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15. Guanajuato

Mexico

Observation #1: Possibly the coolest city in the entire country.

 

Observation #2: Maps are useless here.

 

We hopped off the local bus in the centre of town, where it appeared to be only a short walk to our hotel. The first problem was that the bus stopped inside a tunnel. It wasn't a matter of just walking along the road to the entrance/exit of the tunnel, we had to use the specific pedestrian exits. Of which there were multiple. We chose one at random, reached the surface then had no idea where we were. After accosting several people to beg for their help, we managed to find our accommodation without taking too many wrong turns. Now that we knew where we were on the map, we thought things we be easy.

 

Wrong.

 

The entire town consisted of narrow, cobblestone streets, winding every which way and randomly disappearing inside tunnels under the town. The maps we had made no sense, as streets could be on top of other streets, separated by some earth and concrete. We threw the maps away and just walked, hoping that my sense of direction (which was much better than Danny's - not that he would agree) would lead us back to our hotel again eventually. 

Despite these difficulties, the town was fantastic, awesome, and completely wacky.  Box-like colourful buildings lined every street, 90% of which seemed to be restaurants and bars. It was actually fun to be lost in this place, as we discovered many little gems. Old churches and theatres popped up out of nowhere, hidden plazas appeared down small alleys, and it was easy to get away from the main tourist drag. Italian restaurants outnumbered Mexican ones and mezcal was the drink of choice. A funicular took us up to a lookout showing the most incredible views over the higgledy-piggledy town. Little pockets of colour were bursting out all across the valley, forming a concrete mosaic. It was like nothing we had ever seen before. I fell in love with the place within five minutes.

Street scenes of Guanajuato: the theatre; a university; crazy colourul buildings.

For dinner we headed away from the touts and street buskers, finding a small place that looked like someone's living room. A woman had several pots set up containing the most wonderful home-cooked food, most of it vegetarian. We had no idea what much of it was, but here it didn't matter - we could help ourselves to as much as we liked for only $5 each. Bargain! It was the largest amount of vegetables we had eaten in our travels, so I was in heaven. I was almost ready to cancel the rest of the trip and spend the next five months right here. 

 

The next morning it was time for some stair-training. It turned out we didn't need to catch the funicular, as there was a set of stairs going straight to the mountaintop. Three repeats of the stairs in the high altitude was enough for my lungs, but my eyes could never get enough of the view at the summit. 

Danny and I have visited several tourist attractions in Europe that display mummified corpses or human skeletons, but no matter how many times we see them it still creeps us out. Guanajuato's Museo de las Momias (Museum of the Mummies) was no different. Starting in the 1860s, bodies were being dug up from the local cemetery because the family didn't pay a "burial tax". Unexpectedly they turned out to be mummified, and someone thought it would be a great idea to put them on display for people to see. Many had anguished looks on their faces, some were still clothed, there were several babies and even a six month old foetus behind the glass. I have no idea what the attraction was but it fascinated us enough to spend a while there.

 

The rest of the day was much less disturbing. The Diego Rivera museum wasn't bad, the mercado was small but provided us with fantastic tortas, we checked out the local food/sangria/coffee scene (tick/tick/tick) and enjoyed wandering around the maze of streets aimlessly. Dinner was on a quiet plaza, devouring the national favourite of guacamole with corn chips along with soup, soaking up the atmosphere. Sad to be leaving tomorrow.