Granada is a beautiful city and always a must-see for anyone visiting Nicaragua. It is located just south of Managua, the capital, and on Lake Nicaragua (where Isla de Ometepe is and the bull sharks live).
The city is named after the Spanish city of the same name. The architecture and layout of the city also mimic its European history. The center of town has turned into a huge tourist hub. There are horses drawn carriages to take you around the town square, souvenir stands everywhere, and hotels/hostels on each block.
Granada has a nice little museum a few blocks from the main square. It’s in an old church and beautiful! My favorite part was that it was cool in the courtyard. (I live in the rainforest at a very high altitude by CR standards. I live in sweatshirts and fleeces. When I go on vacation and experience typical tropical weather, I melt. I hate it. It’s bad.) The museum is pretty eclectic. They had some really neat old ceramic pots, crucifixes, and huge sculptures.
From the city square there is a street that runs all the way (10 blocks or so) to the port on Lake Nicaragua. This street is the center for tourists, although we did see many Nicas here as well. Almost every building for 3 or 4 blocks is a restaurant, and the few that aren’t are hostels, hotels, or tour companies.
You can find anything to eat here. We particularly enjoyed the burgers and wings from a roadhouse place while enjoying the Little League World Series. (Hey, I live in Central America, I can enjoy a US meal when I’m out). We also indulged in Irish food, gelato, etc.
Besides good food, you will also find Nicaragua’s delightful begging children here. I believed I mentioned them in my San Juan del Sur post. By far, they are my least favorite part of coming to this country. Street vendors don’t bother me. You can ask me if I want to buy a pack of cigarets or a vase. Then when I say no, that’s the end of the story. These kids though, well they are much more persistent (actually pushy, annoying, and rude). “No gracias” followed by “no” and “NO” again is an exchange you can expect repeat every 5-10 minutes or more.
Back to the baseball… remember I said when you cross the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border you enter a completely different world? Baseball is a perfect example of this. Costa Ricans could not care less about baseball. I have never seen a game in this country. Nicaragua? Our first taxi driver asked us about the Yankees. In Costa Rica, every town has a soccer field. In Nicaragua, every town has a baseball field. The cities even put money into large baseball stadiums. I do not like baseball in general, but it was nice to sit down and watch the game in the restaurant. I’ve been here for 7 and a half months, so reminders of home are always appreciated.
A highlight of our Granada adventure was the Mombacho Cigar Factory. This was a requirement from Charlie before we left, but I figured I could learn about one more thing I don’t consume. (I can tell you the basics of how beer, wine, and coffee are made. I don’t drink any of them.) To my surprise, it was really neat! They have maybe 10 people there hand rolling and then hand testing each cigar. After watching how they do that, we were taken into the back where they store the cigars while they age. I don’t smoke, but wow it smelled good! (It was also air conditioned which was great because I melt here, remember?) They even have a beautiful outdoor lounge where you can sit and smoke and have a drink.
One morning we took a walk through the local market. This market is HUGE and sells everything from food to clothing to items for the home. Busy markets don’t tend to shock me much, but there was one big difference in this market. Meat is kept out. I mean, you walk by a lady that has a bunch of filets (of any meat) sitting in a basket in front of her (in the 90+ degree heat) while she waves a hand fan over it to keep the flies away. Blech!
We also heard two squealing pigs around the corner and within a minute you could see the guy walking through the aisle with one pig leg in each hand while the little pigs squirmed and screamed bloody murder. Nothing surprises me here anymore.
I have to skip ahead a little bit for Granada Round 2. We met Zach in Leon (our next city) and then backtracked to Granada for a night to catch our bus back to CR.
One of the churches allows you to climb their bell tower to see the city. I thought this would be a great idea! It’s $1 and you get a great view of the city. It was a great idea until I saw the staircase. It was steep, narrow, spiraled, and open. I basically freaked out the whole way up grabbing for whatever I could hold on to. After finally making it to the top though, the view was definitely worth it. (The trip down was very similar, except in the dark with an old Nica man behind me who seemed a little irritated. Sorry!)