29/05/2013 - 07/06/2013 30 °C
After a bit more than a week, time has now arrived to start my journey through Central America, therefore heading to the south of the country.
What will I remember from Mexico City in a few words? Huge city, hot and sunny weather (with the sunburns that go with...), friendly people, noise, pollution, history and archaeology...
Depending of what you are interested in, I think a week is largely enough to visit the most important museums, explore the Chapultepec park, Zona Rosa, the Zocalo square with its main cathedral and make a trip to the pyramids of Teotihuacan.
As I said the city is huge and its reputation for being noisy and polluted is not a myth either. Pollution will not be noticed constantly but sometimes I have found myself walking down the streets with my nose suddenly running and my eyes crying, which apparently are typical signs of a highly polluted city. I think the government has been trying to tackle the problem for years but unfortunately this is still not enough.
Also after having living in a city like London, I was expecting not to have any problems with the number of people in the streets of Mexico City but actually I still got a little bit overwhelmed. Especially at the weekends, there are literally thousands and thousands of people in the streets near the center and after a few hours, your only wish is to get back to your quiet hotel or find a nice spot in the shade of one of the parks. But although there are a lot of people, I have to say that all the local people I have talked to have been really friendly and helpful, even with my every poor spanish skills. Finally, in term of safety, well I think the reputation of Mexico City is maybe a bit exaggerated. Of course bad things can happen, like any big city and of course there are more police cars and men than I have ever seen anywhere else but I have never feared for my life. You just have to be sensible, stay in the center or the touristy areas and avoid doing stupid things I guess. I had also heard bad things about the Metro but once again, no problem there, even when arriving at 10pm from the airport with my big backpack and trying to find my way to the hostel.
Apart from that, the city is really filled with history and here are a few things that any new comers to the city will need to visit:
- Museo Nacional de Antropología
That one is really huge and you could spend easily a few days going through all the galleries, looking at the different civilizations that existed in Mexico, prior the arrival of the spaniards. Mayas, Aztecs, all the pre-columbian populations are all described in details and the collection of antiques and ruins from these periods is really impressive. I have personnaly spent something like 5 hours in it and for those who know me well, that's definitely a record worth an entry in the guinness book!
Check out the photos in the gallery to get a better idea.
- Templo Mayor
This temple has actually only been recently excavated (35 years ago I think) and it was one of the main temples of the Aztecs in their capital city of Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City. The temple is located right in the center of the city and that's only when doing some engineering work near it that some engineers started to uncover a massive monolith, just two meters from the surface. I'm not going to replace Wikipedia here but finding something this big and that old right in the center of the city is really impressive. Once again, check out the photos.
- Chapultepec park
The biggest park in Mexico city, which has in its center a little hill where you can find the Castillo de Chapultepec. The site of the hill was a sacred place for Aztecs, and the buildings atop it have served several purposes during its history, including that of Military Academy, Imperial residence, Presidential home, observatory, and presently, the Museo Nacional de Historia. The Museo Nacional de Antropología which I have mentioned above is also in that park, with a few lakes as well.
I could obviously go on and on for a while but my overall impression of Mexico city is a good one, although I am really keen now to get to see a bit of nature. I also took the opportunity during this week and a half to take some time to sit down and improve my spanish, see things at a slow pace in order to not rush and try to see as much as I could and as quickly as possible, which would have been a bad idea in my opinion, especially under this heat. Besides that allowed me to meet nice people and have a first grasp of the "backpacker community".
The next stage of my journey will be Puebla and Cholula, about 2 hours drive south of Mexico city.