The baluartes were small forts serving to reinforce the city walls. The walls have been torn down but the blaurtes remain. Several house small museums: Baluarte la Soledad - just to the west of the Parque Principal - has rooms with Mayan stelae and sculpture; Baluarte San Carlos - just west of the State Government buildings (modernistic affairs that were supposed to blend with the old architecture - they don’t - known as the ‘Jukebox and the Flying Saucer’) - has the City Museum with scale models showing the City’s fortification system; Baluarte San Pedro - a few blocks further south, has an artesania exhibit; Baluarte Santiago - a short ways northeast of the Parque Principal, has the Xmuch Haltun Botanical Garden with many Yucatan botanical species on display within the fort’s walls. Two hills are located on the coast on either side of the City upon which two additional forts were sited. Fuerte de San Jose is located to the north near the large statue of Benito Juarez, with some colonial military exhibits - the baseball stadium is below. Fuerte de San Miquel is to the south and houses a nice Museo Arquelogico complete with finds from Calkmul and Jaina along with the uniquely restored atmosphere of the fort itself, festooned with old cannons, and a drawbridge which crossed a moat of either alligators or lye. San Miguel is very popular with locals at night and affords a grand view over the City.
55 km southeast of Campeche is the grand Mayan ruins of Edzna. The site is in a tranquil setting with little of the circus that goes on at Chichen Itza or Uxmal. The architecture is different from those areas, being mainly of Chenes style - though Puuc and other style influence. The star attraction is the Templo de los Cinco Pesos - the Temple of Five Stories - which is the highest Mayan temple at 30+ meters and 60 square meters. The site was founded as early as 600 BC though its peak was between AD 600 - 900. Much of the site is still unexcavated - every little mound hides something. Population at the site’s peak varied between 25000 to 75000, depending upon whom you and what you read. The main problem here, as in most of the Yucatan, was water. Besides the high temple there is also the interesting Temple of the Moon, a ball field and the Temple of the Masks ( Templo de los Mascarones) to view. Transportation to the site is the hardest thing to figure out. Not much in the way of public transport and it gets very hot out here - over 100F and 40C. Take along water. There is an entry fee - free on Sundays if you are Mexican. There is a special Mayan ceremony here in July to commemorate the return of the rains.
Tours from the Campeche hotels are around $40-50. Since Campeche is fairly easy as far as Mexican cities to drive within, you may want to get together with a few people to drive out here. Supposedly there is a public bus that can get you here, but I also read about hitchhiking and walking a long ways - it gets really hot out here!
Note that this is one Mayan site where the local mexican tourists actually outnumber the foreign tourists, but then it was Sunday:-)
For more on this site, see the off-the-beaten-path tips and more photos in the Edzna travellogue.
As a Spanish conquest, Campeche predates Merida. Francisco de Montejo defeated the Mayans in 1540 and used Campeche as the base for their conquest of the Yucatan peninsula. So the church at this location had its origins in 1540.
However, the cathedral in its present Renaissance form was not started until 1650 - the first church wasn't impressive enough. This Cathedral took 200 years to complete (the second tower was not finished until 1850).
As you can see in the photos, the catherdal is quite grand - both inside and out. There is also a 'museum' which features carvings of various saints that obviously form part of religious parades.
From the south side of the Parque Principal, you can venture forth on one of the tourist trains - tranvias. The tours are in Spanish/English and give you a nice overview of the old city, the fortifications, valuates, and principal sights within. They will give you a nice overview of the city running from 0900 to 1200 and picking up again in the evening from 1700 til 2000. Different levels of tours exist - the basic tour and then the ‘Guapo’ and ‘Superguapo’ tours, as well, which add further depth to the tour.
As with most cities in the Yucatan, the city revolves around the main Plaza. This is where people come to stroll about the town. One thing a little different is that in the bandstand in the middle of the plaza is a restaurant. We watched the action in the Plaza for a couple of hours one evening as we ate in a restaurant overlooking it (see restaurant tips). Interestingly at some point at night they lock the doors to the park.
As in Merida, Sunday afternoons are a special time with free concerts and lots of townspeople wandering about. Of course such things as the City tours start from one side of the Plaza, and inside it is a Tourist Information booth.
These photos are of two more of the buildings close to the plaza. The first, two blocks north of the Plaza is the Carvajal Mansion. This building was the home of a wealthy family in the early 1900's. Keeping up with the Jones in those days meant the building has Moorish arches, fancy iron railings and the builder's initials in all the windows. Today it is a public building - home of local Department of Family Affairs.
The second photo is some civic building right on the Plaza square, all lit up at night. I cannot ever remember if the building was open to the public, and we did not come back to check the next day.
The Land Gate is at the other end of Calle 59 from the Puerta de la Mar. Constructed in 1732, this is where you went out from Campeche if you were heading on business in the rest of the Yucatan. It’s gate was covered by both the baluartes of San Francisco and San Juan. Unlike the Puerta de la Mar, this is the original and was not knocked down. There is a small museum of arms and at night there is a light show that takes place at 2030 every night during vacation periods - otherwise on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It is recommended you show up a half hour early for the show. There is a nice bar opposite on the old city side - and just opposite, is an atmospheric hotel across the street.
The Parque Principal - the main square, zocalo of Campeche, also know as the Plaza de Indepencia - acts as the City’s living room. An elaborate bandstand sits in the park’s center and many shows take place here at night. A grand arcaded building - the old state government building - fronts on the park’s south side and the Cathedral is on the east. Tourist trains start from here and take people through the old city sections. If you spend any time here in Campeche, chances are you will spend a little time here.
On the east side of the State Government buildings and just west of the Parque Principal is the seaward door to the old City - the Puerta de la Mar. The old gate was knocked down but then reconstructed when the locals realized the worth of what was gone. The street leading from the Puerta de la Mar runs directly to the other City gate, the Puerta de la Tierra - Land Gate. The old city walls have been reconstructed eastwards from the Sea Gate with the Plaza Muoch-Cuouh on the north side of the walls. The area out from the walls have been filled in over the years.
A broad boulevard runs along the sea, but directly on the sea, is a wide walking path, with a separate jogging/bike path that gets plenty of local use. In the evenings, many locals either walk, jog, skate, or just hang out along the Malecon. Many bring folding chairs and use it as a public patio - be forewarned, alcohol is not allowed. Much of the City will be found walking the paths here into the wee hours of the morning. Every so often, the way is festooned with statues, cannons and the monument to the flag, la Bandera. Look into the sea and you will notice an assortment of fish looking up at you.
The cathedral was one of the first Christian churches built in the Yucatan though that doesn’t mean when it was finished, for it took from 1640 until 1705 to complete. The church towers over the Parque Principal and has an elaborate façade. There area several other old churches to discover within the old city as well - San Francis Quito (16th century) and remnants of the Convento de San Francisco (1546).
Each year as Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Tuesday) approaches, there is the madhouse that is Carnival parades. Each town in Mexico has a number of parades -- parades for kids, parades for folk costumes, parades for the beauty queens.
At the parades we viewed, normally participants throw out stuff to the crowds -- most often candy, but also T-shirts and other such stuff. Carnival parades truly are a madhouse. People line the parade route 5 people deep, and it can take hours to get away from the parade once its over due to all the people.
We watched one such parade in Campeche. The honourary parade marshalls were two local soap opera actors. They were so popular that they were constantly mobbed -- I think their names are Alexandra and Sebastian (means nothing to me). See the photos for views of some of the floats.
The waterfront (Malecon) in Campeche is a great place to come to watch the sun set into the ocean. Don't blink, you might miss it (the sunset, not the Malecon).
The Malecon has green space with two paths - one marked for walking, one for bicycles and a waterfront road. We saw a lot of joggers (as well as the Carnival parade and a sunset).
There are seven of the original eight fortresses remaining. The suggested city walk includes visiting most of these Baluartes. The Baluartes nearest the plaza (_____) is a museum (entry fee 50 pesos in 2006).
Baluartes Santiago is the most recent reconstruction - rebuilt in the 1950's. However they ran out of money, and all that was recreated is the four walls and watchtowers. Inside the fortress is now a botanical garden with 200 species of local plants - including a Cieba tree. It is a very small area however, and the plants are not that well marked (no entry fee to Baluartes Santiago).
However it is a great place to sit and have a short rest from your walking tour.
As I have mentioned before on VT, my wife is quite keen on mothers and babies, so if we come across anything along this line, we have to take a picture of it (or buy it).
This statue is on a boulevard in the middle of a busy Campeche street. Sandy says that her form is not quite right. Her back is straight (which is correct), but she's not holding the baby correctly.
There are actually a number of statues in different corners of Campeche. I don't know if I would normally go out of my way to check up on them, but mothers and babies are an exception.
The fourth photo is just a photo of a wooden pregnant-lady-carving displayed by our hotel -- nothing to do with the statue.