Travels with V


In Zapotec country


Our next destination takes us across the country and down to the southern town of Oaxaca. It’s a province capital for an area that for hundreds of years has been home to the indigenous Zapotec culture. The colourful style in women’s dresses here was what attracted and inspired Frida Kahlo who frequently made self portraits dressed in them. 

Oaxaca (pronounced roughly as ”wa-hacka”) is a city we immediately fall in love with. A busy and a little scruffy but mostly idyllic community where we seem to find pleasant surprises wherever we go. For example: In the same day we see three wedded couples leaving churches and received by guests in beautiful creations of local origin. And noisy bands. 

Oaxaca is famed for its rich food traditions and of course we find som real gems here (see right column). But the perhaps most typical local ingredient is a thick sauce called “mole”. It’s often sweetened and made even thicker with chocolate. We don’t like it too much it makes you feel replete after two chews. But in Oaxaca we’re also treated with dried grasshoppers, a great snack that we were introduced to in Querétaro.  

It’s easy to find excellent international restaurants in Oaxaca, places that mainly attract tourists and expats.  See right column for info. One slightly bizarre joint that we accidentally stumbled into is the “La Negra”, a hybrid between a tavern, a dance hall and war. There’s a kind of “stage” in the middle where dancers in ”campesinos” dresses perform fake local dances. When they change dresses a saxophone player takes the stage and plays to recorded music. But a more interesting drama is played out in the kitchen which is actually right by the dance stage. Here fires are going wild while chefs run like rabbits to avoid burning. Just look at this video!


Everywhere in Oaxaca we hear music and everywhere we see people dancing. Here are some great moments: 

The ancient Zapotec indians had their capital in the Oaxaca valley and on a high hill called “Monte Albán” a huge temple area was built. The excavation of the temples gave a great number of artifacts that now are on display in the Museum of Cultures in Oaxaca, a former convent. 

Monte Albán is on an almost unbelievably flat top of a long and narrow hill. It was abandoned gradually from 500 AD and a few hundred years after that.  Temples surround two squares, one of them only for religious ceremonies where only the elite had access, the other for everybody. There is also a ball court here, it’s the first one we see. Ritual games were played ut here, and the losing team could end up sacrificed.

In Monte Albán, our guide says, there were no signs of human sacrifice. But that’s probably not true. A type of relief stone not found anywhere else tells a different story. They depict human figures in strange poses and initially archeologists called them “los danzantes”, the dancers. But now the expertise believe they depict captured and killed chieftains from conquered neighbouring communities.

Another evidence is found on the walls of this building, believed to be a solar observatory. Here many stone reliefs include a, upside-down human head. Inscriptions tell of conquests and the heads are probably also captured and sacrificed leaders. 

Back in Oaxaca we continue to stroll around and by a quiet little square we find a tiny coffee bar that serves the best coffee in town. While we sip our double espressos we spot a shiny black squirrel in a tree. It picks beans, tear them apart and eat the fruits while bean fibres rain down on the ground. When we take pictures of the squirrel a man starts shouting, pointing to signs everywhere that say “No photos!” It turns out the owner of the house behind the squirrel tree is very paranoid and doesn’t want any part of his house to be visible in a photo. 


Top 5 in Oaxaca:

  1. See: Oaxaca is a province capital but has more of a small town feel but with a lively vibe. Low houses, monumental churches and reat museums, the most obvious to visit being the Museo de las Culturas, should definitely be combined with a visit to Monte Albán.
  2. Stay: We stayed in a hotel on the border to the inner city, called Hotel con Corazon. A great choice, good standard, rich breakfast and within walking distance to most attractions. But quiet.
  3. Best museums: Museo de las Culturas, yes we say it again, this is a must. Exhibits the treasures from Monte Albán. 
  4. Besta food: Los Danzantes one block from the cathedral is best for both lunch and dinner. On top (!) of Los Danzantes you’ll find Berlina if you fancy a veranda seating with beer and german style food.  Casa Oaxaca has a great rooftop seating but is maybe a bit too pricey for what you get. PS. Don’t miss the small hole-in-the-wall bars serving mezcal,  we recommend El Espacio behind the “Etnobotanical garden”.
  5. Don’t miss: The temple site at Monte Albán a couple of miles outside town, excavated remains of a big temple area from the zapotec rule, and also a ball court. The depicted “dancer’s” relief stones.
Jag som gör den här resebloggen heter Lars Aldman och jag har tidigare jobbat som journalist mm på SR och SVT. Och "V" som jag reser med är min älskade hustru Veronica, journalist och fotograf.

Vår favoritsysselsättning är att resa runt i världen och se andra kulturer och samhällen. I flera år har vi äventyrat i Asien, Afrika och Latinamerika, och även naturligtvis i Europa. Och vi vill gärna dela med oss av våra erfarenheter och glädjeämnen, och hoppas att ni vill följa med oss!

PS. På sajten hittar ni mina bilder från både när och (mest) fjärran. Djur, natur, samhällen och människor.
Resebloggar finns det gott om men vi har en lite annan tanke med våra berättelser. Vi vill främst beskriva våra upplevelser av udda platser, människorna vi möter och miljöer som är rätt annorlunda mot vad vi möter hemma.

Därför hamnar vi ibland i avlägsna indianbyar i Guatemalas berg eller bland andetroende bybor på en ö i Indonesien. Men också på mer kända platser som Machu Picchu i Peru eller sandstränderna i Goa. Allt sett genom våra ögon och kameror.

Den som vill ha restips får också sitt - varje resmål har en avdelning med sånt vi kan rekommendera. Eller undvika. Vårt fokus är framför allt att sporra er läsare att göra som vi - resa rätt ut i den vida världen.