Granada is the oldest mainland city in the western hemisphere, founded in 1524. We did a couple of different types of tours in the city, including seeing the remains of the original market place, built in the 1500’s.
While very much a tourist town, it is enjoyable because of the history associated with many of the inner city’s buildings. Because of the heat, homes were, and still are, built around a courtyard which allows ventilation and airflow, making it fairly comfortable in the buildings. The town is fairly safe; we were comfortable walking from one part to our hotel after dark. There is a restaurant section closed off to most traffic where pedestrians can walk up and down and hear music and choose where to eat.
There are very rich people in the area and very poor people (see prior blog). $200 per month is not an uncommon income for many people. $500 is a high income.
Food is good however we were careful to eat at places where we either didn’t eat raw veggies or tap water/ice or knew that they used purified water. We have a device to purify our own water and used it a lot on the trip. Beans and rice (gallo pinto) is a staple here well as Costa Rica. We had excellent corvina (sea bass) many times in various restaurants. Fish from Lake Nicaragua was usually tilapia and we didn’t eat it much since the lake water isn’t that clean.
- Tour of the historic city: we saw old churches, the remaining wall of the original market, and lots of old buildings. Architecture varied: churches often fairly ornate as were some government buildings. Residences were originally built as a long structure with the inner courtyard for ventilation. As the family grew, sections were added on or separated off.
Now, individuals own sections which are usually designated by a given color, hence very colorful streets. You have no idea what an interior will look like based on the exterior. Some are very well done with all of the modern conveniences. We also went to a Granada museum, which has a lot of ancient carved statues.
- School tour: Walking down the street we met some realtors with whom we chatted for a while. One is engaged to a woman who works at the after school program in the poorest neighborhood. We took a tour of the facility (modest but highly functional with 200 students) and the neighborhood. The neighborhood is heartrendingly poor. Some streets are neat and clean even though they are dirt; others are not. Because Nicaraguans don’t think anything about littering (I only saw one sign on the island and none on the mainland about it) the school is very strict in hopes of changing this attitude. Kids are sent home if they are seen littering and it is making a difference…a small change in attitudes. Kids get a meal, play time, access to books, and schooling for half day (public schools only teach 1/2 days so the kids come here the alternate half). The program has been around for 4 1/2 years and is making a difference in these lives. The poverty in the barrio is heart wrenching.
- Historic house tour: we saw 3 homes and they weren’t really that old although they were representative of how the older homes were built. Note the large pots on the floor in one picture. Those are funeral pots…yes, they put an entire body into one pot. Pots varied in size, presumably based on the size of the person. Don’t want to think much more about this. Pay special attention to the narrow streets, in one the bus can barely turn and also to the various modes of transportation. More on that in another post.
- Private tour: We hired a young guide to take us around and show us some non-traditional places including Apoyo Lake, Catarina Market (cleaner and less hectic than Granada’s), and some other areas.
- Bottle House: This building is built primarily of glass and plastic bottles and is sponsored by the French. It is a place for artists to live and be trained in the street arts. A friend of our tour guide says he is much safer and happier now that he is involved with this group. They are trained to do juggling and acrobatics but I was concerned that when they left this home they couldn’t earn enough to live independently. At least it gives them improved self-esteem.