Trip to Mexico Dia 2 Pyramids, cathedrals y luchadores

This trip occurred in 2014. I had written these posts a long time ago on a different computer which I just gained access to again.  I hope you enjoy Mexico as much as we did. It is a wonderful place to visit and live. 

 

 

We woke up and took turns getting ready. I was the late sleeper on this trip, but not by too much. My friend usually woke me up before he showered so I had enough time to prepare to follow after he finished. This way by the time I was back to the dorm, they were done getting ready since it took longer for two people, including a woman, to go through their morning routines. We walked up a spiral staircase to the rooftop breakfast buffet. You never knew what you’d get at these places, from free fruits and oatmeal to just pancakes. This place was buffet style, a tray of eggs, tray of mashed, black beans, fruit, yogurt and cereal. The beans were great; I had to try them even though I am usually not a bean fan. When you visit somewhere, you should eat what they eat and today it was beans. I poured myself a cup of very bitter coffee and added milk. We chatted about the day’s activities, while a cool breeze blew past us. I enjoy hostels, there is always a lot of travelers and they are generally very friendly. I’ve overheard plans being made after people met to hang out at each other’s home country.

Today we were going to the pyramids outside the city, Teotihuacan. We talked with the hostel desk clerk and he immediately told us which train stop to get out at, look for a specific bus, directions he likely told countless others. Our first stop was to get water for the day at 7-11. We ended up using the same liter bottles the whole stay in the City thanks to the hostel’s large water dispensers. We weren’t taking any chances drinking from water fountains or any faucet water. The Zocolo train stop was a couple blocks away and we were soon feeling the heat of the tunnels. Actually after watching some trains come into the station, I am not sure if they are really trains, the compartments were sitting on ten huge truck tires, so maybe this was more of a bus? At every train station, there was always a couple making out either at the platform or on the ride, sometimes both. I saw many same sex couples making out on trains, at the stations or just holding hands. No one gave any mind.

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We bought a full day pass to and from the pyramids, but when you buy a ticket on the bus, be prepared to stop. I’m still not sure how these buses work, we stopped at places there is no way marked as a bus stop, hell we stopped on a highway to pick up a guy. Seemed like if you were walking and waved to a bus, they would stop and then negotiate a fare based on where you were going, not necessarily the pyramids. We drove into the next district or municipality; drop off and pick up more people. Also boarding at every occasion were the snack vendors. Usually nuts, candies, and pastries were offered as the hawker walked the aisle front to back. Even on the trains, there was someone trying to sell you something.

The pyramids were 30 miles outside of the City so it took over an hour with all the stops. It reminded me a lot of all the small towns you’d drive through in west Texas, except they were all right next to each other here. We all departed the bus and walked quite a ways to enter the pyramids. We had to walk through the gift shop to enter the grounds, which also are very spread out. I believe its right around a mile from one end of the ruins to the other, lots of small stone structures dotted a very clear main path in the middle. To one side, there was an area that looked like a playing field of some sort as it was a large rectangle and what to me were dugouts on either side of the field for people to watch or wait to play. Sight line was at field level. Most structures were roped off so you couldn’t further damage them, the weather was doing a good job already. Lots of crumbling rocks, some places that no longer looked safe due to erosion, bore the age of this place. Still, you had to hand it to them, they built a large city with rocks thousands of years ago and it was still here. They created homemade concrete many centuries ago and it was still holding.

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The largest pyramid was scale-able, but the way up was stairs. Nearly 90° incline was negotiated aided by a chain. Many skipped this due to fear of falling and I wonder how many have taken a header on this steep climb. Once scaled, it was for sure worth the view of the grounds. Other than mountains, this was the highest place around so you could see a bit of the City in the distance as well as rest of the ruins and mountains. As I walked around many were short of breath and one woman barfed due to the steep climb up and smog. Or maybe she had eaten too much?

Walking around the ruins were hawkers of all sorts of souvenirs. Jewelry, candy, pottery, and jaguar growlers were sold at make shift stands or by people walking the ruins. The wood was intricately carved into the shape of a jaguar’s head; an open back was used to blow air into creating a rrraaaaaaarrrraaarrrr sound, like a jaguar. Of all the usual junk souvenirs I want to buy but don’t, not buying this one is a regret. I’ve never seen this instrument since and I can imagine the fun of playing it for people or scaring them a bit, hiding in the shadows. They even painted a jaguar face onto the front for extra jaguar.

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I fell asleep on the bus ride back, which took a lot longer than the ride to pyramids due to even more traffic and stops. The bus stopped several times on the highway, picking up and dropping people at random locations. I gather things were based on mileage and so long as the bus had an empty seat, they’d stop until it filled up. Our bus slowly crept along during the middle of the afternoon, it wasn’t even rush hour traffic, and this was just 2 o’clock in an overcrowded city. We wondered if we could just have the bus take us to our next destination!

We caught another train to the western part of the city. My travelers were Catholic and wanted to see another cathedral, or was it a basilica? Im not sure I know the difference between the two.

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We were headed to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

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I was ok with it as churches are old, ornately decorated, full of locals and free. I am into all these things when traveling. Walking up to the doors, we saw a lot of people knee crawling their way to the cathedral. There are many whose feet have never touched the floor of this church as a lot of people would walk to the threshold, cross their hearts (hope to die) and fall to their knees for the rest of the service. They were in the middle of a small wedding, I think it was, and that’s when I looked at all the stained glass and statues. Now I really understood the image on the backs of trucks, tattoos and flags, it was Lady Guadalupe.

A long, winding flight of stairs outside the main cathedral lead you to small chapel. Wow, everything was so bloody here. Lots of blood streaking down Christ’s body, head, hands, side and feet. The place actually felt like a horror movie set, it was intense.

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I didn’t stay long inside, mainly due to the great view of the city just outside, but also due to the violent images. It was a long way up to the top and I noted that at nearly every level or floor, there was a food place of some sort or souvenir shop. The walk down was more pleasant, as it past flowing waterfalls and fountains with more statues of Guadalupe.

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We then made our way to a restaurant for tacos. The food here in the City was similar to US Mexican foods in some ways. They had tacos, beans and rice, but what they don’t do is add vegetables or cheese. All the tacos I had were as they were described: chicken, steak, pork in a corn tortilla, nothing else. No lettuce, tomato, onion or sour cream. They do not give you free chips and salsa, maybe pickled carrots, peppers. They love Coke in México so that’s always an option at meal time. All the other tables in the restaurant had many empty bottles and it seemed that most people just ordered two at a time they drank them so fast. I did see in some convenience stores, soda was poured into a baggie with a straw. The most popular choice for beverages was reusable bottles. You’d see stacks and stacks of red plastic crates full of bottles to be returned sitting out front of most restaurants.

I really wanted to catch a wrestling match while in town and luckily in the train station we found a computer room to research options. We asked the attendant if he was into wrestling and he knew of the arena that hosted events nightly. He may have confused our inquiry as we initially got out at another event complex hosting rock music in a not so good part of town based on his directions. I only say that as there were less people around and it was not well lit. We had to snake through an open market, sometimes walking on the street to pass by the vendors. Another train to a different part of town led us to a large complex that took up half of a block. Outside the arena were taco ladies and mask sellers. We procured tickets to the match and I picked up a very excellent luchadore mask that was basically a steer’s face with long horns jutting out of the top.

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The ticket prices were more expensive the closer to the mat you sat. We picked some seats on the 2nd level so we could see everything. On the far side of the arena was a long runway where each wrestler made a grand entrance with music and fireworks. It was a quite a spectacle as each luchador had their own personality and style that shown through. Not all of them wore masks, most didn’t wear them, to my surprise. Some smiled and high fived everyone, others were combative and flexed their muscles and middle fingers to boos from the crowd. The crowd also actually hissed at some of the wrestlers, mostly the female ones. They cheered the loudest for a large women with long, dark hair, dressed all in black. She sat on people and generally did whatever she could to perform moves that showcased her wide ass. Every event this night was tag team, from duos to quartets. All the matches followed the same format: each team took turns winning, each wrestler got about ten minutes of winning time where they showed off their moves. One of the teams would clearly be the most popular based on cheers and that was the team that won. It was a great time and took me back to watching wresting as a kid.

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We hustled to the train after the match as it was getting to be after 10. We popped into a store where I bought a couple beers and took them up to a balcony on a lower floor of the hostel. We talked a bit while a guy slept or was passed out on a chair on the other side of the balcony. We watched a drum circle with dancing happening below, near the cathedral. Mexico City was loud, there was always something going on, a parade, musicians playing, cars honking, ambulance sirens blaring. Nearly every car was blasting tunes, there were devices of all sizes and age in every store, too. People were out at all hours too, full families with kids in tow, all walking around the plazas at 11, midnight, usually eating ice cream without a care in the world, a smile on all their face.

 

After finishing my beer we all retired to our room and saw our roommate. We talked for awhile and heard his amazing travel stories. My friends were from Rio, which he had been multiple times so they had a lot to talk about the city and futbol. Our roommate was a futbol fanatic and had partied at most World Cups, including the one that had just happened in Rio. They talked about a couple parts of town that I would visit next year, unbeknownst to me at the time. This trip began  with talks of going to Rio to visit my friends’ family, but he couldn’t get enough time off. A 2 hour flight to México is much better at maximizing vacation time.

 

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Zocolo when I visited.

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Zocolo 2 days before visit. Read up on why they were protesting.

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Dream trip Day 75 Kutná Hora, bone church, small brewpub

Interestingly at my new hostel, the showers were co-ed, actual water closets with locking doors, a bench within and no curtain. The cement was raised a few inches so no worries about water overflowing.

Funny getting situated in a mirror whilst a couple of girls are blow drying their hair or adding makeup. Very domesticated environment for strangers.

I had enough time to get a flat white coffee from the EU equivalent of Starbucks, Costa.

I only name them as they had a large sign explaining all the ways one could order coffee with pictures of the amount of coffee vs milk. No more lattes or Americanos for me!

I had to trek back to the centre and good lord snakes! The downtown area has all sorts of people trying to get korunas off tourists.

Usually it was people eloquently dressed who stood like statues, but if you tried to take a pic without pay, they came to life: Pay me!

Another common sight was a guy or 2 suspended in an unnatural manner, like they were floating in the air or some other gravity defying trick. They had a metal stand hidden under their flowing attire was the trick.

This was the first time I’d seen someone with a boa constrictor, or python, hard to tell, walking around trying to get someone to drape the reptile on their shoulders for a pic, cash up front.

Before joining my tour I had to get a ticket at the tourist company, which was just off a busy road. Back and forth I walked but I couldn’t find it.

Ah it was down this narrow walkway, looked more like a mugging setup location, but yet there was a sign above a door to the tourist company where I picked up my ticket.

Our guide was a Prague native and explained the itinerary to us before leaving. Lunch was optional, but we all would stop for an authentic and delicious Czech meal.

She said she would eat at this place even if she had to pay, which she didn’t because she was bringing in 30-ish people.

First stop was the rail station, where she talked to us more as the train was delayed.

Hora was at one time the largest city in the Bohemia region due to silver mines that produced for centuries.

We hopped on the late train and I was joined in a compartment by a family of 5, all blonde haired girls save the man who had a graying goatee.

Once again, fate or destiny placed me with a family from Plano, of course, suburbs!

They listened intently as I outlined my travels. I told the girls how lucky they were to start traveling at a young age. Oldest was maybe 11, youngest was 6.

“When y’all get into high school and you study history, you can tell everyone what this area is actually like. It’s living history you can touch.” I tried to explain.

These girls could hardly give a shit where they were, they were thirsty and hungry, it was hot, why are they going to this small city when they could just stay in the hotel?

I’ve been there at that age, everyone has, oblivious to the cool trip you were on in an amazing location.

I now valued my parent’s hauling me across the US growing up. At that age, you don’t care about much other than video games (internet now), playing or fighting with your siblings, and just running around being dumb.

They slept most of the trip while I talked with their dad, occasionally the mom would add a comment or 2, asking about a city.

Our guide sat down handed us a menu to take down our orders so the restaurant could be ready for a big group.

All were traditional Czech dishes and very inexpensive. I want to say most were well under 10$ a plate. Beer was separate of course.

I’d say the family’s mom changed her mind on eating no less than 5 times, asking about ingredients, vegetarian options, and portion sizes.

Just a beef and dumpling dish in broth with cream for me. I’m easy and wanted to see how this roast beef compared vs my mom’s.

She was very put off at the thought of staying with strangers in a room when I told her I stayed in hostels. I just shrugged her off.

This family was pretty well off financially, I concluded and I’ll bet they took long trips overseas every summer. She hadn’t had to be around strangers or anyone in their big house back home and hotels on the road.

My family’s big trip when I was growing up was Texas to Yellowstone, 2 weeks. Looking back it was indeed life changing being gone so long. Sleeping in new towns, eating different foods, meeting new people. That’s living.

We changed trains to a much smaller, nearly trolley like line that led into the city.

We got out at one of the few large employers in town, a tobacco packing plant.

There were few signs of much employment here, quite a desolate looking town.

Reminded me of some of the small towns in west Texas that once were prosperous when they had oil, but it had dried up years ago…decades ago.

Not much keeping folks here other than that’s where they were born and it was all they knew in the world.

A short walk down a street and we saw the bone church, actually named the Sedlec Ossuary.

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It was quite small building with a long line of people queuing to enter I wondered how we’d all fit inside.

There were lots of above ground graves in the courtyard. Skull and crossbones statues were all over the chapel.

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The wind vanes turned out to be skull and crossbones, too. It didn’t seem like a holy or religious place. It was laden with death.

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Several ladies were detained at the entrance by a nun who explained that women who entered had to cover their shoulders.

All uncouth women were given shawls, but not a guy dressed in flip-flops, athletic shorts and muscle shirt with sleeves cut off bearing the always appropriate phrase, “Fuck you, I’m drunk!” emblazoned on it. Sure he was dressed ‘appropriately,’ but cover up them shoulders ladies, this is a holy site!

Ah the compartmentalization of religion when it came to genders knew no bounds.

On either side of the stairs the bones were piled high with skulls serving as visual focal points. This is where the bulk of the bones were. The rest of the bones were arranged into towers, spires and coat of arms.

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Alas they had removed the huge chandelier I’d seen when I first learned about this place. That usually happened as most things in Europe are a lot older than the US and as such they needed repair, restoration.

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I really enjoyed this place, put my bones up in an artistic way when I die for people to see and photograph. Ah artistic even in death!

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Our group was shuttled out after our allotted time was up.

Time for food after being in a centuries old ossuary!

A shuttle appeared and we drove awhile to our restaurant across town, where we were led into the back courtyard full of long, communal tables.

I sat down at a table next to a couple of cute girls, maybe I could make some friends.

They were French so that’s what they spoke until our guide asked them about a beverage, then they were fluent in English and ordered wine.

I selected a dark beer and asked them where they were from, Paris. They weren’t huge fans of Lyon, which I get, it isn’t Paris. They returned to their conversation in French. Damn.

A cute brunette seated across from me asked me a question about Prague. She was relieved someone else also spoke English at the table.

Her boyfriend joined us soon after, foiled again. I got up to wash all the bone residue off my hands.

I had a beer waiting upon my return and we all said ‘Na zdravi!’ along with the tour guide and some of the wait staff clinking our glasses together.

The couple was nearing graduation from college and elected to travel during their last summer break before getting real jobs.

Our food was soon delivered and it was indeed a sturdier version of roast beef, with doughy, nearly bread like dumplings swimming in an au jus sauce topped by non-sweet whipped cream.

Quite good but I think my mom’s got them beat on the roast beef tip.

After finishing the meal and another pint, we paid and were off to another huge cathedral on top of a hill with a wonderful view of the town.

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This was St. Barbara’s Church, a huge Gothic church.

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Inside we were informed it had been built over the course of many centuries, including a time it was run by Jesuits, who painted over many of the frescoes, removed many items and added Baroque elements to the building.

I wondered how the acoustics were in such a huge structure. What was it like hearing people sing in here?

Our tour concluded at the Italian court, a short walk away from the cathedral. It was the king’s residence whenever he visited the sliver mines.

All I can recall about his place was a huge, circle style courtyard with many small rooms used by Smithie’s to hand pound coins as this building was also the nation’s mint.

I joined a few dudes in a compartment for the ride back. It had been a long day of walking, good food, and great sites. We all napped on the way back to Prague.

I paused to walk around and through the Powder Tower or Gate, one of the original city’s entrances and it divided Old and New town’s.

This was a landmark I knew so I was heading in the correct direction.

It was still pretty early in the evening, so I walked through the market near my previous hostel.

Lots of small tourist trinkets for sale in addition to a few hand-made useful items like garments and stitch ware.

I decided not to take any touristy stuff with me on this trip, the only souvenirs would be coins from each of the countries. I didn’t have a lot of room to carry breakable items.

My shortcut turned into an interesting diversion as I passed by a small brewery. I walked by again before entering as it was quite small.

Yup why not end my day in here, it was small and not too crowded.

The beer was very good and they had Budvar dark on draft even though they made several beers there. Something for everyone, I suppose.

I sipped a couple of beers at a small bench just across from a huge, copper vat that was now used as a seating area.

A large group occupied the space so I decided to wait them out in hopes of sitting in this unique area.

I was one of the last to leave, but dammit, I drank a beer in that vat room!

What a day! One of the best on my trip.

Song: Misfits  Skulls

Beer: Dačický světlý ležák

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