Campeche and the Ruins of Edzna
Trip Start Dec 11, 2010
20Trip End Feb 01, 2011
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Campeche is a UNESCO Human Cultural Heritage Site. The old, historic area is inside a 1.5 mile hexagonal fortification that began construction in 1686, and took 18 years to complete, at a cost of $3300. It was erected as a protection from repeated sackings by European pirates in the 16th and 17th centuries, and was the most-attacked city in the Caribbean! The wall contains two arched gateways to the old centre, and there are 7 bulwarks. Today, these contain a lovely botanical garden, a former dungeon/now city museum, a museum of Mayan art, and an area for reconstructing pirate attacks for tourists!
We stayed at the historic Hotel Castelmar, just inside the old city wall. The hotel was built as an army barracks in 1800--we were lucky to have an 'officer's' room with a balcony, on the upper floor! (The rooms on the main floor had no windows.) To get an overview of the city, we caught a tram that took us through the narrow streets, pointing out five important, old churches, monuments, sculptures, and some of the new, modern buildings (city hall is nicknamed "The Flying Saucer"!)
The central plaza contains a delightful park and huge gazebo. It is bounded on four sides by several historic buildings. The 1540 Franciscan Cathedral, the oldest convent church in the Yucatan, and the government palace, where Montejo planned his conquest of the Yucatan, are two important ones.
A ten minute taxi ride took us to San Miguel Fort, which is up on a hill overlooking the ocean. Built in 1771, it was the ultimate in defensive technology. The curved, narrow entrance path, prevented attacks from a battering ram, it had a drawbridge and moat filled with skin-searing lime, and had massive walls topped with turrets. Once the fort was completed, the violent pirates sieges that plagued the city for generations, ended. The fort now holds an impressive collection of beautiful pre-Columbian Maya artifacts from around the state, including striking jade funeral masks from the island of Jaina.
On our second day, we rented a taxi which took us to Edzna, about 55 km away. This ancient ruin dates to AD 633-810, according to hieroglyphic dates found on carved stelae. It was at the crossroads of important trade routes in the area, so became a prosperous city. Like Maypan, few people make the trip to Edzna, so we had the place, mostly, to ourselves!