photos: Keith Telfeyan
On the scenic Spree riverbank at Hauptbahnhof’s Washingtonplatz once set a pavilion by the tourism board of Mexico. The installation highlighted the many wonders of this country – its cuisine, its heritage and its natural beauty. The pavilion’s dome featured the latest in flashy, interactive technology – I wore an Occulus Rift VR headset for the first time.
Mexico is indeed an awesome travel destination. I visited in December – it was the perfect warm getaway from the Berlin cold. I went to the Yucatán Peninsula on the Caribbean Sea, home to Playa del Carmen and Tulum of the Riviera Maya.
I flew from Berlin to Cancún, Mexico’s major airport on the Atlantic Ocean. Cancún is a raucous party destination most famous for American spring break. It’s sort of like Mexico’s Las Vegas, except that its resorts sit on beautiful beaches.
Two hours south of Cancún is Tulum, a more relaxed, chill scene. It’s an authentic village and also a beachfront of boutique resorts. Tulum is popular for ecotourists, yoga retreats and amazing Mayan Ruins, which sit on the edge of the ocean.
It’s difficult to put into words the sensation of standing among architecture from the 13th century, especially in a landscape so rich in beauty. This once-thriving Mayan city was wiped out by the swords and disease of Spanish conquistadors. The world is surely full of such examples, but it does feel special in Mexico somehow; there are no equivalent ruins in America that European colonialism overtook.
Aside from the archeological sites, Tulum and the rest of Quintana Roo is full of bustling nightlife and terrific food. I ate great tacos and quesadillas in town each day for less than €1, and could also splurge on world-class dining with the breaking ocean waves in view. Tulum is a special town – a nice mix of diverse tourists, eccentric expats and locals. I fell in love with a coffee shop run by Americans, where I could write and enjoy coffee each morning.
Also prevalent throughout this area of the world are cenotes – large open pools of water, often pristine, for refreshing swims. Imagine the many lakes of Berlin, except smaller, crisper and surrounded by mountainous rocks and palm trees. It’s a special experience.
Inland from Quintana Roo is the Mexican state of Yucatán, home to the epic ruins of Chichen Itza. I made the drive here on my way back to Cancún to see the sites and to try and picture the Pre-Columbian era. It’s hard to imagine the year 600 – when this civilization was really thriving – especially since this massive tourist destination is flooded now with commercialism and abject wealth disparity.
Mexico is an fascinating country. It suffers greatly from the war on drugs and the powerful cartels that operate there, as well as from trade alliances with America that cripple its agricultural industry. And yet, it is such a beautiful place with such rich culture, and, considering its northern neighbor, there is such potential for it to thrive as as nation. Tourism is the fourth largest part of its economy (it’s the 8th-most visited country in the world, and Germans are 9th most prevalent visitors). I like to think that as a visitor, I am helping it.
Thanks for the support by Discover Mexico