Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stopovers at D.F.

I had two very short sojourns in one of the biggest and one of the most populated cities of the world - Distrito Federal a.k.a Mexico City. Except for an undue incident that happened in Ciudad de Palacios, when we arrived for the second time, our short stay in the city was a peaceful one. I was told terrible stories about the city by my Mexican friends...muggings, murders and shoot outs...but after seeing the city, I immediately fell in love with it. Put together the liveliness of Mexicans, neoclassicial architecture of medevial Europe, lush green gardens and spacious sidewalks brimming with people, roads overflowing with vehicles, street artists and peddlers, the richest and poorest citizens, the mystical Shamanists, the streetside murals and have Mexico city.

Probably I don't have authority to describe this city to it's fullest for my stint in the city was an extremely short one - a day and a half I think. On the first sojourn, we were on our way to Chiapas and we arrived the morning and had time till evening. I wanted to see Museo de Antropoligia in Chapultepec area, but, unfortunately, we arrived on Monday and Monday is the wrong time to goto Mexico city, for all the museums in the city will be shuttered down. Chapultepec is one of the most beautiful and probably the tidiest areas of Mexico city with gardens and parks and clean sidewalks and Castle of Chapultepec. Since the museum was closed we decided to explore the zocalo of the city, we took a bus to centro but enroute we alighted at the Independence Tower on Paseo de Reforma. It's a magnificent tower with a golden statue of "Angel de Independencia" on the top. It forms a big roundabout with steps leading to the bottom of the tower where there is a small square monument with tribute to freedom fighters, which forms the base of the tower.

We ambled in and around the marble building El Palacio de Bellas Artes (The fine arts palace), the grand old post office and zocalo. The buildings are majestic and colonial. There are statues of Aztec kings with unpronounceable, tongue twisting names like Izcoatl and Nezahualcoyotl. We had tacos lunch at one of the restaurants whose name I can't recall, after which we head to the actualy central square. It's the biggest square I've ever seen in any Mexican city with Catedral on one side and the Governer's Palace on it's adjacent side. Our time was almost over and we had to head to Tapo station to catch our bus to Palenque.

I was impressed by the Metro system (Sistem de Transporte Colectivo) in Mexico city, it gives a close competition to the one in Shanghai. The tickets are of fixed price, 2 pesos! The trains are pretty old, but they're in good condition and the system forms the backbone of Mexico city transport infrastructure. For the population of the city, had there been no metro system, it would be hard to imagine the traffic. The security at the station is also intimidating, there are cops everywhere and there are special ladies only train at times. We took metro from zocalo station to Tapo and continued our journey by bus to Chiapas.

During our return journey from Chiapas, we had another day at our disposal in Mexico city. We reached Coyote Flaco Backpackers hostel in Coyoacán area and got refreshed. We had to make a choice between Teotihuacan pyramids and Museo de Antropoligia...I chose the latter one, for I had seen too many pyramids just before arriving in Mexico city. Please click on Museo de Antropoligia to know about museum. It took good amount of time in museum and I guess we were done by around 4 in the evening. We filled our hungry stomachs with tortas, watched a show of "Voladores de Papantla", a ritual from Veracruz state where in people suspend themselves from a slowly turning frame atop a tall tower, after which we took a metro to zocalo. This time we had time to enter cathedral, which was kinda dark inside and overcrowded. Around cathedral, we saw many Red Indians, busy with Shaman rituals and dances.

It was dark and the museum had drained all our energies. We came back to hostel, relaxed for a while and head to the zocalo of Coyoacan area (where Frida Kahlo once lived) for a dinner which was stones throw away from our hostel. There was a bustling fair in the square and we were not in a mood to have something big...we had street side pan cakes and hurried back to hostel and crashed. The next morning, the taxi was ready by 5 in the morning, which dropped us to the nearest metro station.

With all the ugly stories I've heard about Mexico city, I couldn't help falling in love with this city. It's a very romantic city where food is great, weather is pleasant, places are amazing (though I was able to explore very less) and people (chilangos) are kickass! It's a perfect mix of modernism and neoclassicism which makes it one of the most crowded cities in the world.

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