May 26, 2016: No, the van has not fallen into a giant vat of hot sauce. We are talking about the Mexican city by the same name.
A friend recently told us that we should have more pictures of us in the blog. We’re not so sure about the wisdom of this advice, but here we are.
We camped for the first time in quite a while at Trailer Park las Américas.
This was kind of a standard Mexican RV park: mixed use, with RVs sharing parking with residents of the adjacent apartment complex. Those residents sometimes enjoyed loud pool parties, showed off ATVs and owned a lot of barking dogs. But the bathrooms were clean and we had access to electricity, water and a place to dump our tanks.
We set out on Saturday May 14 to explore Cholula. It has a nice colonial center with pleasant architecture. In a historically dense urban setting, folks are creating lots of gardens high above the street. [click photos to enlarge]
Great Pyramid of Cholula
Cholula is most famous for what is touted as the world’s third-largest temple (pyramid), the Great Pyramid of Cholula, also known as Tlachihualtepetl (Nahuatl for “artificial mountain”).
As you can see, it doesn’t look like a typical pyramid, but like a big hill with a church on top.
A visit to this site starts with a small museum with a helpful cut-away mock up of the pyramid, the surrounding site and the church on top.
There was also some nice pottery and objects recovered from the temple and recreations of murals found on the buildings. [click photos to enlarge]
In trying to discover the buildings beneath the giant mound, archaeologist cut some 8 km of tunnels through the interior of this temple starting in the 1930s. After the museum, visitors are directed to walk through about 800 meters of them. We found this to be both somewhat claustrophobic and not very interesting. [click pictures to enlarge]
Had we known what it would feel like to have walls you can touch in every direction in a space crowded with loud slow-moving humans on either side of you, we would have skipped it and walked around the outside to view the remainder of the site.
Exiting the tunnels, you walk around the side of the pyramid base to view the largest excavated portion of the site, the Courtyard of Altars, as depicted in the foreground of this picture:
And in reality:
There are various altars, platforms and some interesting original decoration featuring sea creatures (this site is a long way from the sea).
As is common in ruin sites, all the walls are cut off around ground level, as the abandoned buildings were a rich source of building material for later inhabitants.
Continuing around the base of the main pyramid, you come to a restored section of the main stairway up the temple.
You can see the position of this stairway relative to the site in this picture:
Exiting the archaeological site, we climbed up the “hill” to the church on top, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios.
Mary was leaving just as we arrived:
The church was really nice inside, but you’ll have to take our word for it, as they don’t allow photos, much to our annoyance. But there were nice views of the city from up there, including views of other less excavated temples.
The area of town immediately around the architectural site has these nice wide streets to accommodate hordes of tourists, though it was relatively quiet during our visit.
There are mounted police in this area keeping the peace (but it wasn’t hard work on this particular day).
Cholula has a lot of churches. These are some of the steeples and domes that were visible while we sat on a rooftop terrace enjoying a pizza. [click photos to enlarge]
Convento de San Gabriel
The monastery is located on Cholula’s zócalo (central plaza). It was founded by Franciscans in 1529 and these current structures were started in 1540. Here’s the convent from the top of the Great Pyramid:
The grounds: [click photos to enlarge]
The churches in this part of Mexico are much more ornate than those in the southern part of the country. Inside Templo San Gabriel, the main church of the monastery: [click to enlarge]
In this section of the monastery, renovations revealed original murals that had been covered for centuries. These murals are examples of what’s referred to as indochristian art – art created by indigenous artists at the direction of Europeans:
There monastery also houses the Capilla Real, a large chapel with a roof composed of 49 domes. [click photos to enlarge]
San Pedro Apóstol
This is another incredible church just off of the city’s zócalo: [click photos to enlarge]
We found unusual interior decor in this neighborhood church: [click photos to enlarge]
Apparently there’s a new rail line coming soon to transport tourists between Cholula and neighboring Puebla. While the line is supposed to open in July, it looks like there are still some kinks to work out:
Rather than wait for the train, we went to Puebla by colectivo. We’ll tell you about that next time.