With hurricane Eric at the west coast, the bus for any other option for traveling passes by Mexico DF or Puebla. We choose Puebla, the city that lies at the feet of the Popocatépetl volcano in eruption just for the emotion itself, and as fast as we can send a couchsurf-request we get answer from Oliver who opens his house for us.
So after a “short” 5 hours bus drive/night rest, we arrive at Puebla, take a bus to Oliver’s house, leave our backpacks and start our visit in the city.
A long pedestrian area with old beautiful houses almost in ruins lies in front of us. Walking the “5th of Mayo” street we find 3 gigantic eye-catching statues of human heads filling up the patio of a church. We comment all three of them and enter the temple which is nice but nothing different of what we had seen before, till we enter one of the wings where suddenly everything turns into gold! With open mouth we look at the “Capilla of Rosario” what is in Puebla known as the 8th world wonder. Walls covered with layers of gold, it houses a huge stulp of crystal and gold with all around it chandlers, crosses, pulpits, and others pure gold. Most of what we see is real gold and we just can’t believe it! While 10meters outside the most religious people, begging for money to go to the ceremony and rigorously paying some pesos as the scale passes by, are starving from hunger.
Astonished and deeply touched by this thought we leave this place to go to the Zocalo which is the word for the big place or central square that marks the center of the cities here in Mexico. High above this green oasis with fountains raises the cathedral Nuestra Señora de la Inmaculada Concepción with the highest towers of Latin America. A big building where not so much the70m towers impress us but more the organ inside. This enormous instrument finds itself in the middle of the building and literally occupies more than the half of the space, causing the strange effect that actually just a few persons can see the priest doing his thing. As we commented before, we have seen lots of churches and cathedrals (believe me!) and most of them have organs smaller or bigger, rusty or shining but this is just of the scale!
Bit by bit we lose ourselves in the streets between lively colored houses, entering Victoria Hall for a pancake and some drinks and leaving at the total opposite side. We realize that we really like the feeling of getting lost in strange cities and towns, because sooner or later we’ll find another “wow-moment”, just around the corner. And the Parian is such a corner, where a couple of streets totally dedicated to handcrafts gives the area a surprisingly different authentic look. It is one of those many corners we found that changes our mood and fills a travelers heart with the right energy and excitation. We take our time as we stop by every small shop. Later on the day, after having seen an orchestra on the street just in front of the theater, we enter the San Francisco Shopping Center, a modern building on the vests of ruins what makes a nice combination and gives a more modern touch to Puebla. Youngsters texting with smartphones are all over the place and some art projects that are warming up with colors and forms, are keeping the inside of this structure young and lively. We end the day getting wiser by listening to Oliver and his knowledge about Tequila & Mezcal, personal experiences and social problems in Mexico. He entertains us as a storyteller and we like the typical Mexican accent… we find our beds late.
Today we take the bus to visit Cholula, considerate the most ancient living town of Mexico, with foundations that go back to 500BC and home of the 2nd highest pyramid in the world and the one with the biggest base (400m) found till now. Just a part of the pyramid is exposed as on top of what seems just a big mountain, Rome builded strategically a church. To be sure that ancestral cults transform into the way they want. But that wasn’t enough. In order to destroy such a deep rich ancestral culture transmitted and enriched by generations they started to build more and more churches… till they got to 365, a temple for each day of the year. And even then… these days you still can find cult to mighty prehispanic gods. The full package of ruins+temples+local food gives this town a place on the list of 85 “Pueblos Magicos” in Mexico. A project in Mexico to keep some of the villages as authentic as possible. For us these are the first ruins of our trip and we find it very fascinating to observe a total different way of structure. So sitting on a bench we have a nice overview of everything… but more fascinating are the laughing and shooting children having the time of their lives with some fountains on a small square… we start to watch their show and have an entertained afternoon while time passes by quickly.
A call from Peter Debondt brings us back from our day dreaming. He after 7 years living in Puebla is a local here and we can spend some nights with him while he introduces us in the parallel world of Tequila and Mezcal! He picks us up in Cholula, we drop off our bags at his place and go straight for a drink. As they both have spent parts of their lives in South Africa, the owner of the bar and Peter are good friends and that’s very handy if you want to try the best of the house in matters of aged alcoholic drinks. First a beer, then a tequila to know what it’s all about, then a very good soft vanilla flavored tequila which changes our point of view on tequila, another beer, than a tequila aged in whiskey barrels (the newest thing in town) we also have some samoosa (South African food) and pizza to eat… it is a great interesting night chatting and discussing politics, religion and where Mexican war/conquist history and such jumps from mouth to mouth. Just a pity that we’re not such a drinkers at all… in all cases, there is no way to follow Peter’s rhythm on a real Tequila evening any way!!! So not too late and decent we go home and are ready for the next day.
In the morning we go to the cosmetics enterprise “By Apple” that his family runs. And we notice that Peter must be THE man that knows more about eyeliner and blush then any other man!!! It’s funny to watch the tequila man from the evening before transformed into the sensitive know-it-all-about-girls-make-up-problems-man!!! From there we make a short walk through the city with our new sensitive friend on our way to Los Fuertes which is the “proud” remains of the battle of the 5th of May 1862. In the state of Puebla, the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army’s ¿unlikely? victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín. The other side of the story is that Napoleon III withdraws its armies and economical support of Maximiliano in Mexico in order to enforce his troops in a conflictive Europe at the same time Mexico started receiving economic and diplomatic help from the United States. So to make a long story short: England won against a France that wasn’t there at the time… and that’s the most, and if not one of the most, important battles in the history of the Mexican nation!?! Los Fuertes is not such a nice place to visit but yes a nice walk back to the town. We go home to pack or bags and start to talk with Peter. He convinces us to stay one night more so we can have a good rest… during that evening they even convince us to take the bus to Mexico DF and from there the bus to Teotihuacán, ruins from a prehispanic civilization with the same name, and come back the same day to spend another night with them. It seems impossible and expensive to us but Gina looking for prices and hours while Peter talking about importance and beauty is a team hard to fight. The best of all they are both wright: it is not that expensive, it is possible in one day and it is astonishing!!! So thank you guys, to convince us to overspend because it was worthy every ‘Peso Mejicano’.
So why is Teotihuacán so important? Teotihuacán, a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city located in the Basin of Mexico, 48 km northeast of modern day Mexico City of which it is easy to reach, is today known as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Aparts from the pyramids, Teotihuacán is also anthropologically significant for its complex, multi-family residential compounds, the Avenue of the Dead (that connects the different ruins, temples and pyramids), and the small portion of its vibrantmurals that have been exceptionally well-preserved. Additionally, Teotihuacán produced a thin orange pottery style that spreads through Mesoamerica.
Today as we walk there we find every 10m somebody who wants to sell pieces (according to them, authentic) of this pottery found in excavations. It was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population of perhaps 125,000 or more, placing it among the largest cities of the world in this period. Teotihuacán began as a new religious center in the Mexican Highland around the first century AD. This city came to be the largest and most populated center in the New World. Teotihuacán was even home to multi-floor apartment compounds built to accommodate this large population. The civilization and cultural complex even influenced the Aztecs!!!
The city’s broad central avenue, called “Avenue of the Dead” is flanked by impressive ceremonial architecture, including the immense Pyramid of the Sun (third largest in the world after the Great pyramide of Cholula and the Great pyramida of Giza)and ends at the Pyramid of the Moon. Both buildings you can climb if you are fit enough and if you are not afraid of heights. The steps of the stairs are like 50cm high and on some of them just fits the half of your feet, giving the constant impression of slipping away and falling down. We saw people bravely going up to the top like nothing scares them and later seeing them descending ass-wise step by step like a baby doing his first stairs in his life. Along the Avenue of the Dead are many smaller talud-tablero platforms. The Aztecs believed they were tombs, inspiring the name of the avenue. At the other side of the Avenue of the Dead is the area known as the Cuidadela, containing the ruined Temple of the Feathered Serpent. This area was a large plaza surrounded by temples that formed the religious and political center of the city… all together an amazing place of almost 3.2km long!!! And I could go on and on…but all this is easy to find in books or internet, so better I show some photos and you, dear readers, can get a good idea of how great and magical this place is.
Late on the evening we arrive back to Puebla where one of the so many epic rains is cleaning the streets and where the ever willing Peter is waiting to pick us up at the bus station. He treats us on an evening of Tacos. We have, in Peter and Gina’s favorite taco place, an order of almost everything they have on the menu. From tacos to burritos, different sauces and some tortillas. Very tasteful and just very much… we do our best to eat all and after another great night we go to sleep knowing that this will be the last one in Puebla and knowing that we will miss the family feeling. In the morning we say goodbye with tears in our hearts as we see the smile of little Megan waving at us.