Mexico 2008 – Oaxaca 1 (dia de los muertos)

Oaxaca (29 Oct.)
Oaxaca’s major bus station is in the northern part of the city, so I took a taxi to the hostel. I was tired and wanted to get a shower and an hour or two of sleep.  I stayed at the Nizadú hostel, and can really recommend it.  The young owners are really friendly and the location is good.  It is a 10 minute walk to the center, but it is close to the market, the shopping center, and the buses to all the other sights. I checked in, took a shower, and slept for about 2 hours.  I then took off for the town center.  On the way I saw a little cantina, with lots of locals eating lunch.  They only offered a menu, but it was great and only cost about $2.00 including a drink and dessert.  The young owner must have been about 8 months pregnant, and I felt sorry for her working in all the heat.  She seemed a little surprised that a foreigner would stop in.
I walked around town and the preparation for the festival was already beginning. Oaxaca is a pretty, clean, friendly town.  There are a lot of museums and sites to see.  Just outside the city is Monte Alban, was the Zapotecan capital. And not too far is the famous tree of Tule, the ruins of Yagul, and the stone waterfall Hierve.  Although I did not plan a lot for this trip, Oaxaca was one of the central places I wanted to visit.  Not only for festival and archeological sites, but also for the food.  Oaxaca is known for its special cuisine.   I walked around town looking at the sites.  There was a photographical exhibition on one of the side streets especially for the festival, showing pictures of Oaxaca over the last 150 years.  Fantasitic!  I love looking at old pictures.  While looking at the pictures I saw a picture of a young woman that seemed familiar. 
And then I realized it had an uncanny resemblance of the mother of the 2 young owners of the hostel.   They were not sure if it was her or not.
Later I visited the Museo de las culturas de Oxaca, a very large museum with lots of information and exhibits from the Zapotecan and Mixtecan cultures. I more or less just strolled around enjoying the city and relaxing most of the afternoon.   That night I went to a restaurant suggested by the hostel owners to eat “pollo con mole” (chocolate chicken).  This is something I had been looking forward to, as Oaxaca is the mole capital.  It was delicioussssssss!  Not at all like you would expect.  The mole is not sweet, and is a mixture of chocolate, spices, and chilies.  There are several small shops that sell mole, and as Siu the owner told me, everyone has their favorite shop.  
The next morning I woke up to a wonderful mole breakfast. Siu was cooking using specialties of the area. If for no other reason, the hostel is worth the breakfast.
 I found the hostel, clean and comfortable. The owners were really, super nice.  They organized a tour on the night of the 31st to take us to all the sites of the festival including the graveyard.  But I am getting ahead of myself again. In the morning I went to the market and looked around.  I put it on my list of places to come back to.  I wanted to by several things that you cannot get in Europe.  I wanted to cook several recipes in Frida Kahlo’s cookbook, but the ingredients are impossible to find in Germany. In the afternoon I took a bus to Monte Alban, an impressive Zapotecan ruins.  It is believed that about 18,000 people lived there at its height. Afternoon might not be the best time to visit the ruins, as it gets quite hot.  I had a nice dinner in the city, enjoying several beers and just soaking up the atmosphere. You could feel that everyone was getting anxious for the festival. 
Everywhere in the city and surrounding towns people where constructing “Alters”.  These alters are works of art.  Most of them are flat and on the ground.  They are made by piling colored sand into pictures.  Very complicated pieces of art, just gorgeous.
31st(dia de los muertos)
The festival actually goes until the 2nd, but as I had classes on the 3rdin Cuernavaca, and needed to be there on the 2nd, I could not stay that long. I started out the day taking a bus to Tule to see the famous tree.      
Tu le is a quaint  little town, and tree was nice, but nothing that takes a lot of time, so I hopped on a colectivo (pickup with benches) to Tlacolula. Tlacolula small village just down the road from the ruins of Yagul. 
Actually the descendants of Yagul which was still occupied when Cortez arrived, live there today.  There was a huge market in the streets towards the church and normal market.  The little village was full of activity people were building altars, and there were stands selling food everywhere.  I visited the little church and then walked across the street to the normal market .
 There was a women selling salads and so I bought some for lunch.  I was so hungry that I just walked outside and at them on the curb.  They were so good, that I went back to tell the woman, and buy some more.  We started talking, and she introduced me to her daughter who was welling things too. So, I after a long talk, I  started towards Yagul.  Yagul is a Zapotecan ruin just below a high plateau.  The ruins are not very big but very interesting, and you can climb to the top of the plateau for a fantastic view in every direction.  There was apparently a pre-zapotecan fortress there at some point of time, and a small room and a rock/bathtub or something are on top.
It was getting late, and I wanted to get back for the festival, so I stopped my excursion early and flagged a bus down at the entrance to Yagul, to get back to Oaxaca.
When I got back to the hostel, I just had time to shower and get ready for our excursion to the festival, organized by the owners of the hostel. I do not believe I would have seen half of the things I saw if they had not organized it for us.  It was fantastic.  We were at the graveyard, in town to see the parades, in the best spots to see the best altars, it was great.  And they did not charge us anything.  We arrived back very late, and I got a few hours of sleep before catching for Mexico D.F. and Cuernavaca at 10:00 am.  I had planned to stay another day, but when I got online to buy bus tickets, I found everything booked, and got just about the last seat left on the 1st.


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