Monday, July 9, 2012

Chichen Itza

Along the Maya Route

As you might have guessed, I subscribe to several travel magazines.  Lately, I have gotten a kick out of the multi-page advertisements promoting the Yucatan Peninsula and the end of the world on December 21st.  An old era ends and a new one begins (hopefully).  Who wouldn't want to stand among the ancient Mayan ruins on this historic night?  Well, I hope the ads work.  Mexico needs a big boost in tourism.

Doomsday prophecies come and go, but this one has captured my imagination.  Every time I walk among the Mayan ruins, whether in Mexico, Guatemala or Belize, I am astounded by the monuments that were built to observe the movements of the moon, the sun and Venus.  Their knowledge of mathematics and their creation of a calendar to track time was so sophisticated,  it boggles my mind.   How did they do it?  It's a question that keeps scholars busy and we tourists in a state of awe.

Chichen Itza is where I began my world travels as a young woman.  It is where I send nieces and nephews when they ask me, "Where should I go first?"  It's close.  It's safe.  And it opens up an historical era of a great civilization that is worthy of a lifetime of study. 

  Chichen Itza was a major city built by the Maya's in the lowlands of the Yucatan Peninsula.  It rose to power in 900-1050 CE, as other Mayan cities began to collapse.  Unlike her sister cities to the south,  she was never entirely abandoned.  When the Spanish arrived, they found a thriving population.  The Yucatan had a good water supply in the cenotes, the underground lakes, and the Mayans had become accomplished farmers.

This feathered serpent sculpture is found at the base of El Castillo or more accurately renamed the Great Pyramid of Kukulkan.  The pyramid was named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, and was built for astronomical purposes.  During the spring and autumn equinoxes, sunlight pours down the main stairway.

Buy yourself a good guidebook and plan on spending  two days here.  There's simply too much to cover  and all of it is fascinating.  But go soon!  The end is near. 

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