My first real day in Mexico and it was impressive. It was also the hottest day we were there, the day it didn’t rain, and of course, the day we didn’t bring swim suits.
I don’t know that I would go on a tour to get out there again. It’s not a complicated drive. It was remote enough that besides Chichen Itza, the other activities felt more like filler, like they couldn’t find anything better but they had to schedule a bathroom break.
We stopped at a fairly large store and our tour guide said it was the best place to buy authentic Mayan creations, the rest we’d see are probably from China. But for being authentic, they looked exactly like everything else we saw. I don’t think I’d spend any money on something “authentic” there unless I saw it being made with my own eyes. (Though I did get tempted by the Temple of Kukulkan pendants.)
We went into a town that was under construction. You couldn’t move anywhere without children running up trying to sell you things. This method does not work on me–it makes me want to run the opposite direction. There was an old church here but again, it was like they couldn’t find anything more interesting to put on the route. The tour guide was incredibly well-versed in the significance of Chichen Itza but for the church he was just like ‘this is a church. It was built in this year. Go walk around for 20 minutes.’
There was a park nearby that was nice but you just could not get away from the vendors. I told Chris I wanted to sit in chairs like this with him cause it was romaaaaannnntiiiic and he said ‘no it’s not, they’re facing opposite directions. Those are chairs for if you don’t like each other.”
First sight of the city is the Observatory. This gave me chills. When I was in middle school, we did a great unit on Mayan history that involved building step pyramids out of toothpicks and stuff. There’s something about the history of ancient cultures that captures my imagination more than modern history. So yeah, I spent a lot of time brainstorming for books while I was in American History class unfortunately! I have a better appreciate now, but then? The thing that kept me awake was Mayan history. The architecture, the astronomy, the human sacrifice and deadly ball game. You know, in history class you don’t hear a lot about the games ancient people played but the concept of playing a game is very humanizing.
The feeling of being in the middle of history is kind of strange in a Back to the Future sort of way.
A closer look at the Observatory.
All I need is a mirror and this would be a prime myspace portrait ;p
Dual miracles – the ability of ancient peoples to erect these majestic buildings….and the ability for something as innocuous as moss to tear them down…
Chac, the long-nosed God of Rain. The entire time I thought the tour guides were saying “Chalk.”
Look closely, there are skulls all along the wall…
THE BALL COURT! The scale of this defies my puny camera and video recording is not allowed. This is where they played that mysterious ball game where the winner may have been sacrificed. Interestingly, our tour guide compared it to modern day when the tourists were horrified that it was the winner who died. He said those we respect, those we honor, where do we send them? To war. Like the ancient Mayans, we send our very best to die. You don’t send the loser to fight for your country, you send the winner.
I remembered the ball game itself, but I didn’t know that the court was designed so that a whisper on one end could be heart on the other. You can’t even see the whole length in the photo, it’s huge. Hearing that whisper was awesome. It’s like Echo Square in Savannah, you know it’s supposed to work but it’s so unusual, so defying of the laws of sound that you understand, that you don’t expect it to work. Echo Square is a square of four trees and if you stand right in the middle, your voice will echo back to you. A German woman told me about it, she said the trees talked to her 😉 It vibrates through your body.
The details in the structures were very interesting. I love to look and wonder, what was that used for? Is this where they dropped the ball to start the game? Or where the King observed?
The side of the ball court.
One end of the ball court.
The Temple of the Warriors / Thousand Pillars
I didn’t count them, but it looks like about a thousand to me 😉
The Temple of Kukulkan. This gives me shivers just looking back at it. I’m so glad we went when it was slow and we could just about get shots without people. I love how the clouds are coming into the picture. The perfection of the structure is just, wow. Amazing that they could do that. This was where our tour guide really shined. He gave us more detail about the position of the equinoxes than I will ever be able to remember or comprehend. I wish he’d been equally thorough with some of the other structures (or the church haha). It was also built so that the snakes that line the stairs can cast a shadow that looks like they’re slithering. =O Can someone construct my house like that?! Stick a post out in the yard, ‘Beware of giant snakes’
There’s an aesthetic quality in ancient architecture that we’ve really lost over the years. While I’m all for being efficient, the cookie cutter houses make me kind of sad. The office where my dad worked was just a big black square. They called it Darth Vader’s Summer Home.
The scale here and feeling alone with this majestic piece of history…. ❤
And yes, there were even vendors out here. They were in a ring around the main part of Chichen Itza so I think they had to stay in certain boundaries. I wish they had to stay outside the city itself rather than cheapen it by merchandizing it. Not that I didn’t want that Kukulkan necklace. I just didn’t want it shoved in my face ‘buy buy buy’ when I’m trying to enjoy Kukulkan itself.
We got time to wander around and I listened in on other tour guides. Ours was great, extremely well-informed but it was obvious he did not want to be doing this and he rather looked down his nose at the other tour guides who sensationalized things. He was a college professor that did it for extra money.
Then we went to our first cenote. Again, this would have been great had we brought swim suits! My dad booked this tour though so going on it all we knew was that we’d be seeing Chichen Itza ;p
Water-filled cave = love.