Chilling in Granada

Trip Start Nov 10, 2007
Trip End Nov 15, 2009

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Saturday, December 6, 2008

I've been in Granada a week now and I just love it!  The people are friendly and welcoming, the atmosphere vibrant with colorfully painted buildings lining streets teeming with fruit vendors, watch repair stalls, CD sellers, money name it! 

Unfortunately, I've been laid up most of the week.  Shortly after I got here I came down with a nasty intestinal ailment that kept me in bed 3 days until I finally decided to get some antibiotics.  The symptoms made me think it was typhoid so I went the drug route.  Just as I was getting over that, my right calf went out on me mid-stride in what I can only describe as a sustained charlie horse.  I had the same thing happen to my left calf last Spring and it hurt for over a week!  As I was hobbling down the street, a man stopped me and suggested it may be a circulatory problem and that I should come to his clinic for a massage.  Good idea.  What he did hurt like hell but I do think it helped and 3 days later I'm walking almost normally although there is still some pain.  I've decided stick to a regular schedule of massage and see if that helps.  Can't hurt anyway!

Fortunately, I've had a great place to hang out here at the Hostel Oasis.  It's a typical colonial construction with a fairly nondescript facade flush to the sidewalk that gives away nothing about the delightful interior.  The front courtyard has a shady garden surrounded by hammocks.  The portico, with ceiling fans that keep the sweat evaporated, is an inviting place to hang out with other travelers and I've met some interesting people here.  The back courtyard has a small swimming pool, a restaurant that serves breakfast, and a TV for watching DVDs.  The bunk beds in the dorm are sturdy (so if there is someone in my top bunk I don't notice), and the mattresses are incredibly comfortable.   It's definitely not a party hostel  and there is a peaceful atmosphere.  All this for $7 a night.  Why leave?

Yesterday I felt recuperated enough to wander around town a bit and see some of the sights.  The first place to go, of course, is the Parque Central - the hub of the city.  The plaza is shaded by mango trees and dominated by the main cathedral on the east side.   On the west side is the beautiful Italian Consulate with its ornately carved  balconies.   The adjacent buildings house several hotels and restaurants with cafes under the porticoes. Beyond the cathedral is Calle La Calzada which is a prime tourist area with cafes, tour offices and hostels.  A good length of the street has been restored and is closed to traffic which makes it a nice place to enjoy a coffee or drink.   Just north of the plaza is this portal of the Casa de los Leones which is all that's left of the original building built in 1550.  In 1856, this building, and more, were burned in an interesting bit of history I either never learned or promptly forgot...the story of William Walker.  Walker was what is called a filibuster: someone who launches an unauthorized military incursion in a foreign country.   He attempted to take over several Central American countries in the mid 19th century and had himself elected president of Nicaragua in fraudulent elections.  He burned Granada upon retreating and was eventually executed in Honduras in 1860. 

From the plaza I walked to Convento y Iglesia de San Francisco which was founded in 1550.  The convent now houses a small but very interesting and enjoyable museum of sacred figures, Nicaraguan art and archeology.  The sacred figures are primarily small wooden statues of various saints and Jesus crucified.  Two in particular caught my eye.  This small spirit figure intrigued me.  Maybe it is a vestige of the native cosmology that the church allowed.  The other is a figure of San Benito who looks distinctly black to me,  not only in skin color but also in the tight curly hair.  It reminded me in the scene in the movie Malcolm X when he asks the prison preacher how he knows that Jesus was white.  The preacher points at the painting of the Jesus with blues eyes hanging above the blackboard as proof.

The paintings in the gallery were colorful depictions of daily life in Nicaragua in a sort of coarse pointillist style.  Very colorful and appealing.  

The archaeological figures came from several islands in Lake Nicaragua, including Isla Zapateras.  These statues date from 800 to 1350 AD and were crafted of black basalt stone by the Chorotega Indians.  The statues depict men with various animal figures on their heads and were believed to be used for ceremonial purposes as they were found in circular formations with their backs to the center of the circles. One of the figures is called Hunchback but I wonder about that interpretation.  This was the only statue that had any residual paint on it so I took a closer look at that.  And then I noticed where this red paint was: between the legs of the squatting figure.  Hmmmmm. I looked at the statue again and saw a birthing woman.  What do you think?

That's as far as my first wanderings got me as I didn't want to stress my leg too much.  The good news is that I'm in no hurry so I have plenty of time to do all that I want to do here before moving on.  There are bird tours, kayak paddling, volcano hiking...I may be here a while!
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