Friday, March 28, 2008

The Mayan Temple at Coba, Mexico.

Climbing the Grand Pyramid at Cobá was a truly wonderful experience. Hiking the 120+ steps to the top and then looking over the vast expanse of what was once a huge Mayan community was the highlight of my trip. At the top, there is a small temple with a carving over the entrance. There are many theories about the origin of the effigy over the mantle, but one is that it represents a “bee god” and is associated with the planet Venus. In any event, reaching the top of the Grand Pyramid and viewing a canopy of jungle with smaller pyramids protruding above the trees was absolutely fantastic.

The site dates from 600-900 AD and is located at Quintana Roo, 120 miles south of Cancun, Mexico. It is believed that approximately 100,000 people lived in and around the area. More than 50 sacbes (ancient roads) led directly to Cobá which was obviously once a thriving city center. It is a mystery as to why Cobá was eventually deserted – one theory is that a disease decimated the Mayan civilization. Another is that the Mayans overworked the once rich soil and since the land could no longer produce a decent harvest, they moved to more fertile land to sustain their community. Either way, they left the city and it was soon overtaken by the jungle. Only a small percentage of the site has been excavated, and so we can only marvel at the actual size.

I highly recommend a visit to Cobá but suggest using a tour guide service. I was grateful of the running commentary about specific items of interest such as the bee hives (the area is known for its excellent honey) the sacrificial stones, Mayan games and the gum trees from which chewing gum originated.

For visitors with small children or who those who need a little extra help, “human taxis” are available for the 2 mile round trip. The taxis use “peddle power” and are basically a tricycle with two of the wheels and a bench seat up front. They can carry up to two adults and two children. The cost is minimal and provides a unique way to visit the site.

For more information go to here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Victorian Elegance in Durango, Colorado

The Victorian Strater Hotel was built in 1887 in Durango, Colorado. It is an elegant hotel that combines the beauty of bygone times with the practical everyday conveniences expected by today’s visitors. There are 93 rooms each lavishly furnished with American Victorian antiques, and highly decorated ceilings with magnificent light fixtures. A visitor can sit by the fire in the lounge and then enjoy a wonderful meal in the restaurant as they listen to a medley of tunes by an excellent pianist. For more info call: 1-800-247-4431.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Ruins of Aztec, New Mexico

The National Park Service describes The Ruins of Aztec as “Contrary to the name, these structures were not built by the Aztecs of central Mexico. The Aztecs in fact lived centuries after the building of this ancestral Pueblo community. Inspired by popular histories about Cortez’s conquest of Mexico and thinking that Aztecs built the structures, early settlers named the site Aztec. The nearby city eventually took its name from the site.”

On a recent trip to New Mexico, I took the time to visit The Ruins of Aztec. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of excavation work that had been completed and the actual size of the exhibit. It covers more than 320 acres. A visitor can meander around the site and get a real sense of the way people lived more than 700 years ago. The majority of homes were built around a huge central plaza. Some of the homes were built three stories high and comprised hundreds of homes. In the center of the plaza stood the main kiva building which is believed was used as a ceremonial chamber. Earl Morris, an archaeologist, first visited the site in 1916, and began the first excavations on the large kiva in 1921. After leaving the site for a few years, he returned in 1934 to supervise the renovations to the large kiva. It is the only reconstructed great kiva in the Southwest. It is an impressive building with a stone bench around the circular, interior walls. It has a large fire pit in the center and two open burial pits.

When Morris first saw the site, only the tops of sandstone walls were visible above the surrounding brush and trees. But now, almost one hundred years later, we can see the true extent of this magnificent community village and get a small glimpse into their lives.

Don’t miss the 24 minute documentary on the excavations and the museum. For more information go to: