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Published: February 24th 2019
The cathedral by night
Mexico City's cathedral lit up at night
How to travel by ancient canals and brand new cable car
This Christmas Emma preferred to stay in Sweden over Christmas and New Year. Ake, however, decided to use the days he had off from work over the holidays in the same way he has for the last 15 years or so - he would travel. Now that Emma stayed home Ake instead brought his mother and they both went to Mexico.
In 2009 I was in Mexico and among other things I then saw the Monarch Butterfly Reserve. It turned out that my mother also wanted to see the monarch butterflies. That's the main reason we headed for Mexico on this trip and not somewhere else. Before I started to make the plans I was a bit worried that going to Mexico with my mother would be a repetition of what I did 10 years ago. The butterflies I was OK with seeing once more and one or two other places I saw last time I was around I could also revisit without regretting it or being bored. But to go to exactly the same places one more time would be a bit dull.
Xochimilco is an important historical sight that receives visits from many thousands of people. Xochimilco is a large maze of more than 150 km of canals crisscrossing a fertile area in the outskirts of Mexico City.
There was no need to worry as it turned out. There is so much to see in Mexico I could easily go back three of four times more and still not see even half the places I'd like to visit.
This is a compilation of miscellaneous things we saw in Mexico City. It is not all we saw though. I have left out some interesting things that I will publish in later blogs. If I would have tried to squeeze everything in it would have become too long and you would loose interest pretty soon. So please hang around for later blog entries as there will be more from Mexico City mentioned in those and also some really interesting places elsewhere in central Mexico.
I did see a few places in Mexico City in 2009
, but not much. This time I got to see more as we stayed here several days. We spent two days in the capital right at the beginning to adjust ourselves a bit and we were also there a few days in the end for convenience.
I might as well start with the two sights we saw that gave rise
An egret posing in Xochimilco
to the somewhat cryptic headline above. They are Xochimilco
is an important historical sight that receives visits from many thousands of people. From what I understand it is popular not only for tourists and other foreigners but also a place where locals go for parties, festivals, family gatherings and so on. Xochimilco is a large maze of more than 150 km of canals crisscrossing a fertile area in the outskirts of Mexico City. These canals date back to prehispanic times when much of Xochimilco was cultivated to produce food to the city Tenochtitlan, a large city predating Mexico City. The canals are old, they were used for transport in Xochimilco long before any European ever set his/her foot in Central Mexico. These canals are of such high historical importance that UNESCO has made them a world heritage site.
We took a boat trip on these canals both because we wanted to see the canals and because we wanted to see Island of the Dolls
. This island used to be the home of a a recluse named Don Julián Santana Barrera. One day he discovered the body of a girl who had drowned in the
He is not a doll but he is part of the installation, in lack for a better word, at Island of the Dolls in Xochimilco
canal. For some reason this event prompted him to start collecting dolls. Most of the dolls he found floating in the canals or he picked up from rubbish dumps. Needless to say many of the dolls had limbs or even heads missing and many were dirty. He brought these dolls home and hung them in trees or on walls. He kept on collecting these dolls for decades and at the time of his death there were hundreds of them all over his property. By then outsiders had found out about his obsession of dolls and came to see them. The often dirty and damaged dolls make it a bizarre place and it feels a bit spooky going around there. The current owners maintain the dolls and more are brought to the Island of Dolls every month by visitors and others. Mexicable
- From one local transport which dates back hundreds of years to one which has been around for just over two years. Greater Mexico City has a population of more than 20 million. For a city of such a size urban transport is a major challenge. The Metro and the network of buses cover parts of
These canals date back to prehispanic times when much of Xochimilco was cultivated to produce food to the city Tenochtitlan, a city predating Mexico City. The canals were used for transport in Xochimilco long before any European ever set their foot in Central Mexico.
the city fairly well but some of the suburbs almost completely lack reliable transport. In the suburb Ecatepec they solved this by building a cable car. It is a cost effective and environmental friendly solution which also required only a minimum of space on the ground to be built.
The Mexicable is not a tourist site. When we got there they gave us a look that said "Oh dear... Wonder if they are lost...". However, we thought it was interesting to ride this cable car and get a glimpse of a part of Mexico City we otherwise would never have visited. Historical city centre
- Mexico City's centre is dominated by the square Plaza de la Constitucion. On one end of the square is the massive Cathedral and along the other sides are the National Palace and other important buildings. We were in Mexico City around Christmas and during the holidays there were Christmas decoration hanging from the buildings and hundreds of people spent the evenings on the square enjoying themselves. I took a video of this to give you an idea of what it looked like. Post office
Island of the Dolls
Another stuffed animal at Island of the Dolls. Is that Eeyore by the way?
The GPO in Mexico City I have to add here simply because it is so spectacular inside. It looks more like a royal palace than a post office. Look at the photos and you'll get an idea. Tlaloc Fountain
- In Mexico City they have a park named Chapultepec
. The park is popular for picnics, recreation and exercise. The park is so large that you have to be quite fit to walk from one end to the other. There are some points of interest in the park, the most popular being Chapultepec Castle. We went to the park to see something else though, the Tlaloc Fountain
. This fountain was created by the artist Diego Rivera in either the late 1940-ies or early 1950-ies. We had a problem finding this fountain at first and when we looked around we became interested in some other structures there. These structures were four circular platforms, each one maybe 50 meters across and raised perhaps a meter above the surroundings. In the middle of each platform there was a tower and around the platform there was a sculpture of a serpent. It also looked like the serpent was meant to sprout water from
Island of the Dolls
Island of the Dolls used to be the home of a man named Don Julián Santana Barrera
its mouth. Water which would then float along the serpent's entire length. When we asked locals who were visiting the park they explained that underneath these platforms were huge water tanks which were part of Mexico City's water supply system. Someone said that these tanks are no longer in use where as other sources claim they are indeed in use. The Tlaloc Fountain was apparently commissioned to be a symbol to commemorate the end of the construction of the city's water works.
Before I leave off I have to mention a place we tried to see in Mexico City but failed because it was closed. It is a public library called Biblioteca Vasconcelos
. I have a soft spot for libraries and the design of this particular one is so cool and also something I have never seen before. Click on the link above and hopefully you'll see what I mean. If you don't, well at least you got a feeling of what makes me "tick".
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