Granada Nicaragua, oldest colonial city in Central America was founded in 1524 by Francisco Cordoba, who named the city after his hometown in Spain. Granada is on the shore of Lake Nicaragua, and is known for its colonial style. Much of the city was burned in 1821. Restoration started in 1854, but other wars caused further destruction and the need for more restoration.
Today, there is an on-going effort to restore and preserve the historic colonial buildings of the city. According to recent estimates, about 115,000 people live in the city and about 190,000 in the department of Granada.
Living i n Granada
We arrived in Granada from Rancho Santana in mid-afternoon. Our driver headed straight for the neighborhood where our apartment was and once we saw the Fire Department, we knew that the apartment was just around the corner. Heading up Calle CentroAmerica (Central America Street,) our driver asked some people where Apartamento B was and they said, “Aqui (here.)” So, we had arrived. Our apartment was in the left half of the blue wall pictured here, and was on a three foot platform above the street.
The apartment had a large room that served as living, dining and bedroom, and another one in the back where the bathroom and kitchen was. The back room had a ceiling fan in the kitchen. There was an oscillating floor fan in the front room and an air conditioner over the door. Beside the AC unit was one window, about 18 by 24 inches. On sunny mornings, the sunshine lighted the room through this window. Otherwise, light came from a single overhead chandelier. The door was heavy wood with a locking mechanism, and on the outside was a wrought iron gate that locked with a padlock. This is typical security throughout the city, even though the crime rate is very low.
The first thing we noticed about Granada was that the buildings all have common walls with their neighbors and there was no break in the wall along the whole block. The streets were fairly narrow and this gave us the feeling of walking through canyons. Looking south down north-south streets, we could see Mombacho Volcano, but unless we could see the Cathedral or its towers. few landmarks could be seen. We had to rely on other markings on buildings, such as color, distinguishing doors (more on doors next time,) or windows or signs on businesses.
We had seen a restaurant around the corner from our apartment, and went there for supper that first night. Several expats were seated next to us and so we got to talk with them and exchange information. Some of them had lived in Granada for several years. One was living temporarily in a hostel, which he said only costs him $30 per month. A place to sleep and store his things with a bath down the hall. Great for a person with few needs.
The next morning, we set out to explore the town and find the company, Granada Property Service (GPS), we had rented the apartment from. We had a map that GPS supplied, and the info we got from the expats at dinner. Before long, we found the town square and the cathedral. As we went along the street beside the cathedral, we saw a sign that listed GPS. It said that GPS was upstairs in a certain building. The only problem was that there were no signs or labels on most buildings. Finally, we stuck our head into a building around the corner, where a restaurant was operating on the ground floor. There we saw some stairs with a GPS sign.
We saw horse carts all over Granada. By Central Park, they were lined up waiting to take tourist on a tour of the city. They also serve as taxis, taking people anywhere they needed to go. These were fancy carts with roofs, fringe, padded seats, and springs, and most used two horses. In other parts of the city, we saw simple working carts pulled by a single horse. These were used to haul all sorts of things, and to take workmen and their tools to job sites throughout the city.
One of the things we needed right away was to get food and supplies from a market. We were told that one was in the south central area, so we headed there. We found a market and bought some things. We were also told that there was a larger market across the street, but we decided to check out the larger one later and headed home. The next day, we went on a tour of the islands just offshore in Lake Nicaragua.
The Islands Tour
Just south of Granada in Lake Nicaragua, there is a peninsula that is surrounded by dozens of islands. The islands were formed when Mombacho Volcano blew its top long ago. We met our guide at the tour office and once our ride arrived, we drove the mile or so to where we boarded the boat. The boat could hold about twenty people, but there was only Jan and me, the boat captain and our guide, Felipe. It is good to take tours in the off season.
The boat made its way down the channel to the open lake and soon we could see islands ahead. Our captain took us by island after island as our guide pointed out houses of Nicaragua’s prominent citizens and guests of both bygone and present eras. Some island homes were very modest, but most were quite nice. Some of the larger islands held a cluster of homes, and many had boats at the dock.
After a while, we pulled up to an island with trees and a monkey came out on a limb near the boat waiting for a handout. The pilot moved the boat to another spot and our guide called to another monkey. It came down for a handout as well. The island had four or five monkeys in residence. We saw three up close and one higher in a tree.
We moved on to pass by other islands, many with houses until we reached the far side of the peninsula. There we found a marina, which had the Iguana Grill and Bar nearby. We went there for lunch and we both had the daily special – grilled whole fish, which was very good. We lingered over lunch until we were told that our ride had arrived for the trip back to the city.
After our tour, we asked to be dropped off near the larger market, and they accommodated us. The larger market was a true mercado with dozens of small stands selling food items of all types along with merchandise, such as shoes, clothing, and household items. We wandered through the stands, which covered more than a city block, and picked up some fruit, vegetables, eggs, and meat. Later, we found larger, more modern grocery stores. More on this next time.
Next Time: Masaya Volcano Tour