Masaya Nicaragua is known for the nearby Masaya Volcano and for its Craft Market where crafts from Masaya and other areas of Nicaragua are offered for sale. Masaya Nicaragua is the third largest city in Nicaragua with a population of 146,000 (2005 est.)
We arranged for the tour through GPS (Granada Property Service) and Carlos showed up at out apartment to take us. We chatted on the way and Carlos told us the history of the Masaya people and what the volcano means to them. Until the Spanish arrive here, the Masaya people practiced human sacrifice to appease the volcano. A Catholic priest convinced them to end this practice, and placed a cross on the hill near the volcano to protect the Masaya people from the volcano. A replica of the cross still stands today on this hill. The original cross was preserved and stored elsewhere.
The Masaya Volcano was Nicaragua’s first and largest National Park. Just after entering the park, we stopped to look at a lava flow from the eruption of 1772. The volcano is still active. The last activity where matter was expelled was in 1993, when a boulder ended up in a car engine compartment. The car was parked in the volcano parking lot at the time, and one person was injured. Other eruptions have occurred since. In the most recent, an eruption cloud that released steam and gas was reported in 2003.
On the way to the volcano parking lot, Carlos stopped to show us a large termite nest on a tree. He said that one could survive by eating termites, because they supply both moisture and nutrition. On Carlo’s suggestion, we tried a few. We thought they tasted a little like chicken with a hint of dirt.
Once at the parking lot, we stayed in the car for a while because the gases from the volcano had drifted over the lot. The gases contain sulfur and can damage mucous linings. A few minutes later, we made our way to the rim of the volcano where the steam and gas was rising straight up into the air. It was just a few minutes later the wind started to shift and we retreated to the car.
Masaya Craft Market
The Craft Market in central Masaya is in the old market building. This 1900’s structure that looks like a castle, has been revitalized, and now serves as a major tourist attraction. Crafts from Masaya and all over Nicaragua are offered for sale. The shear number of booths in this market is remarkable, and the variety of crafts offered were impressive. We found a pair of antique rifles that might have looked interesting mounted in a case on the wall. But, all we managed to buy was a bag of Nicaraguan coffee.
We stopped at the mirador of Catarina to have a look at Lake Apoyo. This is Nicaragua’s largest crater lake, and was made a nature reserve in 1991. It is about four miles across, and over 600 feet deep. We were told that swimming in the lake is very relaxing and enjoyable due to the 80 degree F water temperature.
At Catarina are several restaurants and shops. One restaurant was the Restorante Linda Vista, which means beautiful view. We went in for lunch, and had a window table with a beautiful view of the lake. Lunch was very good, as well.
On the way back to Granada, we stopped at a pottery factory and store. There we watched a demonstration of pottery making on a manually-operated potter’s wheel. The potter, who was the son of the owner, spun the wheel with his foot and when it was up to speed, he worked the clay on the wheel with his fingers and formed it into a medium-sized vase. Once the vase was in the general shape the potter wanted, he used a number of objects, including a large seed to smooth the exterior surface, adding water as needed.
The smoothed vase was painted and the paint was worked into the surface. Next, we moved out to the kiln, where the potter explained how the pots are fired to 900 degrees F to transform the clay into glass-like ceramic. The fired pots are allowed to cool in the kiln and after removal are cleaned and polished using a clear shoe polish. The finished vases are shiny and bright. The potter told us that even on very old pots, reapplying shoe polish and buffing can restore the original luster.
The Best Grocery Stores in Granada
As we were entering Granada, Carlos pointed out two stores across the street from each other.
“These are the best grocery stores in Granada,” he said. “I think La Union has slightly better prices than La Colonial.”
These stores were about three blocks from our apartment, so the next day we set out to try La Union. The store was bright inside, clean, and well stocked with everything one would expect, including fresh vegetables, fruit, and meats. We bought about as much as we could carry back to the apartment.
A few days later, we went to the other grocery store, La Colonia, pictured above. We found it to be very similar to La Union and we finished stocking up the apartment. We visited each store one more time during our stay in Granada, and couldn’t determine which was lower priced or better in some way or another.
Horses in Granada
Just north of our apartment on the way to the grocery stores, we came upon several horses that were loose on the street. They were unafraid of us and continued to eat grass as we passed. On different days, we saw them on different streets, but always eating grass as they moved from yard to yard along the streets. The locals didn’t seem to mind the horses being there. They just went on with their daily routine. Sometimes cars or people had to wait for the horses to move out of their way. Once a young man on a bicycle swatted a horse on the rump to get it to move a little faster, but that was the only time we saw anyone do anything to the horses.
The old train station was In the north end of Granada. The station house is now used as a school. An old steam engine was on a track to one side of the station and some old railroad cars stood on the other.
The station building was beautifully maintained and has some of the most beautiful wooden doors and window covers in the city. The craftsmanship in hardwood is superb, and the benefit from a recent restoration was apparent.
Doors of Granada
Granada had many distinctive doors throughout the city. Many were made using local hardwoods and were finely crafted. The thing that struck us was that there were so many different and beautiful designs. There were single doors, double doors, window covers, and garage doors. Some were arched at the top. Many were reinforced with external wrought iron gates. One could see right a way that most homeowners here took great pride in the look of their home or business and especially the look and finish of the doors.
Next time: Mombacho Volcano