The City of the Gods, Teotihuacan. We walked the Calzada de los Muertos, the avenue of the dead, from the pyramid of the moon (above) to the pyramid of the sun. The religious center traces its origins between 600 and 200 years BCE, with vestiges of the Aztec culture, the conquest of the Aztecs, and the modern era. Majestic describes these gems of indigenous culture…but doesn’t describe our less than majestic journey here….
We had decided to travel alone to meet the group in Mexico City in time to transfer to the hotel with them. That meant a 2 am wake up to make a 5:25 am flight from Newark to Houston to Mex. We lucked into a delayed Houston flight that, by the skin of our teeth got to Mexico about the same time as the group’s Miami flight. Immigration line was a nightmare and we all found each other, finally, for almost an hour’s drive for a less than 9 mile slog through Mexico City rush hour…. Our welcome dinner was at the 17th hour of our day, and heads falling into our tortilla soup wasn’t the only challenge….
Tenampe Salon Restaurant, an iconic restaurant in Garibaldi Plaza offered a great place to introduce us to very good, local Mexican food. Only problem (for us; a group trying to get to know one another) is that this plaza and restaurant is the Mecca for Mariachi! The bands are astounding, consummate professional musicians, but not known for quiet background music. One group played as we sat. Then stereo as another five-some began on the other side of the room. But wait, a third! With full bellies and hoarse voices, we hired another astounding group to entertain us while we waited on the plaza for the transportation. Here’s a small sample.
Teotihuacan is Still There
Up, almost from the dead, we made the relatively short trip to one of the most impressive cities of the ancient world. On the way out of the 7,000 ft high city, the built up hillsides remind us of the Favelas in Rio, but not. Here the individual municipalities are not impoverished communities, but thriving economically with funiculars (gondolas on cables) connecting them to avoid the long trips down and up to visit the neighbors. Black water tanks on the roofs dominate the view.
Yes, it’s still there in all its glory. The colossal eight square mile site portended long walks over very uneven ground and expansive vistas. We set out at the Plaza of the Moon on a cool morning with our group of 20 smart SmarTours travelers from all over the States with hundreds of total travel years of travel experiences and adventures.
The first stop is to explore the excavated Quetzalpapolotl Palace complex. Immaculately restored to expose carvings like animal depictions of the various settling clans; eagle, owl, snake, cougar. No kings’ tombs here. Instead the excavations exposed bones from animal and human sacrificial remains. Also exposed, the mind boggling architectural and engineering genius of these people.
With our backs to the “moon” we start to trek the long, long plaza, only part way of course as the next photo shows.
The aqua engineering really shows here in the drainage ditches along the sides of the plaza as it gently slopes toward the river. The water could be diverted to fill the spaces between the walls into still reflective pools.
Our amazing director, Mischel is a fount of knowledge and often calls on his Mayan roots and native language. How much we would have missed without a guide like him. The map he’s holding shows the regions occupied by each of the ancient peoples.
Now warm (high seventies), tired (Marsha already has 10,000 steps on her Fitbit), and cobble stoned feet, we moved to our surprise lunch at La Gruta, loosely translated as the Grotto. Indeed it was, established in a large cavern, but with upscale service and cuisine. Care needed to step in. Even this restaurant used QR codes to load the menu as so many are now post Covid (not). Local ingredients made into spectacular dishes. Lots of cacti, grubs, and other delicious local ingredients. The waiter lighting candles above to be placed by diners to keep us safe from occupants of the underground (my interpretation).
Back to the hotel and a quick rest before walking off to explore the Zocalo. Blessedly Mischel ordered up a trolly for the tour as the long walk around the huge space in the dark would be a bit uncomfortable at this point. And, the masses of people on foot are truly intimidating. Crossing a main boulevard as the light changed was very much like two armies charging at each other with malicious intent. Only the swords and crossbows were missing. Amazing how /no one crashed into anyone else. Could be the inspiration for a Paul Taylor dance! We saw the cathedral (once the largest in the Americas), the National Palace, etc. all at the direction of a laser pointer. A quick bite to eat after a long, but memorable day. Tomorrow An appointment at the Frida Kahlo Museum and Xochimilco. See you then.