A church on top of a pyramid, that was the appeal to visit Cholula, a beautiful suburb of Puebla, the capital city of the State of Puebla.
After spending the afternoon at the bank and the Aurrera grocery store, a Costco-type store to restock on big essentials, I quickly found the only RV park in town and settled in.
The owner had told me that it was an 8 blocks walk to the pyramid, so off I went, early next morning armed with water bottle and sun hat. The closer I got, the prettier the streets, with brightly colored homes lined with Bougainvilleas still in bloom.
The church stood on top of a grassy hill with a wide winding pathway leading to it. Where is the pyramid? I hope it is not a tourist trap, I thought. The church itself was very interesting, celebrating the cult of Our Lady of the Remedies, a 12th century Spanish legend. I am not sure what started the worship of this young woman and her baby, but it grew in size until the catholics built this beautiful, delicately feminine church in the 16th century. Whether they knew at the time that the hill was indeed a pyramid or not is left for debate.
I couldn’t take pictures of the interior, nor did I find postcards.
From the top courtyard one has a panoramic view of Cholula and Puebla. But what I enjoyed the most was the sight of the two active volcanos overlooking the city. I had followed Popocatepetl, the imposing and snow caped volcano on my drive to Cholula, but to finally see it unobstructed, majestically guarding the ruins from a distance, with a clearly defined wisp of smoke coming out of its peak was truly awe inspiring. Next to it sits Iztaccihuatl. I’ve never been near an active volcano before, so this was quite a beautiful experience. What a force of nature -you can feel it in the air and I couldn’t help wonder how living in the shadow of an active volcano would affect the population?
On my way down I followed a path that wound around the back of the hill, revealing a large archeological site at the base. From this site and looking up at the church it becomes then apparent that this is indeed a large pyramid. Indeed, Pirámide Tepanapa is the world’s largest pyramid by volume: bigger, in that sense, than the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt.
After the tour of the ruins I went in search of a Cocina Economica for lunch and happen to discover this amazing vegerarian, self-sustaining and organic restaurant on top of an old building! I decided to try the Chilaquiles a local dish consisting of a bed of blue corn taco chips covered in a red chili sauce, with beans and cheese and a fried egg on top! It was delicious.
I decided to skip the street snacs of Chapulin – grilled and spiced grasshoppers. I hear it is crunchy and you only taste the seasoning… I’ll take their word for it!
My ticket allowed me entrance to the small and humble museum and to the tunnels.
Archeologists discovered a labyrinth of tunnels running underneath the pyramid. So far 8 km of network has been uncovered, 800 meters of which is open to the public. I was surprised by the size and the shape, allowing a person to stand, as well as the extent of the system, with at least 3 levels that I could see.
The other great appeal of the city is the incredible shopping – a pre taste of Oaxaca, the State, along with Chiapas that is the richest in folk-art and craft. Indeed every time I asked the origin of an article I liked, the answer was inevitably “Oaxaca”.
I didn’t tour the many beautiful churche of Cholula. It is said that Hernán Cortés had vowed to build one church per day of the year in Cholula for his victory over the Aztecs. Cholula doesn’t have 365 churches but boasts about 45 of them which, for a town of its size, is quite impressive.
Because of its charm, culture, location and relaxed atmosphere Cholula is now number 2 (after San Miguel de Allende) on my list of places I could see myself settle down.
Until next time my new road amigos!
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Au plaisir de la route!