buses, not when coming home late after a dinner or walking random in cities in various times of day. Sure I was not challenging my fortune, but I had all the freedom I needed and no fears to go anywhere.
But what most amazed me is Mexicos ethnical diversity and unique, multifaceted cultural identity, which they managed to retain through past centuries despite the destructive and violent external influences.
Here live numerous indigenous communities and people of european, oriental and african origin united under a single national identity (over 62 indigenous languages are spoken and taught in the schools). Other than in other parts of the world the native population is not imprisoned in reserves, but lives free life, has equal rights and remains true to their ancient traditions and beliefs. Mexico has developed fresh, modern and intriguing mentality, rich of mysterious spirituality going along with novel models and concepts. Along with its all imperfections Mexico stands for me as an example of great Diversity, Tolerance and Freedom.
I had 20 more minutes to board on my flight to Lima, and again I could’t focus on my upcoming trip. Instead I was flipping the images of the past weeks in my mind, trying to make mental notes on all those things I haven’t yet explored in Mexico. The list is too long. It’s not of those journeys, when one think afterwards “…it was great, I might come here again!”. After this journey I told to myself
“I will be back!”