Ciudad de México
Trip Start Dec 15, 2006
18Trip End Feb 07, 2007
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Well, I was disappointed. The roads in were fast so we got to the station about half an hour after hitting the outskirts of the town, and so far I have not seen the effects of smog. And the chaotic traffic - a no show.
I did get a sense of the size of the city today though. I took one of the the longest subway routes possible all the way to the end, and then changed onto a tram-like transport, taking it from end to end, finally arriving at Xochimilco, one of the southern most parts of the city
Just like every other city here, it is steeped in history. The initial Aztec settlement, about 700 years old called Tenochtitlan was the center of the empire for a while. Upon Cortes' arrival the original structures were mostly razed and built upon. Around the mid-1520s the Spaniards began major development and built some impressive buildings and churches. Like every other Spanish settled city, it has a grid-like layout and contains a massive square, or zocalo, near the center. The zocalo has been the site of too numerous revolutions ,and important events in Mexico's history, to name.
A couple of winges about the place though. The footpaths are too bloody narrow. Most streets have vendors on them hawking everything from hairbrushes and batteries to tacos. The pavement normally would provide enough room, but when shared with these stalls there is often barely enough room for a single file line to stay on the footpath, let alone any dual lane action. You either wait for the flow past a seller to stop before you can go or, as you most often do, jump out onto the road to go around them on the other side
I have noticed a few odd things the Mexico City inhabitants do. One is talking to each other, not on mobiles, but on long range 2-ways. I saw at least 3 or 4 people doing this - walking around, talking into a walkie-talkie sort of thing, obviously conversing with someone just like it was a phone. It makes sense though - no phone bill, but a limited number, perhaps just one, of people you can talk to. I didn't try my phone while I was there, but perhaps coverage in the city isn't too flash either.
Another odd occurrence is seeing oldish women walking around town with what at first looks like a real child bundled up in their arms, but upon closer inspection is seen to be just a doll. The doll is dressed up too, almost looking like jesus as a baby or something. Who knows. Crazy Catholics.
Then there are the guys who looking like German police officers, in an official looking tan uniform with proper looking hats, who operate these weird pipe organ things that emit a very annoying noise/song
As dangerous as the Planet made Mexico City out to be, myself and everyone I was with didn't run into any trouble the entire time we were there. There were the odd attempts at pick-pocketing on the jam packed metro, but nothing too sinister. We certainly didn't witness any of the 88 muggings a day that was claimed to have been the average by the Planet. Perhaps the worst thing the Mexicans did to us was to mob every museum and gallery on Sunday making it impossible for us to go. They're free each Sunday and the lines are staggering. These people must sit there all day, and most probably don't even get in.
I took a day trip out to Teotihuacan with a group of people from the hostel which turned out to be a fair bit of fun, aside from the actual logistics of getting there and back. The hostel offered tours for significantly more than it costs to do it yourself, so we took the latter option and battled non-working subways and crowded bus stations to make our way out to the site which is about 50kms north east of the city. It was one of the largest, if not the largest, city around the 100-400AD period. It currently has the third largest pyramid in the world, the Pyramide de Sol (Pyramid of the sun), which you are allowed to climb up. There's large parts of the central drag of the city still left. It's worth a couple solid hours of exploring, but at the end of the day it's probably one of the most visited sites in Mexico and the Saturday we went was no exception
The trip to and from Teotihuacan took us through some of the more run down parts of the Mexico City's sprawl. Often the houses look like nothing more than a concrete box with a couple of windows. And these things cover every part of open flat ground, even running up and sometimes over surrounding hills.