Still feeling a bit worse for wear, I took a day bus to the stunning town of San Cristobal de las Casas. Fortunately the simplicity and serenity here did much to restore my health. Set within the mountains and surrounded by pine trees it had a very Swiss feel about it. The grid like setting of the town also afforded views of beautiful houses, painted in pastel colours or window sill in more stronger blues and reds. It was clean, cool, sunny and just very pretty. It was a place to relax and that is exactly what I did.
Whilst San Cristobal was more known as a base to go and visit indigenous people, I decided I had had enough tours and spent my next few days seeing what the town itself was about. I was very glad I did.
My first exploration was the Museum Nabolom. The name meant Jaguar House but also played on the owner's name. It was the home of the Swizz anthropologist and photographer Gertrude Duby-Blom who, with her Danish archaeologist husband Frans Blom, bought the 19th-century house in 1950. While Frans explored ancient Mayan sites all over Chiapas, Trudy studied, photographed and fought to protect the scattered Lacandón people of eastern Chiapas and their jungle environment.
The house had a very Spanish feel, with the rooms set around an internal courtyard offset with a beautiful tree in blossom. The rooms were full of photographs, archaeological and anthropological relics and books, revealing insight into the lives of the former owners and the Chiapas of half a century and more ago. The photographs in particular were of interest to me. They depicted the native culture, illustrating its unique looks and natural style of living in the jungle. The photographs captured intense scenes uninfluenced by the tourist scene, showing every day life. Gertrude had a style and uniqueness that was able to capture this without intruding. The house exuded the same calmness felt around the town, so I took my time there enjoying the sun glimmering in the courtyard over a scrummy cup of hot chocolate.
Next on my list was the Amber museum. Amber is a stone which San Cristobal is particularly famous for. This was across the town so again I took my time walking in the sunny warmth through the pleasant streets. Unfortunately I knew most of the things that the museum explained about Amber, so besides admiring the pieces and wishing I had oodles of money to buy some pieces, it only took about 20 minutes to explore. The rest of the day was spent wandering around the town, stopping in odd coffee shops to sit outside with my book and basking in the sun. Bliss.
My last day in San Cristobal I spent walking up many stairs to two churches on opposite sides of the town. The first church was the Cerro de San Critsobal, which sat at the top of many, many winding stairs besides a huge flag of Mexico. The view was worth the effort and I could see the entire valley in which the town was nestled, surrounded by pine clad mountains. Wandering back across the town I then had to climb more stairs to the Cerro de Guadalupe. Whilst not as high as the previous church it still afforded views across the town but this side from the other direction. Good exercise!
My final visit was to the Coffee Museum. But besides a decent cuppa, it did not live up to much (no explanation of the coffee process, just some odd portraits) and so I again I took time out to relax. Unfortunately, my hostel would only look after my bags until 4pm, while my bus did not leave until 10.45pm. I therefore had to lug my bags across the town to a place which would hold them but even then only for 5 hours. It was getting complicated.
I past the remaining time watching a film of the country's favourite artist, Frieda Kahlo. A surrealist, she captured the heart of the nation and as such the film explored how she came to be known and the history behind her work. It was very enlightening, and she definitely had a touch of Dali about her. It passed the time well and it was not long before I was heading to the bus station, leaving the beautiful town of San Cristobal behind and the city of Oaxaca ahead.