Monday, February 23, 2009

Mexico City - Part 3

From Teotihuacán

On our third day of visitation to Mexico city, it seems our focus turned to religious monuments. We started the day visiting the ancient city of Teotihuacán, which seemed to be the religious center for a civilization that is still largely obscure, since everything I read lists a number of potential peoples who might have built the site. Contrary to what many people believe, Teotihuacán was already abandoned when the Spanish arrived, so at least they are not to blame for this genocide. After getting briefed about the site by our tour guide, Ana and I set out to climb the Pyramid of the Moon, which is the smallest one, behind me in the picture above. That climb was relatively easy, especially since, unlike the larger Pyramid of the Sun, this pyramid cannot be climbed to its top, due to its very poor state of repair after years of bungled archeological explorations. Atop this pyramid we found the expected complement of tourists, and some new age wackos with a fixation with crystals and pyramids.

From Teotihuacán

Next, we moved on to the larger, Sun Pyramid (shown in the picture above), a climb in which I went unaccompanied. This pyramid seems much steeper at points than the smaller Moon Pyramid, but the view from its top is really stunning, as one can check out from the picture below. The summit of this one was even more packed with people than the previous one, but given the crowd, I saw fewer pseudo-religious nuts there, for what I assume to be less than ideal meditation conditions. As stunning as the view is, this pyramid was supposed to be even higher, were it not for some greedy (and stupid) explorers who blew up the top part of this place, mistaking some golden shiny plaster for gold.

From Teotihuacán

Our final stop for the day was the basilica of Guadalupe, a conquest-era saint made by the Spanish to attract the worship of the native Mexicans thus supplanting their original cult of a certain local goddess. One interesting aspect of the original church, shown in the picture below, is that it is sinking along with the city, necessitating constant repair and concrete reinforcement in order to prevent the whole structure from collapsing. Within the small chapel built beside this church, one gets the notion the amount of money the conquistadors and the church have milked out of the Americas, as the chapel is decorated entirely with Silver.

From Basilica de Guadalupe

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mexico City - Part 2

From Mexico City Zócalo

After a foray far outside Mexico city, we spent the next day mostly within the limits of the Mexican Federal District. We started the day with a visit to the National Palace, the seat of the Mexican government, the main attraction of which is a set of murals painted by a weird guy called Diego Rivera. The picture above is the inner courtyard within the national palace, which looked very nice under the light conditions we had in the morning. Now, one of the strangest requirements in visiting this place, is that they ban the entry of camera tripods (!?), duly searched for by a metal detector on you and by an airport style luggage scanner. I guess they thought I would be as deadly as Jason Bourne with it, but I bet that they did not realize that Bourne is specialized in fighting with literature and stationery.

From Museo Nacional de Antropología

Our next stop was the national museum of anthropology, which sports an outstanding collection of items from pretty much all pre-colombian civilizations dwelling in the Mexico region. Unfortunately, our tour only included the Aztec section of the museum, and for a relatively short period of time. I have to admit that it was a fine museum, well beyond my expectations, and I regret not being able to spend the same amount of time I would normally like to. The picture above is of Ana and I in front of the original Aztec calendar stone that was dug up from the city center, and subsequently shot at by the Americans invading Mexico (hence its pockmarks).

Next, we moved on to Xochimilco, a borough of Mexico City which contains a network of canals where little boats called Trajineras make food-fueled tours. Besides staying in the boat itself, we had plenty of other "modular" attractions, with all sorts of tradesmen floating about in their own boats offering from more food to on-the-spot music by Mariachis on boats. All boats seemed to have names, and ours was called Lupita, as you can see from the picture below.

From Xochimilco

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cuernavaca and Taxco

From Cuernavaca

Our second day on tour in Mexico took us to the cities of Cuernavaca and afterwards to Taxco. The day started with a relatively long journey to the capital of Morelos state, the place which Hernán Cortés decided to build a castle and tentatively place the seat of power in recently conquered Mexico. Unfortunately, we spent very little time in this historic colonial city, with a snap of the picturesque architecture shown in the photograph above.

From Taxco

Our second, and longer stop was Taxco, a silver mining town in the state of Guerrero (which is Spanish for "warrior", but I digress). The picture above shows the main church in the city, which was apparently built with the money from a french miner. Despite the locals trying to impress you with all sort of lore about silver and trying to sell you large quantities of the stuff, there is a lot more to the city than that, including very picturesque views of the hills and the plaza in front of the church which is particularly lively. We had the opportunity to see a wedding taking place on the day we visited, and this was, at least to me, a grander attraction than all the silver sales.

From Taxco

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Mexico City - Part 1

After delaying these blog entries for more than a month, I finally got around to writing about my trip to Mexico. So after my Chicago/Dallas ordeal, I finally arrived in Aguascalientes, one day later I headed to Mexico City, to start my tour of Mexico. Ana and I decided for the budget travel option and went by bus (a very long journey indeed), and on the first day after arriving in Mexico, we just walked about to discover the local food (in the picture below), and views around the hotel. Our hotel was in the Zona Rosa, and close to the monument of the Angel of Independence (in reality a Winged Victory), shown at night in the picture above).

Monday, February 02, 2009

Craploads of Snow in London

From Blizzard in London

After a night of heavy snowing, apparently the heaviest in 18 years for London, the entire neighborhood is covered in white. It has been quite a while since I last saw this much snow, and I never expected to see this kind of scene in London. My street, as the picture below shows, has been completely covered in the white thing.

From Blizzard in London

Another interesting sight was Camberwell, all snowy, as shown in the picture below.

From Blizzard in London