When after 18 hours of flying we finally crawl out of the aircraft in Mexico City we’re not met with that tropical heat one might have anticipated. The Mexican capital lies on a high plateau 2 200 meters above sea level, and at least now in late february the days are sweet but the nights are a bit chilly.
CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico) in it’s short form, is with 22 million inhabitants an incredibly large city. And because almost every one of them lives in their own house it’s a mass of colonized land that crawls up all the hills and slopes around the city. And when all the suburban people needs to go to their jobs in the city there’s a gigantic daily chaos. Constant traffic jams, overcrowded trains and buses etc. The city has tried to solve this with new express buses and the efficient subway carries 4,5 million persons back and forth every single day.
We’re staying at a hotel in Centro Histórico, where most of the interesting attractions are situated. Zócalo, the central square with the metropolitan cathedral, the ruins of Templo Mayor, and the National Palace around its sides. And just a short walk from there takes you to the Alameda Park and several museums nearby. Many buildings look like palaces, even the main Post office looks like a classic cigar smelling upper-class hotel.
Mexico was first built en the early 14th century by an indian tribe on what was then a small island in a lake. They build a great temple there and around the island houses and farm land was placed on landfill constructions with canals. This city was called Tenochtitlan and it’s temple pyramids were impressive. The canals regulated the lake water and saved the city from being flooded.
In 1521 the spanish conquistador Hernan Cortéz reached Tenochtitlan. It was besieged and subsequently conquered. The whole city, the temples and the canals were destroyed, the stones from the temple became the building bricks for churches and palaces in the new city that the spaniards called Mexico because it was easier for them to pronounce,
New buildings covered the temple grounds and they were forgotten for hundreds of years. But in the late 19th century some archeologists started to dig for them. Some remnants were found, but it wasn’t until workers from a construction company dug and hit a massive stone with aztec reliefs that it became obvious where the Templo Mayor once stood. Houses on the spot were demolished and large scale excavations begun. Lots of artefacts were found and are now displayed in a fascinating museum on the temple grounds.
The Spanish invaders soon realized that their new city had serious problems. Without the canals floodings frequently drowned and brought diseases into the houses. So they built a system of sewers to drain the lake. And that was a success, the lake almost disappeared. But this led to other catastrophes that still affects Mexico City today. When the ground water level was lowered the buildings started to sink. And farming on the surrounding land was impossible because water had now become a rarity.
The axolotl is a species of water salamander that was only found in the lake. Today it’s almost a national icon but at the same time on the brink of extinction. It’s of interest for science because of it’s ability to regenerate parts of its body if it’s wounded. But in the wild it’s only found in some heavily polluted waters in the southern parts of Mexico City.
Top 5 in Mexico City: