- Category: Mexico - 2009
- Published: December 30, 2009
- Written by Grant
My plan for today was to take the metro to the Norte Bus station and catch a bus to Tula. Tula could possibly be the mythical Toltec city of Tollan. Nobody knows for sure but they do know that it was the capital of the Toltec empire. After Teotihaucan fell in about 800 AD there was a power gap in the Mexico Valley area that was eventually filled by the Toltecs. A lot of the religious beliefs of the Toltecs resembled those of the Teotihaucanos. Teotihaucan may have been sacked by the dreaded northerners (the Romans would have called them barbarians). Tula may have also been sacked by the Chichimecas from the north. Again nobody really knows but there's an interesting story involved. Quetzalcoatl the leader of the Toltecs was getting too powerful and the “senate” got him and his sister high, drunk or both and they did things brothers and sisters shouldn't do. Quetzalcoatl was so ashamed that he stepped down from power and headed east across the water on the backs of turtles or some such thing. Quetzalcoatl was also a God (things get a bit blurry here) and the prophesy mentioned of his return. Four hundred years later a floating mountain landed at Veracruz and bearded men with shiny suits came on land and Montezuma wasn't sure what to think since he was waiting for Quetzalcoatl to return from the east and the rest as they say is history.
Anyway after Tula was sacked the prominent Toltecs moved the the Mexico City area which was then a giant lake surrounded with various cities. By the time the Aztecs came along the Toltecs were considered nobles so the Aztecs (who were barbarians from the north again) would try to intermarry with them to have kids with noble bloodlines. The Aztecs eventually became greater than those they admired and once again the rest is history.
To make a long story short I was sitting at my computer writing my blog for the day and my kids were snoring away and I let them sleep. We've been pushing pretty hard and have walked about 25 miles at 8000 feet so I think they needed it. I'll go back to Tula at a later date.
Since this is our last full day in Mexico City I decided to just go take some pictures, buy bus tickets and hang out. The first stop was the famous Mexico City Post Office built about 100 years ago. This thing is not a post office, it's a palace! I'm not sure how they paid for it but this is the most extravagant post office I've ever seen with marble EVERYWHERE and gold gilding everywhere else. The really interesting part is it's a working post office to this day. It would be easy to make the thing a museum but Mexico City already has 50 museums and the mail needs to get out so it's still in business. You can go up several flights of stairs that split off and then rejoin but after the second you're stopped by security. I'm not sure what's up there but they don't want you to see it. The roof of the post office is an oblong glass dome.
Not having had enough over the top elegance went to the Palacio Belles Artes across the street. This opera house has a gorgeous art nouveau exterior of white marble with a multi colored domed rooftop. It was designed about the turn of the 20th century by an Italian artist but construction was interrupted by the Revolution. It was finished in 1934. I expected when entering the building to be greeted by an art nouveau interior with dainty ironwork railings and glasswork everywhere but what I saw was 100% art deco. Not expected that at all.... Considering when the opera house was completed it made sense but still there's quite a disconnect from the architecture of the outside and the design of the interior. Normally they do tours of the building but it's Monday and NOTHING is so no such luck. One day I'll go in and see the Folklorico performance by the Mexican Ballet and for two reasons – 1. I'd like to see the performance 2. I want to the Tiffany Glass curtain and seeing a show is the only way to see the glass curtain. They got a little crazy with this opera house and made the stage curtain out of Tiffany Glass which intrigues me. I also want to see the famous painting by Diego Rivera on the third floor. It was originally commissioned by John D. Rockefeller for Rockefeller Center but Rivera was fired when they discovered a soviet flag and Lenin in the painting. Rockefeller had the entire painting destroyed and the Mexican Government asked Rivera to recreate it for the Palacio Belles Artes so he did. He kept Lenin in the painting and also added a new character in the a painting – a degrading likeness of Rockefeller.
We had checked the price of bus tickets earlier at the hotel travel agent and the total was $2200 pesos to Oaxaca. Knowing that everyone wants their cut I decided to go to the T.A.P.O. Bus station and check the price myself so we took the metro there. As we were transferring from one metro to another we were met by about 20 police with orange barricades. Not being one to cause trouble trying to push past an armed man with a barricade but also not willing to give up to get where we needed to go we crossed under the metro to the line going the opposite direction then crossed back under to get to our right side again all the while going around the guard with the firepower. It wasn't until we were standing on the platform did I understand what the hoopla was about. Another policeman with way too mu
ch firepower noticed me standing there with three kids and said “blah blah blah Ninos blah blah blah” and pointed past the barricades. Ah! He was telling me that the first two cars were for women and children and since I had kids we were eligible so we went around the barricade and stood amongst about 50 women that came up to my elbow. I honestly felt like a giant. I think there was two women in our car that were taller than Jade (about 5 foot 3 inches) and the rest were smaller. Natalya had a whole head over them and most were about a foot an a half shorter than I. I felt like Gulliver. They were eying me too because this was their safe spot on the metro and here was this Giant man in their space. Nobody said anything, we all got to our destination and I managed not to harm any of the Lilliputians. I have to wonder how tall the people of this area where before the Spanish arrived because some of them even today are about 4 foot 6 inches and quite a lot under 5 foot.
Buses in Mexico are not like buses in America. Mexico used to have a train system but it was deemed too old to save so outside of the train that goes through the copper canyon they're all gone and buses are relied on almost exclusively for interstate travel. Walking through a Mexico City bus station is more like walking through an airport than anything we have at home. Generally a Greyhound station is a small building with a waiting area. Mexico has 200 bus companies with 10,000 sanctioned bus routes! All routes have to be reported to the government and they can't change for 2 years so there's plenty of stability in the market. Knowing that you can probably start to get an idea of the size of the bus stations. Mexico City has four stations and each services a different area of Mexico. The stations have many companies and each have several gates they depart from as well as baggage windows, ticket windows and so on. We've ridden a bus out of the T.A.P.O station one other time so we knew our way around even if our memory was a bit foggy. We found the ADO GL ticket window and with my limited Spanish I was able to book four tickets to Oaxaca at the time we wanted on a first class bus and even got a discount for one of my kids because of age. Total price - $1700 pesos or a savin
g of about 500 which is $40 USD. It pays to be outside your comfort zone every once in a while.
I might explain more about the buses. There are second class buses that are roughly equivalent to Greyhound buses. Then there are first class buses that would be more like private chartered coaches with 5 overhead LCD screens for movies, individual headphone jacks that provide music or audio for the movie, individual men and womens bathrooms and refreshments handed out when boarding. Onboard there is a coffee maker if anyone feels the need. First class buses also have their own bus stations as well which don't service second class buses. I didn't count the number of seats on the bus but I'd guess it was in the 36 range since there was quite a bit more front to back room than what you'd usually expect and the seats reclined about twice as much as normal. Above the First class buses are the Deluxe class which only has 3 seats wide and a lot more room front to back. Deluxe class bus seats recline almost flat and have all the luxuries of First class with even more room and refreshments served on board by an attendant. At the end of the day it's still a bus and takes forever to get anywhere b
ut they've made the best of what they have. If you envision chickens in cages on buses in Mexico you're way off the mark. Mexico has the best bus system in the world. Too bad they don't have the best train system in the world.
Having purchased tickets we decided to eat at one of the many restaurants in the bus station but we all wanted different things so I went to order Tacos el Pastor for Natalya and I which left the kids having to fend for themselves. Piper who has no fe
ar stood in line at Church's Chicken and ordered two Numero Ochos for her and Jade. She ended up with getting cans of apple juice in their meals instead of 7-up because she can't actually speak Spanish but she did good. We all ate that day thanks to her.
While waiting a tall Mexican man struck up a conversation with us about where we were from and where we were going. He seemed very nice and remembered when the Space Needle was built and wished us a happy new year. I don't know what Mexicans think of new year because Christmas is still in full swing around here and doesn't get over until January 6th. Seems like any new year's celebration would get drowned out.
Dinner was done, tickets were purchased and we needed to get packed up for the ride. I've still not gone to the National Museum of Anthropology and even though I've been there before it's a huge museum and I've learned a lot since the last time. I'd like to at least do a quick walk through and see some things that would mean more to me now than they did before. I've mentioned that mesoamerican history can be overwhelming because there were so many different civilizations and it's hard to keep them all separate. Not to mention all of the names for everything is in Nahuatl which isn't exactly user friendly to the English speakers in the crowd.