This morning the group joined a local guide and driver for the ride out to Teotihuacan, the site of the pre Aztec city. On the way, we passed the settlements in the north of the city. People coming from the country just found a place on the barren hillside to start building a house, and as they can afford it they add on room by room and floor by floor. Many of them have been painted bright colors. Of course eventually the local authorities are faced with providing services/utilities. Not exactly urban planning!
The ruins of the ancient city of Teotihuacan, on the other hand, show a lot of evidence of careful planning with everything from the water supply to the drainage system. The city was started about 100 and lasted about 600-700 years. The Aztecs who came to power later and held the site sacred because of the remarkable building projects they left behind. The excavations revealed the huge pyramid of the sun and slightly smaller pyramid of the moon, and there are excavations of many other buildings, including a large temple, and one of the houses. There are many carvings, all the more impressive since they didn’t have metal tools. There were also murals recovered in the house. The house ruins reminded me a lot of Roman house ruins I have seen.
Some of the group (including Ruth) actually climbed the pyramid of the Sun, but not me! It was lots of uneven stone steps. The steps go up 213 feet to the top at 7,550 ft in elevation. Between the thin air, hot sun, and steep steps, it is quite a feat! There were plenty of stone steps and uneven ground without climbing.
On the way back to we stopped at the Basilica of Santa Maria of Guadalupe, one of the most visited shrines in the Americas. The original church was built in 1692, and nearby is a modern church which seats 10,000 worshipers. The have mass every hour, 9-5, every day, and it was pretty full when we were there on a Monday afternoon. There was even a moving sidewalk to take you past the miraculous painting of Mary on the cloak of the man having the first vision. Apparently sometimes people stand in line six hours just ride the sidewalk past the painting. (the moving sidewalk lasts long enough to say one Hail Mary).
We got back to the hotel about 2:45, took a little rest, and went out for a late lunch. The combination of altitude, sun, and wind and a very active morning kind of zapped our energy, so we are enjoying a little siesta!
Today was spent in Mexico City. We went on a city tour; the van dropped us off at the main square, the Zocalo. We got an over view of the Templo Mayor. This is an excavation of an Aztec temple uncovered in 1970. When the Spanish came, they destroyed the Aztec city and built the capital of New Spain on the ruins. Next to the Aztec temple ruins, they built the Metropolitan Cathedral starting in 1525 finishing in 1788. It is the largest church in Latin America and ornate as expected. The cathedral, like much of the city, sits on land created by filling in the lake that used to be around the city center. Lots of the buildings and streets ripple and settle, meaning buildings have to be shored up now and then.
After the cathedral, we took a walking tour up and down the streets of the old city. Several architecture styles are found, including the original Spanish, French, and classical as well as some modern. We got to go in the lobby of the Grand Hotel with a soaring lobby and lots of stained glass from about 1897. We also saw the ornate post office built in 1910 to celebrate 100 years of the republic. There was lots of ornate brass work and marble. Part of the building is still a post office.
A memorable stop was the Ideal Bakery, which may be the largest one I have seen. There was a complicated system of choosing your baked goods, Taking the tray to a counter, getting a ticket, going to pay at a window, then going back and giving them your receipt and collecting your items. We got a snack to keep up our strength. Besides the individual pastries, they had case after case of beautiful cakes, tortes, and gelatin desserts. Then upstairs was the cake showroom for wedding, birthday, anniversary, first communion, and other special occasion cakes each more elaborate than the next. Each was marked with the size in kilograms—the largest was 40 kilos; that is about 88 pounds of cake! the was taller than we were.
We then trekked over to the Palace of Fine Arts. The exterior was designed and built by one of the dictators as an entertainment venue for the rich and powerful. He fell from power, and the building was finished some time later with an Art Deco interior. Both are beautiful, but quite a contrast. We went to the upper level to see some of the murals painted in the 30’s from a revolutionary point of view. Very interesting and vivid art.
We had one more stop at the Anthropology Museum. Thankfully we had a bus ride to rest up a little! The museum has artifacts from all of the important excavations throughout the country, covering many of the civilizations over the last 2000+ years. It was a mind-boggling display of items and art, and we barely scratched the surface in the hour or so we were there. It would probably take a week to really see it all. The Aztec room was my favorite.
We were back to the hotel by 3:00, ready to put our feet up and get a cold drink. I’ll probably go out and explore the neighborhood some more later, but I won’t go too far!
Tomorrow we leave for Puebla.