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Dave and Jan's travels, day 188:

23rd November
Mexico's third city is an odd place. We never really warmed to it: it seems rather grubby and grey compared to most of the rest of Mexico. Still, there's some pretty sumptuous religious architecture around the place, as you'll see at the right.

The first trial in the city was finding somewhere to stay. After five hotels announcing themselves full, we eventually paid somewhat over the odds for a strange little room on the mezzanine floor of an oldish building. It looked as though they'd popped an extra floor in at the top of the previously high ceilinged ground floor. Our room had windows that started at the ground and rose to all of two feet. Still, the shower and telephone worked and that's not all bad.

One thing that did go well in this city was food. In two nights David was able to try two local specialties. First, chile nogalo, a kind of giant chile stuffed with pork, all served in a thick creamy sauce with pomegranate seeds on top. This is the stuff of Marquez novels. The sauce is thick and luscious, you feel full after the first few mouthfuls but carry on eating regardless. The second specialty is mole poblano, eaten throughout Mexico but apparently first concocted here. The dish consists of chicken served in the mole sauce, which contains a host of ingredients, the most famous of which are chile and chocolate. It's absolutely delicious done right, the chocolate is very bitter and perfect.

The mole sauce was first created by a nun, and the first stop on the tourism round was the kitchen at the Ex-Convento de Santa Rosa - see at left - where she performed this feat. It's a splendid kitchen, the tiled walls are ancient and yet serviceably clean. Talking of tiles, many of the buildings in Puebla possess splendid external walls of painted tiles (aren't the links great on this page?).

One of these tiled buildings - see picture - has a small tale to tell. The owner of the Casa del Las Muñecos was taken to court by the city elders for his temerity in owning a house taller than theirs. He got his revenge by having it tiled with satirical depictions of several of the elders!

The final attraction in the town itself was the Capilla del Rosario. Our guide book describes this church's decoration as a 'sumptuous baroque proliferation of gilded plaster and carved stone' which is about right. Jan describes it as 'very shiny' which is in some ways more accurate. See the picture at right.

As we left town, we stopped off at two more churches whose decoration even out did the Capilla. At the right you'll see the Templo de Santa Maria in the otherwise insignificant village of Tonantzintla. Every square inch of the interior is festooned with carved and painted figures. The whole thing is a million light years away from the pain and suffering of most Catholic churches, and there seem to be a number of prehispanic religious figures lurking here and there. I have this vision of local sculptors building this under the direction of Conquistadors, then sitting in church secretly praying to their old gods. Either way, it's stunning artistry, and we were taken aback by the whole thing.


   (click thumbnails for a larger picture)

Templo de Santa Maria, Tonantzintla

Mariachi parade, Puebla

Capilla del Rosario,Puebla

Casa de los Muñecos, Puebla

Ex-Convento de Santa Rosa, Puebla