Thursday, February 18, 2010

Visiting Michoacan - Part I

Colorful balloons everywhere on the streets of Morelia
Stunning colonial architecture in Morelia

We have spent the past week traveling on a comfortable luxury bus with a group of amiable companions through one of Mexico's most beautiful states, Michoacan (meesh-wah-KAHN). Nestled in the central highlands of Western Mexico, Michoacan is full of history and magic. Michoacan's countryside is a vast expanse of rolling hills, deep lakes, winding rivers and green valleys. The state has few large cities, but rather a collection of small villages and towns that have changed little since the 1800's. It's pace is leisurely, its people friendly, and its Spanish colonial and indigenous heritage rich. The change of pace from our beach town (full of tourists this time of year) was refreshing, although the cool weather was something we were not used to: we wore clothes that have been packed away since we arrived in Mexico almost four years ago!

The first destination on our itinerary was Morelia (elevation 6,399 feet), a colonial city of almost a million people that is a
UNESCO World Heritage Artistic site. The city was founded in 1541 by Antonio de Mendoza and its original name was Valladolid. The name was changed after Mexico's War of Independence, in honor of one of its heroes, Jose Maria Morelos de Pavon, who was born in the city in 1765.

A painting showing revolutionary hero Juan Morelos at his birthplace. He is almost always pictured wearing a headband, apparently because he suffered from migraine headaches.
Sunset view from our hotel window
Across the street from our hotel, Superman was keeping a vigil.
Sweet selections from the famous Morelia mercado dulce, or candy market

With our good friends Marcia and Noble Dunson, we explored the city, marveled at the beautiful colonial architecture and browsed the many markets. We savored some of the regional offerings: Sopa Talasca, a bean/tomato soup with bits of tortilla, garnished with cotija cheese and crema; Enchiladas Moreliana, chicken enchiladas in a red sauce, garnished with diced carrots and potatoes; and huechepos, a sweet tamale-like masa dish, shaped into tiny loaves and garnished with queso fresca and crema (for breakfast - yum!).

We walked for miles through the city, finding friendly people and lots of good coffee. The elevation didn't bother us a bit, but our feet got tired. We slept like rocks in our comfortable hotel. Because of recent unusual storms in the higher mountains, we were unable to take our anticipated side trip into the Monarch butterfly reserves, where ALL the monarch butterflies in North America spend the winter. There were mudslides and floods and closed highways in the butterfly reserve areas, and many many hundreds of people displaced from their homes. In spite of the local needs, we encountered an organized effort in the city zocalo (plaza), raising funds for Haiti.

After three days in the city, we boarded the bus again and made our way to some smaller towns, on our way to Patzcuaro, one of the jewels of Mexico. (To be continued)


Jo said...

Karen, Thank you for taking all the wonderful pictures and the time to narate your trip. It is lovely!

Noble (Horacio) Dunson said...

No WONDER you're so busy! This is a magnificent account of our trip!!marcia