Saturday, October 08, 2005
Food in Mexico: Floating lunch in Xochilmilco
According to my guidebook, 'Xochimilco is a throwback to the capital's Aztec origins, with its canals and "floating" nursery gardens'. Apparently the Aztecs created these floating gardens or chinampas to grow various vegetables, fruits and flowers in order to supply the capital Tenochtitlán. If you look at old maps, you can see that Tenochtitlán was a small town surrounded by lots of water. To overcome this shortage of farmland, the Aztecs developed a system of 'floating gardens' that are rooted by willow trees. Xochimilco is on a southern edge of Ciudad de Mexico, and a popular destination for Mexican families to spend their weekend. We went there after a lovely morning at Museo Dolores Olmedo Patiño (where I spotted these incredibly rare, incredibly expensive and not particularly pretty hairless pre-Hispanic dogs Xoloitzcuintle!).
You rent a colourfully decorated trajinera or a Mexican gondola/punt and a punter and spend a leisurely hour and half floating on the canal system. And just enjoy yourself. Should you need some entertainment, then there are plenty of musicians, including mariachi singers, who volunteer to break the silence - in our case two cylophone players:
Should you get hungry, there's no need to despair either. Every now and then a floating 'restaurant' would pass by and offer you something, whether it's refreshments, tortillas or maize:
We also spotted few boats with large families on board, who had brought along their cooks who were serving them food on the boat. Again, quoting my guidebook, the punts, 'packed with large groups or families, combined with countless flower- and food-sellers in canoes to create watery traffic jams. But this is Mexico, and chaos is part of the colorful picture'. As we were in Xochimilco on a Thursday afternoon, it was quite peaceful and relaxing. I really enjoyed the trip, but I'm afraid I would have found the full show on the weekends a bit too noisy and chaotic. I am Estonian after all:)