Colonial Cities, Part 2

After 11 days with Robert, Lois and Audrey in San Luis Potosi, our Spanish had clearly improved, our Bremach had fresh oil, and the driving cabin was shining brightly thanks to its new paint job. And we had held our first talk about our trip through the USA and Canada for Robert’s English students at the university. Robert and Lois threw a great little party for us, and this was a perfect way for us to test our newly learned Spanish. Many, many thanks that we could stay with you and enjoy your great hospitality for so long!
Photo gallery San Luis Potosi:

After San Luis Potosi, we continued on to Guanajuato, a silver-mining city which had been the richest city for decades. Getting there, we occasionally experienced our GPS sending us along pretty bad streets, so we thought we would try following the signs – a mistake that cost us a detour of more than 30 miles (50km). Oh well, at least we were on a small street and driving through beautiful scenery and we did finally make it to our goal. We had just arrived in Guanajuato when a city guide stopped us and told us that we (our Bremach) were too big for the city and should take an alternative route to the camp-site. This information turned out to be wrong, partly because the guide didn’t even know where the camp-site was and, especially, because he would have been very happy to guide us to the site for a little tip, of course. In any case, we turned around, drove around the corner, and then continued to follow the GPS until we found our way without any problem. When we were leaving Guanajuato, we discovered that the guide had told us complete nonsense and that we could drive out the road we had wanted to take in. Talk about being too big …

At the camp-site, we immediately saw a Landcruiser from Switzerland and a big motor home from California which the Germans Michael and Jeanette then came out of. The Swiss couple drove off the next day, and in their place came Kaspar and Bigi from Solothurn in Switzerland in their gigantic MAN expedition-mobile. We had a great time together there and exchanged tips and information. The camp-site is located beautifully on a terrace with a view down over the city – what a great place for us to relax. Our greeting there was a big display of fireworks on Saturday evening, and we were able to see lightning, too, when a big thunderstorm passed through.

Guanajuato is situated in several narrow valleys separated by hills. Lots of colorful houses seem to be glued together onto the hills with steep, narrow streets and endless steps in between. There are lovely squares with old trees and cafes, beautiful churches, and lots of fountains. After having the feeling of always being where nothing much was going on, we could really feel life pulsating in this city. The atmosphere was great, and we enjoyed wandering around through the small streets and across the squares. The Day of the Dead was announced by skeletons from trees and skulls everywhere – but it was all done very nicely and was not at all exaggerated or disturbing. Most of the traffic is underground through old silver mines or an old dried, subterranean river bed, so not much of it can be seen. Even the way from the camp-site to the middle of the city went through one of the long tunnels.

In addition to enjoying the many sights in the city, we were able to experience the finish of the Carrera Panamericana car race. It was fantastic to see so many old racing cars in such a historical atmosphere. They fit in just perfectly. Robert was even allowed to sit in an old Porsche racing car and found the horn right away. After several great days there, we moved on, first along the silver mines which are still functioning and then on through the green plateau to San Miguel de Allende.
Photo gallery Guanajuato:

San Miguel de Allende has the reputation of being a beautiful city, but many Mexicans argue that Guanajuato is even more beautiful. Anyway, the camp-site in San Miguel de Allende is closer to the city center, and the city is built in a different architectural style and fewer steep streets than the other cities. The camp-site in San Miguel known to be a meeting-point for travelers from all over the world, and we met some others here, too – Uli and Barbara, who have been traveling across the Americas for several years now, Bärbel and Joachim from the region around Heilbronn in Germany, who have been taking a break here for over four years now, some Australians, and quite a few more fellow-travelers. We had never expected to see to many retirees on such a long trip, and we like their attitude: they are often on the road for months and then park their vehicle somewhere safe for a few months while they return home to visit family and friends.
In San Miguel, there are a lot of ex-pats from the USA, and we sometimes feel like we are in the USA, especially around the main square, which is full of American retirees. The only things out of place are all the typically Mexican squares and markets. This makes San Miguel a very attractive place, with its many shops selling Mexican handicrafts at prices adjusted to this kind of clientele and also its lovely (but expensive) cafes and restaurants.
Photo gallery San Miguel de Allende:

On the Day of the Dead, the Dia de los Muertos, the entire main square is decorated with a lot of altars, and you see altars in the doorways and windows. Preparations for the festival begin on November 1, when an altar is set up in memory of the dead relatives and decorated with their favorite foods and drinks. Photos of them and reports about their lives round out the picture. A night-vigil is spent at the altar, and then all the relatives go to the grave and take along presents of food, which they eat at the cemetery to the accompaniment of Mariachis. The atmosphere was religious and solemn, but still happy and cheerful – people think back on the lovely hours they were privileged to spend with their friends and relatives. We think it is a beautiful custom, something completely different from the quiet, pious sadness experienced home in Germany.
Photo gallery Dia de los muertos:


Video:

While mostly wildly dressed tourists and American ex-pats were roaming around in the city, the cemetery was in the hands of the Mexicans; the deeply set local culture is not changed by the emigrants. We think San Miguel is very lovely, but Guanajuato is clearly more authentic with a very special atmosphere. After such intensive city and cultural experience, it is now time to drive through nature again, and you will hear more about this in our next entry.

Here are some private photos of our visits in the various colonial cities.

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