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).
Back in 1521 the Spanish, lead by Hernán Cortés and aided by some accidental biological warfare (in the form of Smallpox), finally forced the surrender of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.
The Centro Historico of what is now modern Mexico City, was built directly on top of this conquered city, the name changed as the Spanish struggled with the pronunciation of the Aztec original.
I guess essentially we went there, not out of any special interest, more as a comparison given all of the churches we have already visited on this trip to date.
Disappoint it did not, after all, you’d expect the head church of this deeply religious country to be a statement, but this place was truly a behemoth.
The fact that the catholic faith is so incredibly strong in this country is testament to (but I’d certainly not think credit) the original missionaries ability to find parallels between their god and saints, and the pre-existing beliefs of the original natives (probably not a difficult gap to bridge, given that the original native peoples often believed the arriving Europeans to be gods in the first place).
So in a perhaps sly, or cynical manner, those existing native gods were borrowed, but their names and images supplanted by representatives of the catholic church.
To say however that the Aztecs themselves were complete innocents is a complete misrepresentation however.
At the southern edge of present day Mexico City lies the canal region, complete with floating agricultural islands (called chinampas), of Xochimilco.
Almost 100 years prior to the fall of Tenochtitlan, the city itself had conquered this region (then part of a lake), as its skilled farmers and their fertile islands were highly prized at the time due to them being the regions premier food producing peoples.
Unfortunately, our day trip visit to experience the UNESCO heritage listed place for ourselves was thwarted, conveniently by a couple of local launch skippers, keen to have a lend of us themselves with their exorbitantly high proposed prices…
Setting a price for our proposed trip at $1400.00 pesos (about $115.00 AU), we were quick to dismiss the excursion as a write off, and embark on a secondary adventure instead (essentially just an effort to try and make our way back to the centre of the city, by first taking a bus in the opposite direction).
Sure, my Spanish was worse then than it is now, but I was certain if the drivers confirmation that his bus did eventually go to a metro station, so we remained on board travelling further and further away from our actual goal.
Two young passengers decided to intervene and inquired as to where we were going, before quickly advising us that the bus was in fact a long way from any metro, but that they could guide us on.
We spied a metrobus station (one that requires a touch on card), however they assured we should stay on until a stop further along, so we did… and found ourselves deposited at a huge shopping mall (no need to guess here, there was no metro station here, or near here either)!
Unsure as to what our ultimate purpose for being there was, we walked ourselves back to the metrobus station, and purchased some credit to get us all the way back into the city!
I’m sure the right intent was there from those that attempted to assist us on this latest journey, however it is just such a typical thing we have encountered, where even if they don’t actually know the correct answer, they’ll pretend they do in the guise of being helpful (this has also lead to us waiting for buses to certain destinations in the incorrect location as well)!
The lesson to be learned here?
If you ask for directions in Mexico, it’s probably best to ask at least 2 or 3 people, just to be sure their answer is in fact consistent!
* The canals of Xochimilco supposedly have 12 landing locations from where you can hire launches (one of these allegedly has a sign with set hire prices, nowhere near as exorbitant as we encountered).
* With a better grasp of Spanish, I’m sure we could have done some better research and actually succeeded in enjoying a day on the narrow waters (it is also home to the Axolotl, more commonly known as the ‘Mexican Walking Fish’ which would be pretty cool to see, however our actual goal was a quirky place, Isla de las Munecas, the Island of Dolls)