Ritayan Chatterjee: ‘Pyramids of the land of Aztecs remain kind of fairy tales to me. Not just that, Mexico, the land of music, the land of revolutions has a certain attraction’
When did you first hear the word ‘Pyramid’? At your primary school geometry class?
No… perhaps, even before that… in childhood books or from the grandparents’ stories about the wonders of the world, we were familiar to the word pyramid and that sounds very close to the mummy, the Sphinx, the Pharaohs of the ancient Egypt.
Well, didn’t you hear about the ancient pyramids made by Incas?
Yes… few years later when I started to read Tintin’s adventures, I went through Biplobider Dongole, the Bengali translation of Hergé’s Tintin et les Picaros. If you could allow me at this moment to forget the little knowledge, I grasped afterwards about the history of ancient civilizations, the Pyramids of the land of Aztecs remained kind of fairy tales to me. Not just that, Mexico, the land of music, the land of revolutions has a certain attraction. So when I had a three-day free time after my talk at an academic conference at San Diego, I felt no doubt to choose Mexico City for a visit, more precisely to choose Teotihuacan.
Teotihuacan, an ancient Mesoamerican city is only 40 kilometer far from Mexico City and is well connected to Mexico’s capital. Its origin still lies in mystery. It is thought to be one of the first great cities of American subcontinent. The large city was supposedly built more than a thousand years ago, much earlier than the Aztec had invaded the central Mexico. By that time the city was abandoned and the site surprised the newcomers who named the city, Teotihuacan. In Nahuatl it means the place where gods were born.
To avoid high cost of air tickets from San Diego, I preferred to cross the U.S.-Mexico border by car to reach Tijuana from where I took a flight to Mexico City. It took three and half hours. It flies halfway over the Gulf of California and then over the heart land of Mexico. I took a city bus from airport to reach the centre of the city where I booked a dorm for my stay over the next two days. It was almost 4 P.M., when I checked in and I was hungry. Beautiful show casing of food based on various types of meat triggered my hunger to double. I could not understand Spanish, and so it was bit difficult for me to know the origins of those nicely looking foods. I chose a restaurant and tried to order a dish shown on a poster in front of it. It was quite a long time I was trying to but I could not make them understand. A professor, who knew English and was on another table turned up. He explained them my order. The dish came with a spicy soup with pig meat and fat and soft, probably hand made breads. It was scrumptious. When I left the restaurant and came back to the street close to my dorm, I found a lot of music stores on the both sides. The stores are crowded with the listeners. Fascinating performances of different genres were carried out in the different stores.
I preferred to roam around historic landmarks of Centro Historico, dating from as far back as the Aztec era for the next couple of hours. Enjoyed the refreshing walk through the streets between the massive Zócalo plaza, the museums and iconic buildings like the art nouveau Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Metropolitan Cathedral. The streets were filled up with joyful gatherings of men and beautiful girls clad in colourful clothes.
I came back to my dorm to finalize my next day’s plan. It was a daylong trip, of course to Teotihuacan. Also I wished to take rest as I was warned that the trip might be tiring. The Mexican foods are delicious but not always easy to digest for someone who is not very familiar to those. My experience was the same.
In the next day, I got up early, had a quick breakfast and took a cab to Terminal Autobuses del Norte, the bus terminal. From here I would catch a bus to Teotihuacan. Even in hurry you should not forget to bargain in fixing your cab fare, because you are in Mexico City. Buses to Teotihuacan leave at every twenty minutes, cost around a hundred Mexican pesos for a round trip ticket. It took another one hour to reach the site.
Words and photos: Ritayan Chatterjee
About of author: Ritayan Chatterjee teaches Physics in a college in Kolkata. He explores materials science as a researcher, and his heart wanders into places enjoying culture and people as a traveller, be it an academic visit or a leisure trip.