Days 1 and 2
We began our 8-day Caravan tour of Mexico’s Ancient and Colonial Cities in Mexico City, where we took an ETN bus from Guadalajara.
Beautiful New Bus Station in Guadalajara
We spent 2 days in this fascinating capital city of Mexico, and one can really only scratch the surface in that amount of time. There is so much history here, entwined within this cosmopolitan city of roughly 25 million people throughout the entire metro area. Surprisingly, for a city its size, it is less polluted than those much smaller than itself, given the anti-pollution efforts of the Mexican government, with a mandatory semi-annual inspection for all who own vehicles.
It is currently the dry season in Mexico, so we had not seen any rain since mid-September, until our last night in Mexico City. Walking back to our hotel in the historic district, we were blessed with a shower. It was actually a little chilly as this city sits at an elevation of 7300 feet.
We stayed at the Hilton Reforma and we were foolish enough to not take any pictures. It is considered a 5-star hotel, so suffice to say, it was lovely. Our first night was dinner and an orientation.
Our first full day began with a drive to the Teotihuacan (pronounced Teh-oh-tih-wah-KAN) archeological site, which is an Aztec name, meaning “the place where men become gods”. These ruins were discovered in 1884 by railroad workers.
Back in the year 400 AD, Teotihuacan was the sixth largest city in the world and Mexico’s largest pre-Columbian city, with a population of approximately 200,000 people at its height. A great fire appears to have destroyed the city in the 7th century and its prosperity and influence began to dwindle after this. 300 years later, Teotihuacan was mysteriously abandoned by its people.
Almost one thousand years later, the Aztec believed that Teotihuacan was a holy place, where the sun, moon, and universe were created.
The first palace that you walk through to arrive at the Avenue of the Dead is El Patio de Los Jaguares (Jaguar Palace). Colorful murals can still be found throughout this site.
As we were pressed for time, we quickly moved on to the Avenue of the Dead, down to the Pyramid of the Moon, as we were anxious to climb it.
Piramide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon) was considered a sacred building within Teotihuacan, as it sat at the beginning of the main road, Avenue of the Dead, and was thought to be used for ceremonies.
Pyramid of the Moon stands 50 meters tall, and if heights are not one of your loves, this climb could be somewhat daunting, as the steps are steep and very tall. It is definitely worth the climb, however, as the views from the top are breathtaking.
Terry is standing on top of Pyramid of the Moon, with Pyramid of the Sun in the background.
And to prove that I, too, made it to the top (no, I did not Photo Shop myself into this picture), here I am with lovely views of Avenue of the Dead and Pyramid of the Sun behind me.
Piramide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun), standing 60 meters tall, was the largest pre-Hispanic building of its time (100 – 650 AD) and was a very important structure, as it was believed that the sun god was worshipped at this monument. Supposedly, a natural volcanic vent sits under this structure, allowing travel down to the underworlds.
Terry and I just had to climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. As you can see in the background, the views are spectacular. We have also been told that in the very near future most of these archeological sites will be closed to climbing in order to preserve the sites so we climbed everything that was available to us.
After lunch we were scheduled to visit the National Palace and the Anthropology Museum. As we boarded the bus, unbeknownst to us, our bus was in a no parking zone so the traffic cops gave us the “boot”.
We learned it is quite an ordeal to have the boot removed once the parking fine is paid so, after an hour of waiting, we all loaded into a couple of vans and headed to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia (Anthropology Museum). This is a fascinating museum that could take one days to go through, but unfortunately we only had two hours so we focused on the Aztec and Mayan exhibits.
Above is a statue of Coatlicue, the earth goddess of Aztec mythology. She is the mother of sun, moon, stars, and all the Aztec gods and goddesses. Her name means “serpent skirt”. It is said that she is the source of all life on earth and took the dead back again into her body. This statue depicts Coatlicue as both creator and destroyer.
Her head is made up of the joined heads of two snakes and her skirt is made of snakes woven together. Her large breasts show her as a nourishing mother, while her clawlike fingers and toes depict her as a devouring monster. She dons a garment of human skin and a necklace of hands and hearts with a single skull in the center. This suggests that Coatlicue consumed everything that died.
This is the infamous Stone of the Sun, which was misidentified as the Aztec Calendar because of its symbolic content and names of the days. It is actually a large sacrificial altar.
Human Skull Adorned with Stones and Colorful Tiles
The Mayan room was especially interesting since we had seen many archeological sites of Mayan creation.
This beautiful mural was covering one wall of the exhibit room. Notice the birthing process, along with the serpent with mouth open, representing entry into the underworlds.
These are the funerary effects of Pakal the Great, the Great Mayan King who reigned over the inhabitants of Palenque. His actual sarcophagus is located in the Tomb of the Inscriptions at Palenque, which he had built during his reign. For the Mayan people, existence after death took place in a parallel universe reproducing the conditions of earthly existence, so they regarded it with the same importance as life itself. Jade was very important to them, so Pakal was buried with many jade objects. His mortuary mask was encrusted with more than 200 tiny carved and polished jade stones, perfectly assembled.
We did not have time as a group to visit the National Palace so some of us set out on our own after dinner to do a little sightseeing.
This is the Palacio De Bellas Artes, the Palace of Fine Arts, which houses an opera house and museum. It was beautiful during the day and enchanting at night when lit. Construction was begun on this structure in 1904, then stopped because of the Mexican Revolution. It began again in the early 1930′s and was completed in 1934.
This is the Templo de San Francisco, where a wedding was taking place when we stepped inside.
The Cathedral was not lit at night but the picture below shows a lovely gold-leaf altar.
A monument dedicated to Don Benito Juarez, on the grounds of Alameda Park, the first public park of the Americas, built in 1592. This park was very large and picturesque and was directly across from our hotel.
This ended our stay in Mexico City. The next stop on our tour was to be in Veracruz, where Carnaval was still in full swing.