Mexico keeps surprising us, and its capital was no exception. It was not without a certain amount of apprehension that we took a bus into one of the largest cities in the world, having been warned of traffic, crime, pollution and influenza… Mexico city probably has all of these, air pollution being the most visible.
Despite these characteristics, which are shared by many large metropolitan areas, Mexico is a very livable and diverse city with many decentralized neighborhoods, residential areas, modern business districts, artsy colonies, surrounded by a ring of poorer suburbs where millions live in very modest circumstances.
Unlike most capital cities of this world, it’s very easy to find a decent hotel room right in the historical center for under €20 a night. Getting around by public transport is easy and cheap (€0,10 a ticket), the metro is modern, fast and clean. To fight pollution, cars are banned from driving on certain days depending on their license plate numbers, streets become pedestrian zones on short notice. Mexico is surprisingly green, with many tree-lined avenues, a park that reminded us of New York City’s Central Park and squares with fountains throughout the city.
Culturally speaking, the city is extremely rich. Colonial style architecture dominates in the historic downtown, with the cathedral and the national palast. For a glimpse at the pre-hispanic cultures of the Central Valley, including the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, one has to visit the vast and well presented collections of the Anthropology Museum. In these weeks before the colorful “Dia de los Muertos”, the Day of the Dead (November 1st), which is a joyous occasion in Mexico, we are constantly reminded of the ambivalent attitude of Mexicans towards death: feared, but also ridiculed.
We take time off colonial Mexico City to visit the pyramids of Teotihuacan, one hour North of the city. The Pyramid of the Sun is one of the largest in the world, even larger than the Egyptian ones. It’s visible from afar and remains mysterious to the present day, as it’s origin is unknown. Teotihuacan gives us a foretaste of what we’re now going to discover in the Mayan cities when we continue our journey to the Yucatan peninsula and Guatemala.