Merida

14 02 2009

Merry Merida is a pleasure to visit. We stayed for four days in the fabulous Luz En Yucatan. This is a really pleasant small hotel and the owner has put a lot of effort to make you feel at home. I would definitely suggest staying there however I expect its growing reputation to overwhelm its capacity so plan ahead. In general, I found it quite wise to plan and book in advance in Mexico. Don’t plan for bargain. If you get a price that’s good enough for your pocket, just go for it and make people’s life easier and your vacation longer. Otherwise you’ll spend your vacation planning your vacation. Anyway, we stayed in the front room which is pleasant, spacious and very cosy. The only problem would be the noise from the street, that you can reach from that room only. But you’re in Mexico and in exchange for the little noise during daytime – Nighttime is quiet) you can count the by-passers swinging in your hamaca.

Merida is a very clean and very pleasant little city. There’s not much to do in the city but stroll up and down its pleasant streets, sip a few margaritas and try some yucateca cuisine, though I have to say I prefer the mainstream Mexican. Hang around the evening fiestas and enjoy the laid back atmosphere. for the best by far food in town visit El Templo. The food is excellent and unique, but don’t forget to wash down the tasty tortillas with a Margarita a las rocas. There are many things to do around and I definitely suggest visiting Uxmal,which I consider the most amazing archaeological site, Campeche which is a beauty on its own and Champoton for the flamingos.

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The museum of modern art is certainly worth a visit.

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The Mayas

14 02 2009

Driving through Yucatan is inevitably followed by lots of visits to Mayan ruins. I remember reading about the Mayas when I was a kid, at that time that actually visiting such a place was inconceivable, like going to Mars! Such strange civilizations, so far away! Yet, we were there and we saw quite a lot of them: Chitchen Itza, Uxmal, Palenque, Balamku, Calakmul and so on. In short: which is the best? For me Uxmal as an archaeological site, Calakmul for its position.

My first encounter with the Mayan ruins was in Chitchen Itza. Coming from Greece, the Mayan culture is, well, primitive… At the end of the first millennium AD they were less advanced than the Cycladic or Minoan civilizations almost 4000 years before! I have to admit that in the beginning this was kind of disappointing. Apart from the human sacrifices, a taboo issue for us, Mayan archaeology has so little to offer. And yet so little is known…

But eventually I realized this is probably the most amazing thing about the Mayas. It is a primitive culture yet so close to our time chronologically and so well hidden away in the jungle, that presents a unique opportunity to peek on ancient civilizations, their growth and decline, as no other. It is something like the gravitational lenses of Einstein, you can look far back in time!

From this point of view, one can see human history from a different perspective: what if… The Mayas as far as they evolved, they had one big difference from the European world and one big similarity: the difference is they had no particular reason to evolve; no huge threats, no radical cultural differences with neighbouring cultures, easy trade, many resources. The similarity is they over-exploited their resources. But with limited capability to go looking for new ones, they fell in decline.

What went wrong then? In the Mediterranean people had to trade and trade hard, travel around, communicate. They had to fight strong and notorious enemies. People had to know how to write and read and fight, almost each one for his own skin. Bringing letters down to the masses led to an eruption of development.

So it is amazing to see and visit the remnants of a thriving culture in the middle of the jungle that fed them and consumed them. It is a magical culture in a magical setting.





The road to Merida

4 02 2009

Not quite over my jet lag yet… it’s been almost a week and still very little sleep…

The road to Merida from Cancun is an easy drive.  We started about noon because we had to go get the car.

A warning: DO NOT RENT FORM BUDGET IN CANCUN

No wonder why not a single guide book mentioned themm. Budget is far from the Cancun airport. We got there pretty late looking for them but they weren’t there. Not a booth, not a person nothing. We went to the hotel in Cancun by taxi. Next day I called them and someone picked us up and took us to their premises somewhere.  People were really nice, just like all Mexicans, but I got an awful car. I suspect it had a crash on its left side and then went right into the sea. It was pitted and dented all around. Clinking and clanging at mid speed and vibrating at idle. I am  sure they have better cars, but this one was not automatic so I suspect it was their only one and badly treated. So if you rent non-automatic, be careful.

The road to Merida is quite pleasant. We took the quota (toll) road which let’s you avoid the 150 topas of the free road. Unfortunately you do not get to see the Maya vilalges on the way, but we got to see many so it’s OK. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive from Cancun to Merida, and on the way it’s a good opportunity to get off the main road and pay a visit to Chichen Itza, one of the most popular Mayan sites. It was not the best I visited, but it’s just one you do not miss. On the way, there is a Mayan village as well, full featured with topas and everything in case you missed them on the highway…

Chichen Itza was my first encounter with the Mayan culture…





Back from Mexico

1 02 2009

… and almost over my jet lag…

How was it? Incredible! We drove from Cancun to Merida, to Campeche, to Palenque, to Calakmul, to Tulum and back to Cancun.

The most deceiving myth is that Mexico is dangerous. We did not feel any danger at any part of the trip. The Mexicans we met are some of the friendliest and happiest people I have ever met.

Fast Facts:

1. Mexico cities in the area are some of the CLEANEST cities I have ever seen.

2. Driving in Mexico is neither dangerous nor difficult. It is just like driving anywhere else in the world. Compared to Greece, driving habits are similar related to keeping in one lane, but Mexicans respect speed limits and do not zigzag all the time. So it’s better.

3. The country is stunning….