Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Santa María la Ribera

This is my third (and last!) post about the previous weekend. It was a really fun one! Now, in this post I want to talk about the Santa María la Ribera neighbourhood. This is the neighbourhood my dad was born in and where he grew up, and it was also a pretty famous neighbourhood by the end of the 19th century - it was deemed one of the more modern!


Now, in general, I'm afraid the neighbourhood is somewhat run down, and some buildings have survived better than other, less lucky ones. There is the famous Casa de los Mascarones, or House of Mascarons (face sculptures), which still offers some nice views of its façade, but which has seen some of the ravages that being turned into a school and part of the university imply...

Then there was this very interesting building that had a sign that said it was Baños San Cosme, or the San Cosme Bathhouse. It looked like too much design for a bathhouse, so maybe it was a fancy spa in the past, or it was something else and later became a bathhouse. Anyhow, today it's closed and probably awaiting for a buyer?

And at the extreme of disrepair is the Teatro Bernardo García (Bernardo García Theatre), that barely retains its name above the main entrance...

But there are quite a few other buildings that are still in use and still retain some splendour, like the oddly neo-Byzantine Iglesia de la Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family), with the ever watchful eye of god in a couple of murals inside. Quite a strange sight, both within and without! 

And talking of churches, there's the Teatro Sergio Magaña (Sergio Magaña Theatre), which used to be a temple at the very beginning of the 20th century and now works, like I said, as a theatre. One where my habib actually performed at in the past! We even saw a plaque about that play, with his name on it!

Finally, we came across the Museo de Geología de la UNAM (the Geology Museum of the National Autonomous University of Mexico). Now, you really don't come to this end of the 19th century building for its rock collection. OK, maybe some do, but I'd dare say the main reason is just to see the building, look not at the collections but at the original beautiful old wooden and metal cases holding them, admire the metal staircase, and yes, maybe enjoy the contrast of some dinosaur bones against not a modern museum, but one that is over a hundred years old.


In 1844 New Orleans held the World Fair. And Mexico participated with a Moorish-inspiration kiosk (the Kiosco Morisco). Which, after the fair, was brought back to Mexico, and is located now in a big shady park in the middle of the neighbourhood. Pretty cool, right? A 150 year old structure that participated in a World Fair, and now lies right here for everybody to enjoy?


All this walking around made us, quite understandably, very hungry! And our reward was trying a small restaurant right by the park, called Kolobok - a Russian restaurant! Neither of us was too sure what sort of menu we'd find. Maybe a couple of token Russian items and lots of Mexican food? Mexicanized Russian items? Well, one look at the menu, and it became clear: this looked totally authentic, and the food rather what you'd get at a home instead of a restaurant! Exciting!

We (well, I) had kvass (квас), a fermented rye bread beverage. Not the most amazing drink in the world, but it was light and, anyhow, you just don't get kvass anywhere abroad! Then I tried a solyanka soup (сольянка), which contained pickled cucumbers, cabbage, a dollop of sour cream, dill, beef, ham olives.. thick, spicy, and very interesting! And yes, I did eat animal products. But I had never had the chance of trying Russian soups (except borscht), and I was too tempted! Especially after unearthing a lot of information about my Russian grandfather a few weeks ago! I just couldn't resist. But we did have salad - vinegret (винегрет) - with beets, carrots, potato, peas, onion, dill... delicious! 

Another thing we really had to try was vareniki (вареники), which would be the Slavic counterpart to the Chinese dumplings we love so much. These were filled with mushrooms, and came with, what else, smetana (сметана, sour cream) which apparently you simply can't do without? Despite their apparent simplicity, they were very good! And last, but most certainly not least, syrniki (сырники), a kind of pancake made from a sort of cottage or curd cheese, garnished with - in our case - more smetana and varenye (варенье), which is a traditional whole fruit preserve. I'm glad I ordered one for each of us instead of sharing just one as my habib had proposed! LOL

Honestly, forgetting the fact that this was not vegan, it was a fantastic meal, in a nice place, by a nice park.

So, thumbs up for Santa María la Ribera. Probably not the prettiest neighbourhood, but certainly a very interesting one!

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