Pyramids & Puebla
Days 345-346 (July 8-9, 2017):
The next morning, Adam, Snyder, and I made our way to the Mexico City Airport to pick up our rental car for our road trip around the country. After some discussion and shock over the cost of insurance (the price of renting cars in Mexico is the cheapest you will see anywhere – $1/day even!), but the cost of insurance is astronomical. And, your U.S. insurance carrier or credit card insurance does NOT work in Mexico. Bizarre, but true. Anyways, we got the car and then headed out of the city. We were bound for our first Mexican pyramid complex, the famed Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan is specifically known for two pyramids in the complex, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. On the way to Teotihuacan we stopped at a local restaurant serving up a buffet of Mexican specialties. We stuffed ourselves on chilaquiles, tacos, salads, and more (they even had pickles!!!! Real dill pickle chips!!!! I probably ate 50 of them) before getting back in the car and making our way into the complex.
We had arrived at the pyramids somewhat early, beating most of the big buses full of tourists. We spent most of the day there exploring. We saw where the main squares and marketplaces were, we wandered through the area that supposedly housed wealthier guests and citizens, walked along the canals that were thought to have been used by canoes to transport goods around, examined the ancient murals decorating the walkways and main areas of worship, and of course, we climbed to the top of both the Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon. Climbing the Pyramid of the Sun was tough, having to navigate up 250 very steep narrow steps to the top. The way down was even more treacherous, especially considering it rained on and off the entire time we were there, making it slippery. We went from dry to soaked to dry again several times between the random downpours followed by the overwhelmingly powerful sun of the Mexican summers. However, it was all worth it. The entire complex had a very intriguing history. One of the most interesting things I discovered while there was that nobody to this day even knows who actually built it. The original architects of the city perished long before the time of the Incas, even though the Incan community of ancient people rediscovered it and decided it must have been made by their ancestors since they themselves were great and the city was great (go figure). But to still have something so massive and grand and advanced shrouded in so much mystery even in our modern age of science is truly unique and awe-inspiring. We took some time to relax on top of the Pyramid of the Moon before making our way back towards the exit. On the way out, being so near the end of our trip, we bought some souvenirs, including a blanket, a small crystal statue, and a hat for Adam that said “Yo Heart Mex”, which he wore for the remainder of the trip.
We got back in the car and headed for our destination for the evening, the town of Puebla. We quickly found parking, located our hostel, and settled in to our room. The weather was not the greatest, as it was still pouring down rain on and off. However, we decided to brave the elements and went for a walk around town. We found Puebla to be an awesome, very European-esk town with loads of old, ornamental buildings. We walked to the main square and checked out the Puebla Cathedral. We took in all the sights, dipping in and out of buildings depending on the amount of rain. We finally stumbled onto a place to eat called El Asador Pablano, a bit of a ways out of the main city center. It was a small, one-man shop with just a few plastic tables inside, and a large open grill. We could not resist the smell of the carne asada wafting out of the front of the place. We quickly grabbed a table. Adam ordered a couple of carne asada tacos, and Snyder and I decided to sample the steak cemita. A cemita is a type of torta (Mexican sandwich) born in this small town of Puebla. It is on an egg-based brioche-like roll, covered in sesame seeds, and typically comes with sliced avocado, meat, white cheese, onions, and your choice of homemade salsas. We devoured the food. We all enjoyed it so much, in fact, that we ordered seconds. I mean it. Two sandwiches or four tacos a piece. That is how good it was. AMAZING! I highly recommend checking this place out if you ever venture to Puebla. It was one of my favorite eateries in Mexico. Bellies now full, we returned to the hostel for some sleep.
The next morning, we were up early and headed to yet another ancient pyramid (after this trip was have officially visited the three biggest pyramids in the world!). This time we were headed to the largest pyramid in the world, Great Pyramid of Cholula, just a short drive from Puebla. The only thing about this pyramid is……it’s underground. Yep. I was surprised to. The largest pyramid in the world looks like a giant hill with a bright yellow catholic church perched right on top of it. The Cholula Pyramid is not that much of a visual sight to see, but we found the whole place to be very interesting. We started out by hiking up the hill to the Church of Our Lady of Remedies. The church itself was built by the Spanish in the 16th century, and is quite pretty and simple. It is believed that by the time the Spanish arrived, the pyramid was completely overgrown and buried beneath the hill, and that when they built the church on it, they had no idea the pyramid was even there. The church became a major pilgrimage site for Catholics in the area and thus when the pyramid was rediscovered and excavation of it began, they were unable to remove the church and therefore also unable to uncover the pyramid. So, we saw a big hill. We wandered around the church a bit before descending onto the grounds. The pyramid complex itself, had historically been quite large, housing up to 100,000 people. We happily discovered that entry to the grounds was free for the day and took some time to explore the ruins of the complex around the pyramid, which were able to be excavated. Then, we noticed that with the free entry to the grounds we could also go into the exacavated tunnels that went into the pyramid under the hill. Now that was pretty cool. We walked single file down the dim corridors of the ancient pyramid. They have excavated over 5 miles of tunnels through the pyramid so far, but we only got to see a small portion of that. However, it was very cool to be able to walk down the same halls that an ancient people did thousands of yeas ago, and it gave us a great insight into the complexity of the pyramid structure itself. Overall, I would say it was well worth the trip.
We got tacos for lunch at a small local shop before making our way back into Puebla. We decided to spend the rest of the day taking in the rest of the sights of the old town. We saw the town square again (this time it was dry), the theater, and the historic and beautiful Palafoxiana Library. Palafoxiana is the oldest remaining library in the Americas and it is beautifully and ornately decorated, serving as home to over 41,000 historical texts. After our visit, we stopped for a few beers, visited a couple of small art galleries and then headed for the Amparo Museum, one of the most significant museums in all of Mexico. While there, we explored Mexico’s history through its permanent exhibits of ancient artifacts. We also saw some contemporary and modern art exhibitions (some of which I did not fully understand), and got some amazing pictures from their rooftop patio. Afterwards, we decided to head to dinner at a fancier place along the main square. We were somewhat disappointed in this dinner, but it was kind of our own fault. You see, it was a place that served both Mexican and Italian fare, but what we failed to realize was that Italian was actually their specialty. So while we dined on mediocre, pricey Mexican cuisine, everyone around us feasted on delicious looking Italian food. Oh well. We ended the evening with a couple more cheap beers before heading back to our hostel. Our next stop was the famous Mexican town of Oaxaca.