3 colonial cities in Mexico
30.01.2012 - 02.02.2012
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I finally packed my bags again and left my Mexico City hostel after 9 nights. I travelled North that day to spend a few days in some colonial cities.
My first stop was Querétaro, about 3 hours away from Mexico City. I left my backpack at the bus terminal to go explore the city centre. When I arrived it seemed like just a big city and I was wondering how nice and colonial the centre really would be. I was pleasantly surprised however. The historic centre was great. It had some beautiful squares. The centre and its squares are very green with many trees and grass. There are a lot of interesting colonial buildings and churches.
The pedestrian zone of the city is very nice, with many restaurants, souvenir shops and typical sweets stores. I got into a long conversation with the owner of one of those sweets shops. The elderly man gave me many recommendations for sweets to try, but also for places to visit in the area and in all of Mexico. I wandered around the city for a few hours, ate a gordita for lunch (a thicker tortilla, cut open and then filled, a bit like pita bread), tried some sweets of course and then went back to the bus station.
I then got a bus to San Miguel de Allende, which is only an hour away. I got there still pretty early so that I cold have a first look around in daylight. It seemed a very nice city too. The biggest difference to Querétaro being the presence of a lot more tourists. In Querétaro there were almost none, while here there were many, especially US American, tourists and expats. By night, the city had a very nice atmosphere too. There was a mariachi band playing next to the main square. Giant puppets were dancing to their music (some normal people were dancing as well of course). Kids were practising their breakdance moves in the centre of the square. People were sitting in the restaurants and cafés around, eating dinner or having a drink. Others were sitting on the benches in the square, just enjoying the night or eating some of the street food on sale around them. In the morning, I got a better look at the city centre and it was still as nice. Especially the Parroquia church next to the square is a stunning building.
When I had seen enough of San Miguel de Allende, I got on the next bus to Guanajuato. This city is special in many ways. First of all, it is built in a very hilly place which led to tunnels being built underneath a large part of the city. There are cars driving through the tunnels going underneath the city centre, but there are also pavements in the tunnels for pedestrians to walk through, and there are even underground bus stops and car parks. The second special thing is that it is not a planned city. Most cities, especially colonial cities, in this part of the world were planned and are therefore for the biggest part made up of straight streets that cross at right angles leading to everything being divided up in squares. Guanajuato is different. The streets are not straight, but follow the hills up and down, there are no square blocks and it is easy to get lost when you do not pay close attention. It felt a lot like in Europe. The third special thing about Guanajuato are its museums. It has got the Diego Rivera house, where the artist lived for part of his childhood and where some of his works are on display. More unusual are two other museums though. First the Don Quijote museum which shows only artwork related to the famous novel. Second the mummy museum, which show around 50 mummies found in a cemetery in the area. The bodies were naturally mummified for some unknown reason and were only discovered since some of them were dug up because their family had not paid the taxes for the cemetery spot.
On my first afternoon, I explored the city centre, visited a few of the pretty churches and went to the Don Quijote museum and the Diego Rivera house. Both were very interesting. I also went to the market, which is housed in a beautiful building designed by Eiffel.
The next morning I decided to take a city tour, which would bring me to the more remote areas as well. The tour brought us first to one of the many silver mines in the area. We got a guided tour and could enter the mine for a short bit.
After this, we visited a sweets whop where we got to try typical sweets and cream liqueurs. We also visited a shop selling gems and jewellery made out of these gems and of silver from the mines.
The next stop was a church near there where our guide gave us a lot of information on the church's artwork.
After this we visited the Museo del Purgatorio. Here we got a very interesting guided tour and were presented some of the torture methods used by the inquisition.
From there, we drove to a viewpoint with beautiful views over the city.
The last stop them was the very interesting mummy museum. It was strange to see those bodies that had mummified without any obvious reason and within very short periods of times (most of them were buried for only about 6 years) in their graves.
At the start of the tour I met a Mexican guy and his Brasilian couchsurfer (for those who do not know what that is: couchsurfing is a website which gets travellers in touch with people who let them stay in their homes for free, in exchange of course these travellers offer the same service when at home). Already after a short conversation they offered me a lift back into Mexico City that afternoon since I had not bought a bus ticket yet. Very nice of them I thought.
The tour was supposed to take 3 1/2 hours, but ended up taking 5. It was all interesting, so it was nice to have more time. However, I had to get back into Mexico City to get a bus that night. Nevertheless, we had to go eat something after the tour was finished. We were really hungry by then. After lunch, we picked up my bags and got on our way back to the capital. Unfortunately that also did not go so well. The ride took longer than expected, too. We also had somebody bump into the back of the car at some point. Luckily nothing happened though. And then it started raining as well. Nothing seemed to be going very well and when we got to Mexico City it was too late to safely take the metro with all my bags. We called to ask how much a taxi would be, but it was far too expensive. I did not know what to do until the guys offered to get the metro with me to the bus station. I did not want them to do this for me at first, but then I did accept. We got on the first metro and at the second station it stopped and did not get going again for almost 10 minutes. It was very late by then. We were doubting that we would make it on time for my last bus. So we turned back and I was invited to stay over at the house too. We watched a movie and then wanted to go to sleep. However, I was sharing the living room with the Brasilian and we ended up continuing talking till 5 in the morning. How did it get that late, I don't know... I only know I was very tired the next morning.
I did not want to waste a whole day on the bus, so I decided to take the bus at night and spend the day in Mexico City. I did not do much though, spent the day going back to Coyoacán for some tasty quesadillas and a juice and watching a couple of movies. I slept very well on the bus that night...