After checking out the smoking Masaya Volcano / National Park on our second day of site seeing we continued south to the city of Granada (… we were told that it is supposed to be the country’s nicest city and a perfectly preserved colonial masterpiece … so I expect there will be plenty of tourists, or at least more then there are in Managua).
The city of Granada, rich in history and culture, is situated on the northwestern shore of Lake Cocibolca is Nicaragua’s fourth largest city and historically one of Nicaragua’s most important places both economically and politically.
The city has a strong colonial heritage, easily evident from the architecture and layout of the large Spanish built homes, businesses, churches and other buildings over looked by a picturesque volcanic background. It is one of the main destinations for most international travelers (except for people like us who come here to go to work in the Rain Forest :) regions) that come to Nicaragua.
Like most colonial cities in Central America, Granada is built around a main square (known as Parque Central) with many churches and cathedrals and other historic looking buildings. Located close to the Parque Central you will find Granada’s cathedral, city hall, banks, cultural centers, hotels, as well as many small shops and stands selling traditional food, handcrafts and horse drawn carriages.
Parque Central is like the hub of the city’s social life and always full of activity. Everyday you can come here to find people selling their crafts, food (street food here was good, although I don’t really know for sure what it was I ate!) and other items, watch entertainers, meet others hanging around and also the young entrepreneurs that are after the tourists money providing just about any service from watching your car to showing you around.
One of the busiest avenues of the city starts on the left side of the Cathedral and runs all the way to the lake. It is bordered on both sides with large colonial houses, shops, restaurants and historical buildings. As you walk down the street you kind of feel like somebody special as all the shop merchants and waitresses try to persuade you to come into their little shop / bar or restaurant offering many specials or highlighting their gifts or items. ( Although very tempting, I managed to get through with out breaking the bank … ).
At the end of the street is yet another large stone built heritage church (Iglesia Guadalupe), one that has saw plenty of damage over the years. This one was used several times as a stronghold during battles because it was close the water front. Not sure why all these churches have been destroyed and rebuilt so many times nor why a small town needs so many, just like many of other Central America cities there are numerous churches and cathedrals (and all within walking distance usually) most with very interesting architecture and history.
At Iglesia La Merced they allow you to climb (for a $1 donation … well worth it) the very narrow stair case of the bell tower onto the rooftop where you can get an amazing view of the city and see all the tiled rooftops and court yards of the buildings below. I could imagine that this steep narrow climb would not be allowed back in Canada (let alone walking on the roof top unsupervised) as I am sure it would be deemed un safe (or have many signs and alterations making it loose its rustic dare-ful charm), but in a country like this where people have “No Fear”, it is just the norm.
Beside the large yellow cathedral (yes it too was destroyed once … but has been rebuilt and looks pretty sharp as a backdrop to the busy Parque Central) there is a large cross like monument (that kids seem to like to play on …), I have been told us that there was a time capsule buried underneath it containing common artifacts and personal belongings of the 19th century. .. Maybe I will come back with my shovel later and see if any gold was buried with it.
Now as nice and quaint as a place like this can be one can only walk around, eat local cuisine and admire the architecture, people and churches for so long … therefore when a young lad came up to us offering us a boat tour of Archipielago las Isleta we took him up on it.
Granada borders on Lake Nicaragua, the counties largest fresh water body (no where as big as our Great lakes but none the less very large). He promised us that on the tour we would see where some of the richest in the country live, see some historic forts and buildings (yet more architecture …) and perhaps see some the local wild life and nature such as birds, fish, monkies etc. Very exciting to some I sure but more so a nice change from the typical colonial like sights (it was also much cooler on the lake then it was in the city – witch was nice).