Mexico City Part 1: Something Old

With over a week spent in this big city, I thought I’d break it down in a somewhat different manner (and not completely therefore in chronological order people).

Our arrival wasn’t anything too exciting, notable mainly for our early decision to get a taxi from the Autobus Terminal Norte rather than attempt to brave the metro system with packs laden on both our front and back.

It may have sounded a bit soft (at least to our own ears), however after our first metro experiences in the coming days, the decision was well and truly vindicated.

120 pesos was all it took to get us into the Centro Historico, and after walking a few final blocks, we were quietly checking into Hostal Amigo, our home for at least 3 nights (we’d only booked for a few as the reviews we’d read were polarising. It was either loved or loathed).

With but a few hours to wander that first night, there was little we could truly take in.

First impressions of this huge city were surprising. Despite the population of Australia living within its bounds, the place didn’t feel like the bedlam you experience in Asian cities, nor did it appear as grimy as expected (admittedly, supposedly much money has been put into the Centro Historico part of the city).

The next day however, we were at it early, and after a free breakfast provided by our hostel, we were off to see some of the cities most famous sights, one of those being, the Templo Mayor.

Re-discovered in the late 1970’s and finally excavated and saved from further destruction from 1978-1982, the Templo Mayor (Major Temple), or the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan is one of the last ancient sites of what almost 500 years ago must have been one of the most spectacular cities in the world (and if it still stood, possibly would still today).

The old and the conquered... Catedral Metropolitana sits almost atop the Templo Mayor

The old and the conquered… Catedral Metropolitana sits almost atop the Templo Mayor

It (the Templo Mayor) certainly wasn’t the first Mexican pre-Hispanic ruins I’d envisaged us visiting, but nevertheless, that is how it was to occur (entrance fee of $59.00 pesos per person).

Surrounded by the bustling city that as the District Federale, it was still impressive, and incredible to think how much of the ancient city must still lay beneath Mexico City’s cobbled (or tarmacked streets), whilst we could both see and hear the city bustling all around us.

Face to face with death in the remains of the Templo Mayor

Face to face with death in the remains of the Templo Mayor

Wandering amongst 700 years of history is a little humbling, but in addition to the temple excavation site, there is also a fairly well appointed adjoining museum (where the recovered relics are kept on public display, entry is included in the ticket price).

It is easy to think, nay assume that with all of the ruins before you, it would perhaps get tiresome, however the museum was impressive enough in itself before we realised, we’d lost over another hour there!

The 3m+ stone disc of Coyolxauhqui, discovered in 1978 (which prompted the sites proper excavation)

The 3m+ stone disc of Coyolxauhqui, discovered in 1978 (which triggered the proper excavation of the site)

The city and its people are old, descendents of an even older people still, and everywhere you go there are reminders of this.

Other countries secure their history purely in museums.

Mexico however, is gifted with such an embarrassment of archaeological riches, that it can even afford to keep some of its memories as decorative pieces… in its metro stations (Mexico City’s metro system shifts over 4 million people on a daily basis)!

500 years of history surrounded by a modern metro station...

500 years of history surrounded by a modern metro station…

Sadly some of its history, is slowly slipping away from us.

In the cities south lies a region called Xochimilco, which is now home to all that remains (approximately 150km’s) of the once impressive canal system constructed in pre-Hispanic times (complete with agricultural gardens, on artificial floating islands known as Chinampas).

We visited, actually seeking a ride on one of the canals boats to take us to a fabled island of dolls, however when the launch captains attempted to extort us with exorbitant prices, it was an adventure that we ultimately walked away from.

Some history doesn't come cheap!

Some history doesn’t come cheap! Gaudy boats on the canals in Xochimilco

Not nearly as old (but to a couple of Australians who hail from a country old in people, but not in structures, it’s 240 years of age is still impressive), is Chapultepec Castle (for a useless bit of trivia, it is the only North American castle to actually have ever housed monarchs).

We didn’t actually decide visit this location until our second last day in Mexico City, and as such we were already a little leg weary (after several days of adventures both in and out of the city), however after hearing that not only was it an impressive sight in itself, but also from its elevated perch afforded some of the better city views, we were sold.

Almost like something out of Alice in Wonderland!

Almost like something out of Alice in Wonderland!

The brisk wind alone was almost too much for Sarah (who thought it was freezing), however there were enough sheltered pockets that she was able to thaw from time to time.

Indeed the city views were also pretty impressive (after we’d wasted $40.00 pesos each to reach the observation deck of the Monumento a la Revolucion the previous day and seen little of the city, this was worth it), however it was the castle itself that was the star.

The artwork became a little tedious, however the many furnished rooms were a true sight, the highlight?

A hallway walled in stained glass! Truly a sight to behold…

Incredible colour...

Incredible colour in one of the stained glass halls…

Notes:

* When booking at Hostel Amigo, it is cheaper to book online than it is at the front door.

* The prices also tend to fluctuate (online) so if you are not fussed about the size of your mixed dorm, you can get cheaper rates again by selecting different sized dorms on different days (we saved ourselves $80.00 pesos a night doing this)

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