The land of the Aztecs. The Teotihuacans were a people that thrived for hundreds of years starting around 200AD. Central part where the pyramids stand served as a sacred place of study, worship and sacrifice. The intricate architecture of the pyramids suggests they were advanced in technology. Some argue alien technology might have played a role. And according to my guide, Sofia, more and more evidence is supporting the latter. No matter, these monuments are truly a world wonder and are worth a visit.
The hostel I stayed at was beautiful and family owned. One of Casa Roa's hosts, Sofia, was the tour giver. She was also an archaeologist who knew the ins and outs of Teotihuacan. It was an 80-minute drive from México City to the pyramids. When we arrived, I was shocked. Stunned at the sheer size of the Pyramid of the Sun that I could see down the valley of the dead. The valley of the dead is a 3-mile long avenue that extends north and south almost ending at the Pyramid of the Sun. It got its name from the tomb like mounds that line the avenue.
Valley of the dead leads just up to the left of the Pyramid of the Sun. Pyramid of the Moon is seen to the far right. Shot from the Pyramid of the Sun.
Before heading to the Pyramid of the Sun, Sofia showed me to the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl, which had 11 other pyramids surrounding it in a square like formation. I couldn’t guess what they were for. She explained that the Aztecs mapped out the sky and understood that there were 12 months in a year. Quetzalcoatl was a God honored with human sacrifices based on a ritualized calendar. Roughly 200 human sculls of men and women rest underneath the Quetzalcoatl temple.
Agosada sacrificial platform
When we got to Quetzalcoatl, she showed me how climb the steps. The slope of the steps was extremely steep. They were only a few inches long. One must zig zag up in order to use his entire foot on the stairs and not fall to his death. I’m more sure-footed than a billy goat and I almost bit it hard at one point. Be careful!
Quetzalcoatl is The Temple of the Feathered Serpent God. The serpent is referenced throughout the park. He represented the flow of energy and life. The steps are decorated in the likeness of the serpent God, Quetzlcoatl, and the God of fertily and water, Tloloc. The pyramid can only be views from the sacrificial platform, called the Andosada, before it. The pyramid is protected because it is the last standing pyramid in the park with the outer layer still in tact.
The pyramids outer layer still has some visible color to it. Mostly red. The eyes where dragon glass because Teotihuacan was obsidian rich. The layers of the pyramid were also decorated with sea shells. Sea shell designs honored Tloloc who provided fresh water and fresh fish from the sea. Though Teotihuacan sits in the center of Mexico, the city had access to same-day fresh fish. The emperor had relay runners on both sides of the city that would relay the catch from either side, Caribbean and Pacific, and would have it in time for supper.
What boggles me more than anything is how they got the heavy stone heads all the way up the pyramid. Not knowing this is like a magician not telling me his secret. Most of the sites at Teotihuacan are still a mystery.
Just outside the center of the calendar was a closed off portion of the exhibit. She said that her archaeologist colleagues as well as the Mexican government had discovered a tunnel that runs underneath Quetzalcoatl. She said that the Mexican government was trying to prevent information from leaking to the public about what was underneath for reasons that I could not quite understand but something having to do with defying much of what we know about religion. Skulls. Giant elongated skulls that don’t appear to belong to any human species is what she told me. She said that her colleagues showed her into the tunnel so she could see them with her own eyes and what she saw was absolutely profound and unlike anything she had ever seen. The skulls would suggest that a species with a higher intellect than that of a human could have played a role in the development of this civilization. It's a possible lead on how they had access to clean running water in the surrounding towns, miles away from the lake that is now Mexico City, and knew how to move massive 10-ton stones upwardly to build monuments to the sky. I didn’t feel that I was being sold anything. She had no reason to devise. I was intrigued by her account. I believe she was telling me the truth.
We left to go see the main attraction, The pyramid of the sun. Before arriving at the entrance - merchants everywhere. They were selling everything you could think of. Water, umbrellas, hats, clothes, toys, statues, jewelry... I like to do my shopping after the attraction. Walking away wasn’t hard. I wasn’t harassed. Perhaps they get a plentitude of good business. Even in the early morning I could see hundreds of people climbing the pyramid. I had seen Chichen Itza when I was a wee little lad. But it does not come close to this. This pyramid was magnificent. Much larger than the any picture tried to illustrate when I was researching it. It seemed to have more mass than any of the buildings in my home city. And this was build 1,500 years ago!
Climbing this monster took a good 20 minutes. One needs rope and steady feet to climb the steep slope.
The Pyramid of the Sun was used as an observatory to map the stars. Where the valley of the dead ends and almost to the pyramid of the moon were giant pools of water that were used to reflect the night sky. From the top of the pyramid they could map the night sky and the stars.
At the top, the tradition is to raise your arms high to gods for good luck.
Between the Sun and Moon pyramids are more merchants. great opportunities to buy cheap earrings bracelets, statues, hats and more. I bought some green earrings for the equivalent of 50 cents.
Topless pyramids line the alley that leads up to the Pyramid of the Moon.
Pyramid of the Moon had a fantastic view of Sun Pyramid and the Valley of the Dead.
Sofia showed to some local spots around Teotihuacan. Our first stop was at a local bar/restaurant that served pulque. Pulque is a local beverage that is made only in Mezoamerica where the Maguay cactus plant grows. The beverage is made from the Maguay's fermented sap. It looks like milk but it is extremely viscous. It's not creamy at all. It's sweet and carbonated like thick soda. I wish it was made available outside of Mexico. It would be a very popular drink.
They also make candy from Maguay as well. The candy was my favorite. It was so sweet and full of flavor. It reminded me of those dried fruit rolls you see at the international markets. But much sweeter, chewier, and not as tangy.
All the walking produced an appetite. Next on the agenda was a local restaurant not too far from the pyramids. Founded in 1919, La Gruta is a famous local restaurant that once served as Aztecan refrigerator to store fish and other goods. The restaurant is naturally cooled and very beautiful.
Though they offer traditional delicacies, there are times I don't want to be so traditional. I like to try things I have never tried before. One side of the menu offered exotic foods like ant larvae and caterpillars. My adventurous nature rolled the die with chinicuil and esamoles.
The chinicuil was not what I was expecting. I was expecting meaty slugs packed with rich Mexican flavors of chili and pineapple or something of the sort. I was incorrect in my assumption. They were extremely dry, greasy, exoskeletons with absolutely no flavor. The only flavor I could taste was char from whatever pan they were cooked it. I dipped them in guacamole to see if it would provide any pleasure to my taste buds but that didn't help. I wasn't grossed out. The dish was just flat out not good. The escamoles were not any better. Unlike the flavorless caterpillars, the ant larvae had a strong nutty flavor that lingered in my mouth well after the swallow. They were soft. I at them with lettuce and that helped to smooth the nuttiness that was a bit harsh. I honestly was expecting to be blown away by a chef's creative ability to take something that's generally considered unstomachable and turn into something rich and pleasant. Neither of these dishes lived up to that or came close. But I am so glad I got to live on the edge a little.
Sofia's dish on the other hand was much more enjoyable. She ordered mole covered turkey. The mole (chocolate/cocoa based sauce) was more savory than sweet. The turkey wasn't overcooked or too dry. It was just right. The mole sauce complimented the turkey very well.
Along with my food I had Xoconastle. It is a fruity alcoholic beverage made from the same maguay fruit as is pulque. It was like a light smoothie. I could not get enough of it. Everything that comes from maguay is excellent. It must have come from the gods.
An unforgettable day. Teotihuacan is a place I'll never forget. The history is so outstanding and still a mystery, it's hard not to awe at it all.
When you come to Teotihuacan you will be amazed and in for a treat. There is a lot of information to learn. Don't forget to do your research. Researching prior to visiting helps understanding the history. A great place to visit either before or after your journey -- preferably before if you haven't already done research -- to Teotihuacan is Mexico City's National Museum of Anthroplogy. The museum is very large. Plan to spend an entire day. There you can learn a great deal of about the rich history of the Mezoamerican peoples of Mexico. The museum is a must see.
There are secrets in this world I cannot wait to uncover. Teotihuacan is decent sized piece to the puzzle. On to the next destination..