Processions and pergatory

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September 29th 2018
Published: September 29th 2018
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We’ve had a really good nights sleep. The bonus of being in a place on the outskirts is that it’s not quite so noisy! We go down for breakfast which is good self service - cereal, fresh fruit, yoghurt and freshly baked sticky buns (too tempting to resist I fear).

We set off into town - we know the way now! There is some kind of a procession about to begin which means that all traffic has been prevented from entering the streets. This is a great bonus as we are ahead of the procession but walking on nice clear streets.

We begin our walking tour at the opera house and the church of San Diego. From here we cut through the Jardin de la Union, a plaza shaded by shaded laurel trees with a bandstand in the middle. We pass the Plazuela del Bartillo, a firmer market place with a splendid fountain which was a gift from Emperor Maximilian. Both look a little deserted today. We move on up to the University building - originally a Jesuit seminary, founded in 1872, it was remodelled in Moorish style in 1945. We can now hear a band getting closer so we double back to the plaza to watch the procession.

This festival seems to be a bit more ordered than the San Miguel fiestas. The procession appears to be made up of local groups from the town and surrounding areas. So we have small representative groups marching though. These include scouts and guides and school groups first, followed by the adults and finally the police force. It goes on for hours! It’s interesting to note that the locals are clapping and waving at their local police rather than chucking eggs and abuse at them! They in turn, take time to remove their hands from their machine guns and rifles to wave back. They are wearing bullet proof vests all the same! Interestingly the Police Band is wearing the same uniform as the remainder of their colleagues, just exchanging batons and weapons for bugles and drums. It appears that every police car, truck, quad bike, motor bike, bicycle and horse are on parade, all (but the bikes and horses) with siren blaring.

After a while, we reach saturation point and head off for our next tourist spot: the alley of the kiss. This is a very narrow alley where, according to legend, two lovers met an untimely end when they were caught exchanging kisses over balconies on opposite sides of the street. It’s a bit dingy and a bit of a disappointment to say the least! Not only are there not two balcony’s opposite each other, but the alley is not that narrow for the most part.

Now we are heading towards the funicular railway which will takes us up the steep mountainside to the Monument of El Pipila. I’m glad we didn’t have to walk it! The huge statue of the hero who torched the Alhondiga gates in 1810, thus enabling Hildago’s forces to win their first battle of independence, towers over the city. From up here, we have a fantastic panorama of the city. We can see the tiny figures of the marching procession below and the sound of their marching bands floats clearly up.

It’s now only midday and we have just about completed our city tour. The plan had been to catch the local bus up to the Momias (mummy museum), but since all traffic has been banned we decide to walk. Easier said than done!

First we descend the steep steps back down to the city where the procession is still taking place. The streets are thronging and we are edging our way along the back at about the same pace as the police cars in the streets. They have their sirens screeching full blast, full volume. It’s not pleasant!

We head off into the market where our sense of smell, rather than sense of hearing, is now accosted. The stench of raw chicken carcasses piled up is not nice either. We exit via a side door and take a chances back on the street. Eventually we find a side road which takes us down to a pleasant park where we eat the fresh fruit we picked up at breakfast.

According to Google maps, the mummy museum is not just requires a very steep climb and no funicular to help us out here! We eventually puff our way to the top and take a deep breath before entering a museum which we were unsure about visiting in the first place!

To be honest, the museum is a bit of a gruesome experience and probably not one that either of us would recommend! It’s a bit like the London Dungeon except for the fact that the exhibits are real corpses rather than waxwork models! The Mexicans appear to have a fascination with death and, rather than finding this a tasteless experience, believe that their visit is honouring the dead. The corpses are presented in shrouds or in clothes which have not deteriorated but rather mummified due to the dry conditions here. There are some interesting slogans like: ‘are you alive’ and ‘it is certain that every man will die but not certain that every man will have lived’.

We are shocked to read that corpses could be dug up after as little as five years so that the ground could be reused. We also discover that some of the corpses in this museum were buried alive - which might account for some of the grotesque facial expressions. A row of infant corpses along with photographs of them with their parents is particularly disturbing. Right at the end, there is a mummy sitting on a bench so that visitors can have their photos taken with it. We could also step inside a coffin for a shot! We decline to take part but oblige a young Mexican who is struggling to take a selfie - she slides up on the bench right next to the corpse so that Ian can get a good shot!

Well that was probably our fastest museum visit in history - I think we were in and out within 10 minutes. If that wasn’t pergatory, then we don’t know what is. Definitely not our idea of a fun afternoon out - we will probably need therapy to recover from the experience!

We retrace our steps down the steep hillside back into the city. The procession has finished so it’s much easier to wend our way back to the opposite side of town. We pick up some fresh strawberries, yoghurt and a couple of pasties for a late lunch back at the b&b.

It‘s time for dinner and we are both regretting the late lunch as neither of us is particularly hungry! Ian says we will be hungry later if we we set out for a snack type dinner as a compromise. We find a little taco restaurant with nice comfy chairs and out in our order. Now for the drinks - they don’t have my preferred narango (freshly squeezed orange juice), their bottled water tastes disgusting and I am not a fan of carbonated drinks. The waiter brings me a taster of a brown looking concoction. Yuk, I think it’s drinking chocolate with water added. Just across the road is a take away advertising ’jugo de naranja’ so I point at it suggesting the waiter gets it from across the way! It’s half the price that they are charging so he can still make a profit? He declines, which I think is a bit mean, pretending he doesn’t know what I mean. Won‘t be coming here again, I mutter - he understood that! He takes it in good humour though.

My tacos arrive along with Ian’s burritos. I’m obviously not up on my Mexican cuisine as I was expecting crispy things. Instead I have, what looks like, exactly the same as Ian...except that mine are half the size and there are two of them with each taco. No matter - I really don’t want all that doughy stuff or else I will put on all the weight I lost before this trip! I content myself with the beef steak which is very nice indeed. It also cones with half a baked potota - a little under baked but a nice surprise all the same...mmm, papa a lora (make mental note of this phrase for next time we order!)

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