Teds Travels -Mexicos Colonial Cities: Part II
Green, neatly trimmed hedges surround me as I sip my coffee in the Jardin de la Union plaza. I am having breakfast at one of the many restaurants that overlook Guanajuato’s majestic Teatro Juarez; a neoclassical building that hosted renowned theatre shows for the Mexican elite between 1907 and 1920. Teatro Juarez was built in 1872. Today, its grand entrance, adorned by eight bronze statues from Greek mythology and 12 stately pillars that reminisce of Rome’s Pantheon, welcomes tourists from all over the world during the October International Cervantino Cultural Festival.
Sitting here, admiring the seeming simplicity that this city radiates, it is easy to forget that its cobblestoned streets carry the weight of centuries of history. Guanajuato was founded in 1559 as an important silver and gold mining centre. Throughout the following years, opulent colonial buildings slyly crawled onto its valley’s slopes and mining tunnels carved their way into the land’s heart, giving way to a city that today emanates mystery and romance.
The only way to explore this UNESCO World Heritage city is on foot. Immerse yourself into colourful alleyways that wind through historical buildings such as the Basilica with its gold-lacquered altar; the Alhondiga de Granaditas, a former granary that has been turned into a museum; and the University, which’s imposing façade looms over the city like a giant. Make sure to visit El Callejon del Beso; a narrow alley that protects the romantic secrets of two lovers. Legend says they reached for each other from across balconies to steal a kiss before the boy was murdered by the girl’s jealous father.
Not only stories, but even bodies are well preserved here. It turns out that the soil of the old town’s cemetery has unique properties that naturally mummified the bodies of the deceased. Today, you can visit the Mummies museum and marvel at its collection, including the world’s tiniest mummy.
At night I recommend you join a Callejoneada, a walking tour hosted by University student groups called ‘estudiantinas’ that take to the streets dressed in 19th century costumes singing songs, telling legends, and drinking juice (or tequila). There are different companies that offer this service and each has a different route, so prepare for a night rich in laughter, music, and people. Overall, I’d advise that you stay five or six nights at Guanajuato, for there is plenty to do.
Are you ready to pack your bags?
Next week I will share with you the last of our Colonial Cities special and take you to Michoacan, where trees are covered in butterflies.
Ted Dziadkiewicz is Director and Founder of Contours Travel, Australia’s longest running tour operator to Latin America. He has been more than 100 times to Latin America over the past 40 years and visited over 20 countries. If you want to know more visit www.contourstravel.com.au