Mr. E took us to Zócalo (the historic centre square of Mexico City) for our first day of site-seeing. The historic centre is located in the Centro Histórico neighbourhood and to get there I was advised we would need to take public transport (the metro-bus and the metro).
At first, I was slightly skeptical to take any bus as the day before I saw a person jump out of a moving bus and thought ‘wow, buses don’t even stop for passengers’. My nerves were wasted though, as the metro-bus system in Mexico City is fantastic. In fact, it is one of the better bus systems I have experienced anywhere in the world. The busses are new, clean, safe, run on schedule and are equipped with TV’s. They have a carriage at the front only for women, children and the elderly. Busses come to the stop within about 3 to 5 minutes of each other so missing a bus is not problem. I loved traveling using the metro-bus system and found it connected well to allow me to get to most places. The cost to use the metro-bus is $6 pesos (less than 60 cents of the AUD).
Ms. M traveling on the Metro-Bus System
The underground metro was a slightly different story. Aside from there not being any ventilation or even air in the metro, the amount of people that use the underground system is mind-boggling. People are literally sitting on top of each other and there is not even one part of you that isn’t glued to someone else. The concept of personal space is unheard of. Experiencing this, I will never complain about the Sydney trains again.
Another amazing thing is that people use the metro to sell market type items. This practice is apparently illegal, however police look the other way. Everything costs $10 pesos (under a dollar) and you can purchase anything from burnt CD’s, snacks, stationary and fake jewelry. The fact that these people sell things, means they are trying hard to get by and it keeps many of them off the street begging. Looking at it from that perspective, I was impressed that regardless of their age, people and children, used the metro system to make business. Most were very good at sales as well which in a place like Australia would have landed them high paying jobs in companies. I saw one lady nursing a child with one hand, and with the other selling glow in the dark pens. How she or her baby managed to breathe in the metro system baffles me.
Arriving at Zocaló station and climbing up from the metro system, I was immediately exposed to incredible historic and renovated architecture that housed churches, parliament buildings and storefronts. The historical centre was buzzing with people selling things, protestors and tourists. There were policemen with machine guns everywhere and I wasn’t sure if I should feel safe or more afraid with them around. When did they use the guns? We’re they allowed to open fire at any time, even with civilians around? Had they killed any civilians? What type of attacks has this square experienced for them to have the need to carry machine guns? All these questions and more kept me occupied.
We visited only cathedrals as it was a Monday and all museums were closed on Monday’s. The cathedrals were very grand and encompassed gold, works of art and religious monuments. People filled the wooden benches and many prayed and cried. Seeing as it was a Monday, I was surprised to see so many unemployed people in the house of worship.
The Metropolitan Cathedral was an interesting Cathedral built over an Aztec temple and as a result is now sinking (you can see the floor inside slightly tilted). We went on a tour to see the bell towers and although the tour was given only in Spanish, Ms. E was a great interpreter. I was amazed to hear that the largest bell (of the 25 bells in the Cathedral tower) weights 13,000kg. It would have taken much man-power to put those bells in place without the assistance of machinery when the Cathedral was built.
The bell tower of the Metropolitan Cathedral
The tour finished in an interesting oval shaped room with arched walls and ceilings. We were told that these walls could talk! Originally when the Cathedral was built these rooms were used as confessionaries for the nuns. The nun would stand in one corner of the room and quietly speak into the wall, her voice would travel the arch of the wall and ceiling to the opposite side of the room where a priest would stand facing the wall and would hear her confession. Naturally, we had to try this out ourselves and like magic, it worked. I was able to communicate into the wall with Mr. E who was standing on the opposite side of the room and could hear me clearly (in spite of my voice being barely a whisper).
After visiting the Cathedral, we walked around the main square of Mexico City for a while and as rain set in, we took a break at a coffee shop with delicious Mochas (located on the right side of the Cathedral). There, Mr. E, Ms. E and I engaged in general conversations about Mexico, it’s culture, it’s people and it’s food.
Once the rain subsided, we went to the most amazing Post Office Building I have ever seen, also located in Mexico’s Historical Centre. The design brings a mix of elements and materials both European and Mexican. The interior of the building is what is really breath-taking with marble floors, bronze window frames and intricately carved stone and wooden staircases.
Post Office Staircase
The most interesting thing I noticed was that the post office was filled with cats. Finding this strange, I enquired about the cats and was informed that cats are on-site to keep the mice out. I could think of perhaps better tools such as having the post office fumigated, or using rat poisoning, but they seemed to have it all in control with the cats who worked full-time to hunt mice and in return were fed and had a fancy roof over their head.
The cat that lives in the Post Office
We finished the day by adding to the wealth of one of the richest men in the world, Mr. C, by dining at his restaurant. The views were spectacular but the service and the food were below average. After waiting for an extremely long time to be served, I ordered a beef steak and realised quickly that the meat I was served swimming in a plate of gravy was most certainly not beef. I dare not think what meat I ate. Luckily, in Mexico, this was the only bad food I ate. All else that I was exposed to was delicious.
Views from the restaurant