February 27th to March 14th 2004
Friday, February 27'th
It's a 1½ hour flight from Billund to Amsterdam - and then a 10½ from Amsterdam Schiphol to Mexico City's airport Benito Juares. I'm flying KLM and thats pretty good. Good movies and decent food make it a rather nice trip.
Arriving at Mexico City is just like I imagined. Absolutely chaos. Huge line to show them your passport, and all light in the customs-area is out, so all there is is a few torches.
Well - I finally get through, and finds myself a taxi. An authorised one, because in this town you have to stay away from anything else. Soon I arrive at Hotel Catedral and checks in at room 502. The hotel is booked through the Internet, and is very central in the Centro Historico-area. A single room is 345 Pesos a night, and is a great bargain.
Now it's either 8 in the evening - at least thats what the clocks tell me here - or 4 in the morning - that's what it is, if I compare with the time I had when I left. Honestly - I feel most like it's 4 am. A nice little dinner at the hotel-restaurant, and then room 502 and time for bed.
Saturday, february 28'th
Getting up early - 8 am local time - and a great breakfast in the restaurant. Time for looking at this city. It's not really awake yet. Actually my plans was to find a market, but my map is upside down, so I end up at one of Mexico City's huge road - this one called Insurgentes.
There I board an old bus, that for almost no money at all takes me to the suburb of San Angel. It's a very nice place. A few parks where people are selling handicrafts of high standards. I walk around out here for 3 hours, before I find myself a lunch at a local restaurant. A 3 course lunch for 34 pesos (3 US-Dollars). Actually I wasn't aware that Mexico was so cheap. And when this is the case, I take a taxi back to the hotel. It's a 9 km ride - takes almost an hour - so the traffic is pretty heavy here.
A short nap at the hotel, which has a much higher standard than I'm used to. For instance, it's not normal that maidservice actually has folded together all my dirty travel-clothes that I had left on the bed.
At 5 pm I head over to the Zocalo - the main square not far from the hotel. Then I do something that I normalle don't do. I take a city-tour on the Turibus. Mexico City is HUGE, and there is no chance that I will see much in those few days that I'm here. That's the reason for this trip on a double-decker bus. You put in your ear-plugs, and see and hear about the most important parts of town, while awfull music is playing in the background. It's a 3 hour tour, so we are back at the Zocalo at 8. Then dinner - and a little relaxation in room 502 before going to bed.
Sunday, february 29'th
Head for the Zocalo from the morning and a view of Templo Mayor, to see the remains of som old pyramids. The spaniards destoyed them and used the stones for churches back in 1520. Shame on them!
Outside things are heating up. A lot of street-vendors and Conchero-dancers. This is what Lonely Planet calls "pre-hispanic aerobic" - some kind of dance with men in feathers
Time for another long walk. Down Avenida Modero and the sinking church of San Francisco. Passing Palacio des Belles Artes and the city-park Alameda Central. Then on through the not very interesting Paseo de la Reforma before I end up in Zona Rosa. Zona Rosa is - in my view - a total tourist-trap. Plenty of bars, restaurants, hotels and shops all made for tourists. Not my kind of place. I find a decent lunch before going to Grey Line and their tourbus to the bullfights.
We are 10 people in the bus and we are at the bullfight-arena at 4. First toreador is a clumsy guy. He needs 4 attempts to kill the bull. Huge "buh's" as he leaves the ring.
Humberto Flores is better. He kills the bull while the crowd roars for him. As an apreciation for his brawery he gets one of the bulls ears. Then he walks around the stage with the ear in his hand looking very proud. One of the girls on the bus can't see what it was he got. When told, she just says "oh - I thought it was something else".
Third fighter is Marcal Herge. Not as spectacular as Humberto - but he does get the job done - but also have to take some beating from the bull. It's way to rare in this sport that the bull actually wins.
Then it's the clumsy guy Alfredo Lomeli again. This time with a bit more of a succes. And then the tourists leave the arean.
The bus take me all the way back to the city-center, not far from the hotel. Then it's dinne and back to bed.
Monday, march 1'st
Taxi to Busstation del Norte - and the a 25-pesos bus to Teotihuacán, about 50 km. from Mexico City
Here you find one of the major tourist-attractions in Mexico, the pyramids "Piramides del sol y de la luna" - the Pyramids of the sun and the moon. Mexico's "heart" was here at about 150 b.c. The pyramides was built 300 years later. A huge job it must have been. You first really notice that when you stand right beside these strange stone-structures.
A take a walk around the area for several hours, and also reach the top of the moon-pyramide. At the end you are quite "done" because it's very hot out here. A hat would have been nice - but for some reason thats the only thing that is not for sale among the hundreds of vendors hanging around.
In the afternoon its back to Mexico City, and the rest of the day is pure relaxation
Tuesday, march 2'nd
Museum-day today. Metro from Zocalo to Chapultepec-park. From here it's a short walk to the huge antropological museum. Here you will find everthing from Mexicos past. The museum is split into geographical zones. There are pots, stones and figures from all over Mexico. Very impressive.
Outside 4 voladores is making a show. They climb up som large poles, ties a rope around their ankles and then falls down head first, while turning around the pole. Pretty wild to say so.
Finally it's a little relaxation in Chapultepec, before I take the Metro back to the Zocalo.
Later another walk around the hotel. It's pretty hectic around here. Hundreds of street-shops, where everything is for sale.
Dinner at the hotel again. I should have guessed tha Enchilladas Mexicana was hot. It's like your eyes is jumping out of you face. They are - as always - served with frijoles - some kind of mashed beans - and a cool Corona.
Wednesday, march 3'rd
Exit to this huge and chaotic metropole. Taxi to the busterminal TAPO. The driver thought that about 25 mio. people lived in Mexico City, but noone really knew.
From TAPO it's a 6 hours busdrive in ADO GL supercomfy bus to Oaxaca (pronounced wah-HAA-kah). Here about ½ a million people live, so this is not so much chaos.
A kid which looks not much younger than 14 takes my Oaxaca-taxi from the bus-termianl to Hotel Posada Catarina, where I have booked a room.
Then it's out to take a look at this exiting and lovely city, which has a history all the way back from where the spaniards ruled this country. Time for a comida corrida - a 3 course lunch-thing. You choose between 2 soups, 2 pasta-courses and 4-5 meat-courses. To that you get some kind of water with fruit-taste, Tortillas ad-libitum and a small dessert. All this for the faboulous sum of 35 pesos.
The evening I spend relaxing at the hotel. For that purpose I have bought some of those extremely delicious cookies you can get down here from every baker-shop there is. At the entrance you take a dish and a thingy to pick up the cakes. The you take a walk around - choose your favourites - in this case 3 that looks so delicious - goes to the cashier - and they charge you 5 pesos for the whole thing. Ain't that a bargain.
Thursday, march 4'th
With Autobuses Touristicos to Monte Alban. Monte Alban is another ruin-city with a very exciting past. The place was setteled by the Zapotex-indians up to 200 b.c. In the period between 200 b.c and 300 a.c the area was built using huge stoneblocks.
Monte Alban had it's best time between 300-700 a.c, where about 25.000 people are supposed to have lived here. The ruins you see today, is from this period. Between 700-950 a.c, the area was abondoned and turned into ruins.
It's a very exiting place to see, and there's a great view of the Valles Centrales - the valley where Oaxaca is placed.
Later another walk around Oaxaca. Among others I visit the lovely Zocalo and the beuatiful churd Iglesia de Santa Domingo. It's about 400 years old and extemely beautiful - especially inside. Outside there is some kind of folklore-dancing going on
Friday, March 5'th
An all day tour with 13 other people - and then Jorge the driver-guide - some stupid guy talking all the time.
First stop is El Tule to see the worlds widest tree. I just wonder who took the time to measure all the trees in the world, to make sure this is the widest - but nevertheless - it is wide - 58 m all the way around.
Then to Teotitlan del Valle. Famous for it's weavers. They make lovely small rugs. We saw how the did it, and used colours made ouf of natural things. Nice to see - but the actuel purpose of this visit was - as usual - to have the tourist buy the stuff.
Then on to Mitla and more ruins. This was THE place to be in the period right after Monte Alban. And Jorge was talking and talking and talking. He didn't even stop when some of us simply left the group in the middle of his show.
Then on - via small mountain-roads - to Hierve El Agua. A lovely spot, with cliffs and springs you could take a dip in, if you wanted to.
Finally back to Oaxaca. On the way back we visit a Mezcal-brewery. Mezcal is an alcoholic drink made out of Agave-cactus. Teauila is a kind of Mezcal, just from another area. We also got the chance to taste it. Of course we were supposed to buy as well, but noone really did. Jorge wasn't to happy about that.
Back in Oaxaca at 7 and into my new room. I have changed, because the old one was very noisy - right out into the street. This one is in the back.
Saturday, March 6'th
Oaxaca-day today. You can split Oaxaca-city into two. The northern part - the nice and quiet one - with glitzy "casas", galleries and plenty of tourists.And then the lively southern part, with markets, street-vendors and hazzle and dazzle. My hotel was in the southern part, and it was the noise from the street that made me ask for a new room. So now it's not the street that wakes me up in the morning - but the birds singing in the patio instead - they start singing at 6 - but it's much nicer anyway.
I kind of get to see most of Oaxaca downtown today, including a market with handicrafts. I haggle the best I can do - and buys a rug for 150 pesos. He says it's homemade, but I'm not sure. I bet I've been cheated - but who cares.
Later a visit at Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca. Here you find old things from Monte Alban and Mitla - and new things - for instance the desk from a former mayor in the cith. The museum is located in the old convent of the Santa Domingo church
Outside we have got some action today. A wedding has just finished in the church, and the folklore-dancers are still doing their thing. And then it's not exactly good planning, when a heavy-metal band starts playing right in the center of square on the same time.
Dinner at a local place - Rosa Mexicana. Enchilladas Suizo - I have tried this before - but i't seems like I have forgotten have HOT is was with enchilladas in green salsa-sauce. I need "dos cervezas".
Sunday, March 7'th
A little more relaxing today. A few walks around Oaxaca - more "off the beaten track"-walks. I like this kind of touring a city - no where special to go - just take a look around.
Dinner at a restaurant at the Zocalo. Pizza - you have to keep in training. I don't take the Pizza Oaxacana, which includes a speciality here in Oaxaca - fried grasshoppers!!
The evenings around here is plain wonderfull. The clima is very comfortable and there is live-music plenty of places around town
Monday, March 8'th
My alarm-clock wakes me up at 6 - same time as the birds begin to sing. Of course there is a reason for this. The reason is the 7.20 train to Cuicatlan. There are not many trains left i Mexico. This is one of the few, and I read about this trip on the Lonely Planet Homepage. The train only runs 3 times a week.
The trip to Cuicatlan is a 6 hour trip at a very modest pace. I'm the only gringo onboard, så you can't call this trip a tourist-train. The rest of the only wagon on the train is about half full with local travellers.
The first 2 hours are flat. It's harvest-time and that is done by hand in this area. You can see two oxes ploughing the fields, while the farmer walks behind. Or an elderly couple harvesting their field. He's got a scythe, she's got a sickle - and two a donkey with a wagon waits to take in the harvest. This is extremely oldfashioned - much more than I believed.
After the two hours the ride starts to go up and down into the hills. Lots of cliffs right beside the tracks - and plenty of cactus as the looked in old the good old westerns. And you can see everything when the train is running so slow. The wagon even has an outside rear platform, so you can go out and take everything into sight. Gee - I miss my camera.......
It goes on like this until we reach Cuicatlan at 1.30. The are quite a lot of stops on the way. Some of the places look like in the middle of nowhere - others are pretty busy with the train arriving as the highlight of the day. By the way - the whole trip costs 30 pesos. That's less than the cheapest bus-ticket in my hometown.
In Cuicatlan there is time for a comida corrida. The usual bargain - 35 pesos for 3 dishes, 2 sodas and a huge stack of tortillas. And you have to take is as an experience that a mule walking down the hill almost puts his whole face into the restaurant to say hello.
Bus back to Oaxaca a couple of hours later. Back in the city at 6 pm. The busride is less spectaculat, but takes half the time. And the train is not returning until tomorrow - and I really don't wanna wait for that.
Tuesday, March 9'th
Oaxaca-day once again. Just walking around enjoying this great place. A little shopping. Mezcal for instance - and you can't go into a Mezcal-shop without having to taste. But do make sure you don't swallow the worm in the bottom of the bottle. The fried grasshoppers in big sacks at the market - no way - just the smell - that's awful. No need for tasting here.
Also a museum-visit. The Benito Juarea museum, where he grew up. Benito was minister of Justice and spokesman for the poor back in the 1800-hundred. There's also time for a few more churches. In the Carmen-Alto Church a very old man, is crawling on his knees all the way from the entrence to the alter.Some people around here take their religion very seriously.
Wednesday, March 10'th
Exit Oaxaca. Taxi to busterminal and ADO-bus to Puebla and another taxi to Hotel Colonial.
Hotel Colonial is one of the most fancy places I have ever stayed at. But that's almost natural when the hostess of the place who has replied to my e-mails is called Maria Luisa o de Montellano del Puerto. There's a certain smell of highclass in that name, and so is the hotel. It used to be a jesuit-convent, but a Mr. Coverrubias turned it into a hotel for the rich at the end of 1800-hundred. Nowadays anyone can stay here. 470 pesos a night is not much, but there's still a Bellboy ready to carry my backpack to room 327.
Then for my first look at Puebla. It's a town with app. 1 mio. people, and plenty of beautiful houses and other buildings. The first thing I do is visiting a photo-shop to see if anything can be done to help my camera. He looks worried - and understands that it's a serious situation. He can fix it, but it will take him 4 days. There's no meaning in that, so instead I buy myself a cheap instamatic for the rest of my trip.
As anywhere else they take care of their values here in Puebla. Outside banks, jewelryshops etc, there's always an armed guard. But this is the first place where I see a guy like this one. Leaning up against the wall with his cut huting rifle hanging over his shoulder. Looked pretty cool.
There's also plenty of police in this country. There's a policeofficer directing the traffic in almost every intersection in the city-centres. Always men - except i Puebla. Here you can see a young woman directing the traffic like an orchestra, using her whistle and wearing a huge golden sheriff-star on her chest.
Thursday, March 11'th
Colletivo to Cholula. Cholula is 7 km. west of Puebla, and here you find the second-highest pyramid in the world. Only the Keops-pyramide in Egypt is bigger. The Sun-pyramid in Teotihuacán is no. 3.
But Piramide Tepanaga in Cholula has got a problem. It's all covered by earth, so you really can't see it's a pyramid - it looks just like a normal hill. And they have built a church on the top, so you can't just dig it out.
But you can walk through a tunnel, and its ok - it is a pyramid. They have also uncovered parts of it, but honestly - it's hard to imagine the whole thing as a pyramid. I walk throgh the tunnel, look at the uncovered parts and ends my visit by climbing the "hill" to the very neat church Nuestra Senora de los Remedios.
Back to Puebla, where I spend the rest of the afternoon in the streets and the evening in front of the telly watching Copa Libertadores.
By the way - in the evening - my favourite poliofficer is using a lightsword, that would have mad Obi-Wan-Konobi full of envy, to direct the traffic at the nearby intersection.
Friday, March 12'th
Gotta move from my great hotel. Colonial is booked so I move to the nearby Hotel Palace. Less spectaculat, but absolutely usefull.
I spend this day as a true sightseeing-day. First it Barrio del Artista, a very nice artist-area. Local artists has got their own small studios where the work and sell their art. Then I visit at Teatro Principal. This theatre was built in 1759, but burned down and was rebuilt in the 1930's. At the theatre I gatecrash a children-performance.
There's also time for a little shopping and a visit to the small Museo de la Revolucion, where the revolutionary Serdán-family was fighting to last man in 1940. You can see the bullet-holes in the walls and inside a crashed mirror is still hanging on the wall.
Later another museum the Museo Amparo. This one is also with old things from the Mexican past. This museum has got that nice feature that every text is translated into english.
On to Plazuela de los Sapos - a nice neighbourhood with nice houses. Now it's 2 pm and time for lunch at the hotel.
But I'm not done yet. On to the San Francisco-church and a lovely park beside. From there to the incredible beautifull Santa Domingo church - and when you are at it - why not also check out the Catedral.
By the way - it's almost always a good idea to take a look at the local churches around here. They are very nice. A lot of Mexicans come to the churches, just for a small visit, so there's always some kind of life inside. If there's not a service, then there are people praying or some that maybe just go inside - make the sign of the cross - and go back out again.
The last visit this day is the Casa de la Cultura. They've got a very old library, but it's closed for renovation. Instead i watch some nice photo-exhibitions at the casa.
Saturday, March 13'th
There's half a day to kill before my return-trip starts. I used this on walking around Puebla and another visit to Casa de la Cultura, where some folklore-dancers and some chess-players are performing. On the way back to the hotel I meet one of the many shoe-shiners around here. He looks at my very old Adidas-shoes - shakes his head - and says "no" - and walks on. Now I think it's time to go home.
At 2 it's a taxi to CAPU, the local busterminal. And then an Estrella Roja bus directly to Mexico City's airport.
Check-in procedures is very slow due to high security. But we do get under way at 9 pm - as planned - and for once I get a good nights sleep on the plane across the atlantic ocean.
Sunday, March 14'th
We arrive in Schiphol at 2 pm local time. I have 5 hours here, so I take the train into Amsterdam and just take a walk along the canals. Much nicer than hanging out in the airport - but it's just so cold you can't imagine. Now I have just got used to the nice Mexican climate.