The bus trip to and from the ruins goes through the outer regions of the valle de Mexico to beyond its mountainous rim. The city has spread this far (from its days as an island in a lake) and was like Montreal’s Habitat (or Calem Morton) a thousand, thousand times over, as it covers the lower slopes.
Hot and dusty, it is best not to wear thongs to visit the largest prehispanic city (1st to 8th C AD) in Mexico. Excavation and concentration on reconstruction lines the areas most adjacent to the main axis or ‘Avenue of the Dead’. The avenue terminates at the Piramide de la Luna although the axis is aligned with the peak of the mountain behind. The reconstructed parts of the city are awesome. The surrounding city is generally manifest as a number of regular grassy mounds.
A river was diverted to cross the main avenue at a right angle. The ground rises slowly up to the Piramide del la Luna providing a sense of drama for our expedition and evidence of a drainage strategy. The avenue is crossed by several causeways that plesantly interrupt the journey with an overview of the route and they pace our advance preparing us for what is to come.
The Temple de Quetzalcoatl sits within the walled compound of La Ciudadela and is approached over broad but steep steps. A feature of the structures here is that subsequent eras built over the previous, like onion skins. This temple has been excavated to reveal a fasinating and well preserved earlier structure. The detailed stone work features a number of deity/creatures.
There is still much speculation about the meaning or purpose of the various structures. Later archelogical theories surpase previous, making it difficult to follow the most authorative advice with only our meagre tourist guide info. For example, the reconstruction of the Piramide del Sol has 5 terraces, recent opinion is that there were only 4! Furthermore, it is now believed to be a temple to a water god (not sun). Needless to say we climbed to the top which was as breath taking as the view.
The Piramide de la Luna sits in an open air plaza rather than a walled compound. It suggests that perhaps this was a place for more public functions.
The temple/palace that faces on to the plaza La Luna was fascinating. The reconstruction featured a portion of roofing (exposed timber frame) on stone columns, which is not dissimilar to widely used construction methods used in Mexico today. It included a courtyard with detailed stone reliefs; a complex series of unreconstructed rooms and courtyards; and beneath an earlier temple with murals and more interesting stone details that Louise was very fond of.
Incidently Louise thought Teotihuacan was better than Pompeii, but that it would have been good to gain a sense of their everday life.