Mexico part 5 – Mexico City CDMX

Mexico City, the capital, was my base during the whole stay in Mexico.

I’ve spent in total around a week there and managed to see quite a lot. I’ve lost the count of the precise itinerary, but I want to describe all the top-must-see spots which sum up for the great, not-so-easy-going plan.

– Teotihuacan

The first pyramids I have seen and – at the same time – the biggest ones in Mexico. Built by the Aztec, the team contrary to the Maya. Located around 40 km from Mexico City itself.

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I was there on my first day in Mexico City, so I felt at least WEIRD. More than 2000 meters above the sea level, still a bit jet lagged, I was losing breath every single step and my heart jumping out of my chest due to lack of oxygen. But the weather was perfect… well, the Mexicans were wearing winter jackets, caps and scarves, but us – Gringos – felt perfect.

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Thanks gods (Sun and Moon, in Aztec case) for the huge crowd of people lining to climb the summit, we could at least walk slowly… I just wonder if tones of tourists will not destroy Teotihuacan sooner or later?

There is an amazing restaurant nearby, which is built inside the cave, totally underground, where I’ve drunk the best by far Margarita of cactus flower flavor.

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– Coyoacan

My favourite district in CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico)! Lovely markets full of local art, fresh fruits, weird chili sweets, pinatas and stylish souvenirs (really, the supply for typical tourists was surprisingly good quality and not-made-in-China!). I have even eaten the grasshoppers, fried with lemon!

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Astonishing architecture. Many colors and cultural places. A park with the wolves statue (symbolizing that before the city there was nothing but forest there).

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Worth visiting, wandering around, spending a decent amount of time and even a bit of money (I bought lovely jewellery there).

– Xoxhimilco

We have visited Xoxhimilco a day after Chiara’s birthday party not without the reason… It was perfect to just chill and relax from the fast pace of the downtown Mexico City (and the remainings of the party in our blood).

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This part of the city is filled with the long canals (which are the remaining of the lake which was covering the whole area before the city was even started) are quiet and full of nature. You can take one of the colorful boats and enjoy the cruise in silence and sunshine. The boats are so colorful and have very silly names!

– Chapultepec

Each big city has a castle or palace. So has Mexico City. It is located on the hill, in the middle of the huge park.

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It was not the best idea to go there on Sunday since the amount of families enjoying the free time in nature (with crazy kids running and shouting, of course) was far too much. Nevertheless, there is a beautiful panorama of the whole city visible from the castle.

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You can also see Reforma – the main avenue of Mexico City, which was modeled on Champs Elysees in Paris. It ends with the Angel de la Independencia statue, which is a symbol of Mexico’s release from Spanish rule in 1810, after around 400 years.

– Frida Kahlo’s house

I had huge expectations from this museum and was slightly disappointed.

Well, the exhibition itself was great – apart from Kahlo’s and her husband’s (Diego Rivera, famous muralist), you can see all the interior of the house with authentic furniture, painting accessories and even a special hall dedicated to Frida’s garments. On the other hand, it wasn’t really well-organized. Insane line to enter the building, then walking in a single file from one corner of the room to another and being told off by the museum staff to walk faster was rather annoying.

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But I loved the blue walls of the house 🙂

– Anthropology museum

I usually don’t go to historical museums. I am not that much into this field, do not memorize much from what I see and I prefer art exhibitions which give me enriching aesthetical and creative experiences.

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Yes, that’s the original!

I enjoyed this one a lot, though. It gave me a lot of basic knowledge (I was surprised how little had I known about North America, why do they teach us in school just about Europe here…) – from the difference between Mayas and Aztecs to the contemporary-times culture in Mexico.

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– Modern Art Museum

Modern art museum is my must-see in every city I go to. I was really keen on seeing this one since I wanted to compare if there is a lot of ‘mexicanicity’ even in today’s art of the globalized and more-less unified world). And yes, there is, but in principle it all concerns the same topics: these ones which currently bother the particular group of people.

Some time ago I’ve seen an exhibition in Warsaw, in which a significant part concerned the refugee crisis and problems which refugees and the society are facing.

Apart of controversial photographs of beauty in corporeality and the Swiss design, there was one exhibitions which also concerned the migration. Guillermo Gomez-Pena depicted stereotypes and controversies around the Mexicans and the way they are falsely perceived in the US.

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– Zócalo

Typical main square – parliament building, shops, restaurants, Christmas decorations, ice rink (well, in that temperature it is more of a lake, but they try hard), cathedral…

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And that’s the fun part, because just near the cathedral you can see the old temples discovered under the other buildings. Yes, Mexico City we know was built on the top of other city. And it was typical of the Spanish to build catholic churches at the top of Aztec and Maya pyramids…

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– Bellas Artes, Casa de los Azulejos and the Post Office

I’m giving those 3 spots in one point, since they are all nearby and all are TOP for their architecture.

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Palacio de Bellas Artes is one of the most important attractions in CDMX. It’s really impressive, built in Art Nouveau / Neoclassicism from the outside and Art Deco in the inside. There are dedicated murals of Diego Rivera and other artists on the walls, and today the palace – apart from crowds of tourists – still hosts music, theatre and dance events.

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Casa de los Azulejos – just on the other side of the street. Honestly, I don’t remember what is inside this building (a shop? a restaurant?). I was just so overwhelmed by the beautiful blue mosaic everywhere on the outside walls!

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And if the main Post Office in Łódź looked like the one in Mexico City, I would let my dad send me to pick up the parcels more often!

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– Guadalupe

Place of distant from me religious cult. That’s the site of apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most important apparitions of Mary in the Americas.

Putting the religious value aside – this place was a mystery for me.

There is a beautiful, old, conventional Villa de Guadalupe church there. Since the surface waters make the ground subside and the church is already tilted like a tower in Pisa, they built a modern church just nearby… Well, it was supposed to be a church, but for me – it looks like an aquarium or other zoological building. I wonder if there was any architectural control over it. But the Mexicans love it so maybe that’s just their style…


 

Overall impression of Mexico? It was so surprising! So much different from what I imagined!

To be honest – I though that Mexico will another India – dangerous, disorganized, falling apart. And I’m sure there are dangerous places to which I was lucky not to get into, but in general concept – I didn’t feel much different from Europe.

If Lviv looks like a poorer Polish any-city from 50 years ago, some Mexican cities can be definitely compared to their Spanish counterparts from the past. Mexico is – for me – like a combination of Spain, what I imagine to be Cuba and the US with some folklorist additives.

It’s good that I shifted to the non-vegetarian mode for this holiday (I have seasons in my life – most of the time I’m vegetarian, than I eat meat for some period and then stop again), cause there is not many meat-free options in Mexico. Now I understand the struggle of the Mexicans I knew in India, where you can’t find much more than chicken.

People are lovely – warm-hearted, open and hospitable. No-one ever treated me bad for being an obvious foreigner. They just never could get that chili is really spicy for me 😀 But maybe that’s just mindset difference…

I just regret not having more time to explore other parts of the country too (but it’s always like this, there is never enough time… I still haven’t been to some places in Poland!) – Guadalajara, Oaxaca (cheese!), Monterrey, Chihuahua (yes, those rat-like dogs come from there), Baja California and Chiapas are still waiting for me. And so is Tequila! Yes, there is a city from which all the tequila in Mexico come! Why am I not there yet?!

Green Monday… Ah wait, it was BLUE

Hello. It’s 15 of January, the third Monday of the year. Did you even realized that it is the famous Blue Monday – the day claimed to be the most depressing one in the whole year?

Exactly. I also wouldn’t notice if a friend hadn’t told me during a boring lecture. And it just probably popped up on her Facebook wall… Yes, if noone told us to be unhappy, maybe we would not be unhappy?

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(c) Ana Estrada #AE

My day was totally fine. Good breakfast, succesfull appointment in student assistance office, a not-bad lecture, fruitfull meeting with my supervisor, watching a great movie (Like stars on Earth, I can recommend), first yoga after the holiday, hot chocolate in the evening. What could make me depressed today? Nothing which wouldn’t get my down yesterday, tomorrow or in this period of time in general.

This is probably the biggest success of my mind – finally, even having second thoughts, concerns bothering me, worries about the future, fears of unpredictable – I deal with my mind. Most of the times I can turn it off, mute it for a sec or even convince myself that it’s not a real reason to worry.

If I manage to live with everything which happens in my mind, why would anyone tell me that exactly today I should be sad and misereable? And even if it is statistically proven, why would I conform to that?

Fun fact, there is even a mathematical formula proving that the third Monday of January is the worst day ever (yes, my brain got so ‘engineerized’ that I really found it exciting).

Cliff Arnall published it in 2006. The formula uses many factors, including: weather conditions, debt level, time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action.

\frac{(C \times R \times ZZ)}{((Tt + D) \times St)} + (P \times Pr)>400

where Tt = travel time; D = delays; C = time spent on cultural activities; R = time spent relaxing; ZZ = time spent sleeping; St = time spent in a state of stress; P = time spent packing; Pr = time spent in preparation.

If I was to calculate that (and had any idea how to do it), I would rather rely it on: time until the next travel, amount of chocolate around, number of new episodes to watch and prices of the coctails in a bar, but maybe that’s why I am not a mathematician…

Stay happy, Monday is almost over!

Of course this formula is bulls**t. You can read about it HERE. But this shows another fun (or rather sad) fact – average person will believe it automatically cause ‘if it looks like Maths, it must be true. It’s science!’.

Mexico part 4 – Tampico

When I told Ana and her family that I want to go to Tampico for a day, their reaction was very clear. ‘Why the heck would anyone visit Tampico?! There is nothing there! It’s far! It’s dangerous!’. I almost listened to them… But the emotional value of this city won with my common sense.

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I went to Tampico to visit Israel and Malu (isn’t Maria de la Luz a beautiful name?!) – Mexican friends I’ve met in India and raised and helped to survive on their first days. And it was a great choice!

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As an economical person – both time- and money-wise – I decided to take the bus during the night. I slept almost whole 7 hours of the journey, since the Mexican buses have amazing, semi-sleeper seats and even provide you with snacks and beverages before departure!

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I woke up at crazy 6 AM, jumped like crazy seeing the guys again and went with them immediately to see the sunrise on the beach! Well, my luck… When I went to the place with the great beach, it was cloudy and almost rainy for the whole day. However, I’ve seen racoons hunting for the trash and ugly dolphins (forgot the name of the species, but they have really ugly faces!) and was super excited anyway!

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It was the long day! We started with breakfast in Malu’s house. Meeting her family and finally pushing myself to talk only in Spanish was lovely, but there is one more thing… Childhood photos!

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It is funny everywhere, but Mexico is special… All the girls celebrate their Quinceniera – 15th birthday party is thrown with such glory that it reminds me almost of a wedding! Or at least it’s rehersal… And those dresses! And the make-up which makes this 15yo look older than me…

During the da we walked a lot, saw the nearby lagunas and took a ferry on one of them to see the crocodiles. Can you believe that they really do have crocodiles in the middle of the city, like we have ducks in pond in the parks?! I was so surprised and terrified!

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Next, we headed to the fish market, since Tampico is famous for delicious crabs called jaibas. I had lots of fun watching the pelicans fighting for the left-overs. Ah, and I got some food for free! That’s the privilage of being a blond ‘gringa’ or ‘guerita’ in a town where there are NO tourists.

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The oldtown looked almost the same as in all the Mexican (and Spanish) cities – the main square with cathedral, city hall and a little park. Thanks to the Reyes Magos (the Three Kings, 6th of January) celebration coming the next day I could see the huuuge rosca – cake which Mexicans share with friends on this day. The fun fact is that there are a few little figures of Jesus hidden inside, and the lucky ones who find them in their piece of cake need to cook tamales (another local dish) for the others in the beginning of February.

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Than I had probably the most Mexican meal of my whole stay! As the only child I am not used to the table buzzing with laugher, MANY people eating together, the brothers making pranks at each other and a strong Mexican mother to govern all that. Well, in Israel’s house I could experience all that and also feel like at home!

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I was exhauested but after the dinner we met some more people for huge, 1 liter drinks (that’s misleading, though. The amount of alcohol is the same like in standard ones) and went to dance salsa before my departure. Then, I’ve spent another night in the bus to reach Mexico City again.

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I am Polish, so I should at least LIKE alcohol. But come one – michelada: beer with tomatoe sauce and chili?!

New Year, new me

Yes, yes, I know, it’s the most pathetic, but also the most meaningful title for the NY post… I have already done kind of summary of 2017, now it’s time to start 2018 properly.

I welcomed this year with one of the best parties of my life in a gorgeous place and with great people. And although the evening of 31st of December was a bit depressing (maybe I am getting old but I really felt nostalgic about one more year passing by that quickly), I welcomed the New Year with a huge smile on my face.

What changed? Not much and a lot at once.

I will be 23 this year and to my surprise – I don’t really care. After 18 and 20 birthdays are not touching me that much anymore. My mom will be 60, though, and that IS surprising. I still remember her 50th b-day… My oldest cousin will turn 18… And my lovely little niece, whom I vividly remember in her mom’s belly, will be 12 years old. So if everyone around is getting older, maybe I am getting old too?!

Like never before I am feeling the end of the old and beginning of the new chapter. Looking back I can see clear periods. Careless childhood ended probably when I was 13. Then my rebellious teenage years, which ended around the age of 18. Next – theoretically being an adult but still a big kid.

Dividing that differently, I can see all the sub-chapters of my life until now, corresponding to the schools I went to and therefore – groups of people I was surrounded with: 0-6, 7-12, 13-15, 16-18, 18-22… And then BANG. Now I definitely see the chapter coming to an end. I WILL BE GRADUATED (hopefully, hue hue). I will start a real adult life. And it will all be in my hands. And I will have so much freedom with so much more responsibility! Exciting and terrifying at once.

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Believe it or not, as a teenager I was a pretty good photographer… I hope it’s not possible to lose the talent and inspiration will come back to me. Here: Grenoble, France, NYE ’14-’15. Very significant time in my life.

How was the first days of this year?

No NY resolutions. It’s so pointless for me to make them… I have made plans for this year a couple of months ago, achieved something big an important in the last two weeks of 2017 and did NY room cleaning and re-organising just today, on the 11th… I was never crazy enough to say ‘I will start going to the gym’, but remembering all the previous years: ‘lose some weight’, ‘be more patient’, ‘worry less’… All this sh*t didn’t work anyway! 😀 I have noticed that yes, it all comes to me sooner or later, since I need it and feel the lack of it, but does not depend at all on the calendar… It’s all about the particular moment, the period of time connected to some minor or major change or event… At least for me. Do resolutions if you need. You know I love check-lists anyway!

And when it comes to room-cleaning… I LOVE IT. No, no worries, I don’t mean polishing windows, vacuuming the carpet etc. (I’m not crazy yet… Or well, fun fact, I really enjoy washing dishes!). I really enjoy throwing away the things I don’t need!

2 years ago, before moving back with my dad, I was able to fit all my belongings (excluding bike, skies, etc.) in my old VW Golf III. Yes, it was a small car. I was so happy about it! That’s how the freedom feels for me.

My ultimate minimalism started a few years ago, when I made the decision that sooner or later I will move out of Poland. I looked, for instance, at all my childhood books… All the Harry Potter books. Yes, I love them! But would I take them with me if I was to move to Australia tomorrow? Obviously not. Nowadays I can find them online, if I want to read it again, or – more old-school – borrow them from someone. In this way I sold 90% of my books, earned quite a sum of money. Very important books, for example those with dedication, which were the gift from someone important, are safe in a special box in my mother’s closet. And it feels very comforting.

Once in a couple of months I go through my wardrobe and look critical at everything. How many times did I wear this since the last remanent? Not even once? Immediately out. Sometimes to charity, sometimes to a friend, as the piece of sewing material or just to the trash bin. I don’t care. I am not sentimental anymore, I am practical. The less things I have, the more mobile I am. That’s how the being free feels. Especially if you are my type of person – if you tell me that in two hours I am leaving to travel to the other side of the world, I will be back in one hour, with the luggage packed and enthusiasm in my eyes.

This cleaning session was NY-edition too… I have decided to throw away a few postcards and to cut in pieces a few photographs. Maybe it was my way of saying good-bye and finally dealing with unclear, never-explained situations? With a bit of harmless revenge?

I smiled a lot reading again the little memory-stickers from my friends from Sweden… A few days ago it was exactly one year since I moved there. I won’t ever forget it! And it will still take a while until I lose the sentiment about the material things reminding me of this period.

I still kept a few very important letters and pieces of jewelry, too… It’s been a couple of years when I just misplace them. No matter how minimalistic I wanna be, I will probably never lose sentiment to some objects.

Maybe I am weird. Well, I love blue cheese, do not own a hair dryer, prefer paper calendar to the iPhone app and always wait until tea gets cold to drink it… But it’s been the longest period in a couple of years when I am feeling so well, so myself and have so many plans and hopes for the nearest time period. Cheers to that!

Mexico part 3 – Yucatan

Sleeping properly was never in plan for Mexico. Having the flight at 6am, we were just preparing ourselves for looong siesta on the beach. Ana, Chiara and me took a 2-hour flight from Mexico City to Cancun. To my surprise – they are in two different time zones although in one country, so we were one hour closer to Europe.

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We decided to stay in Playa del Carmen, which is cheaper, a bit less touristic and not as ‘Americanized’ as Cancun itself. Well, on the streets we have seen mostly tourists from the US or South America anyway.

Playa del Carmen is located in such a place that if you swim around 250 km you get into Cuba and when you drive 250 km South along the seaside – you reach Belize.

We started the day with tacos and beer for breakfast (holiday mode on!) and got into the Airbnb – really fancy one, we even had a swimming pool with panorama on the rooftop! Perfect for fancy pre-party photos.

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The first impression of Yucatán and Playa del Carmen? Combination of Goa’s style (just souvenir shops, local products, tattoo studios, restaurants and bars), Spain’s atmosphere, Bangkok’s nightlife and Maldives’ weather.

After fixing serious stuff such as food and tequila supply and a travel agency for the tour next day, we went for the walk on the beach and found a great party place – you could party with your own drinks ‘using’ the music coming from the bar nearby. We were not the only ones to do that!

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Foxes will find me everywhere!

The most interesting thing in the town was the spectrum of people around – on the beach, in the street, in the restaurants. From the rich American families, through the old Germans, groups of 3-5 single gringo ladies like us, handsome and sporty guys in their late 20ies, teenagers on their first holiday alone, to typical Gonzalez – our term for the stereotypical Mexican family.

Trying to cook the dinner in the evening we figured out that NO, it’s not possible to cook pasta on the pan (even the Italian didn’t succeed), so we ended up eating chips with guacamole (made by the Polish, while the Mexican took care of margaritas!) and the quesadillas with Oaxaca cheese (something between mozzarella and Polish oscypek) for the rest of the trip. And I would never guess that I will be FRYING water on a pan to make a coffee.

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The first evening we were very lucky – we came across the newly open club called The Hidden Bar, offering the free entrance and drinks as their advertising. Music was great and most of the guys handsome, what to want more?

The next night we obviously went out too, but did a tour between a few different clubs. At some point we ended up in a place filled with presumable sons of the Narcos and the waiters doing everything to make us entertain them… well, we were escaping pretty quick.

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Nevertheless, coming back home around 2-3 am I still didn’t feel in danger. Maybe it’s misleading but I still felt like in Europe, not crazy and mysterious Latin America. The only thing is that the streets were not patrolled by the normal police, but fully armed and really serious soldier-like officers. It made me feel insecure, as if there really was something to be afraid of, but Ana explained me that it is in case of some public mess or rebellion. What in Europe would be just a fight of two groups of friends or hooligans supporting the opposite football teams, with Mexican temperament tends to convert to the huge massacre of the crowd.

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Not counting the excursion, all the four days of our stay in Playa del Carmen were about beach, rooftop pool, all night long parties, sleeping a couple of hours to start from the beginning. We ate very good seafood too! And obviously tacos. We even went to a very local family restaurant serving food directly from their garage. Real Mexican spirit!

I couldn’t get over chilli, though… it’s insane, they put in even on top of fruits. Not to mention any kind of sauce! The sensation is different from the one of Indian masala, but still – even if you can feel the real taste of food, you still get fire in your mouth.

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The New Years Eve party was one of the best ones in my life. We cooked very good dinner, drank cocktails on the rooftop and then headed out. The streets were never that crowded before! All the masses of tourists and locals went to the beach to see the fireworks coming from one of the hotels. The show was really amazing. We also wanted to follow the Spanish-Mexican tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight but we pretty much screwed that, not counting the grapes correctly (‘Wait, isn’t that number 13? How many did you put in my cup?!) and forgetting to make wishes eating each of them. Then we decided to walk by the beach and search for the promising group of people to join. We were not disappointed!

I always claim that couch surfers are different people. Thanks to them I never feel alone. I always feel as if I was part of some huge family! We’ve met a group of CSers on their New Year’s event and spent a wonderful time!

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When we started getting cold on the beach, we all headed to the main street to search for the party, but the party found us first. Every bar was playing loud music so people were dancing on the streets. And it wasn’t a few people… Huge groups, like on real dancefloor!

It was magical to dance salsa on the street. When one bar closed, all the people were just heading to the next one and that’s how we have spent time until the sunrise, when we got back to the beach.

In the evening of 31. December I was feeling pretty upset – again one year older, still not having anything stable… This party definitely raised my spirits. I’ve started the year 2018 with a huge smile, traveling, in the middle of another crazy adventure.

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Mexico part 2 – a day with The Maya

Since Ana didn’t let us rent a car (‘Mafia, Narcos, traffic, jungle, DRAMA!’), we decided to go for an organized tour, like lazy tourists. We were picked up from the apartment and everything was provided to us and easy like for kids. Nice, but too boring for my style of traveling. By chance we ended up in the group run not only in Spanish but also Italian, so Chiara was lucky!

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The first stop was the Maya village. I was so surprised about their culture! Primary gods, colorful stylistic, natural medicine and great respect to nature. We even had a chance to learn a toast in Maya language! Not that I could repeat it…

I was astonished by how much of this civilization remained until today… Their first language is still Maya, many women on the streets wear the traditional clothes, the monuments, buildings and paintings are very well-preserved… It all started in 2000 BC!

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One of the best points there was Cenote – natural underground lake in a cave, with water filtered by the ground and fish swimming inside. Swimming there was an unforgettable experience!

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Next point was the must-see! Chichen Itzá – one of the 7 World Wonders, is located around two hours drive from Cancun complex of pyramids built also by the Maya, as a temple and a place of paying tribute to gods.

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Incredible how much they knew about astrology and mathematics such a long time ago! One pyramid is built in such a way, that twice a year – 21st of March and 22nd of September the shadows form a snake, which is the symbol of luck and wisdom. In the other pyramid raising sun goes exactly through the middle of god’s monument twice a year.

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Seeing another World Wonder raised in me an ambition to see all of them… another bucket list!

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In the end we went to Valladolid – a town built basing on the city of the same name in Spain, and founded by the Spanish conquistadors. Quaint and lovely place, perfect to see the sunset!

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The entertaining thing about organized tourism is observing the people from your tour. We had lots of fun making up stories about their lives 😀
We came back pretty exhausted, went out for dinner (sorry Mexico, I can’t even look anymore on any variation of tortilla…), had a cocktail by our rooftop swimming pool and headed to another party.

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