The town of Granada is at first glance similar to Antigua. It’s old, colonial, and fairly large. It may have been the former capital. It’s conservative. It’s pretty.
And it’s fairly empty!
Lots and lots of houses are for sale in the downtown area. They say that the foreigners are coming and buying up places, rocketing the prices up because they don’t know the proper value of what they are. The people talk about how San Jose, Costa Rica is a town with “a real estate agent on every corner”, but this town seems to be a little similar.
Town is of around 100,000, located on Lake Nicaragua, the 10th largest freshwater body in world. There were bull sharks here, but they’re gone now. Some Asian company came and killed them all during the shark fin soup craze.
The fishing is bad as well. The Asians came and sold a bunch of gill nets to the locals some years ago, and now they’re netting the hell out of it. Baby turtles, fish, anything they catch goes to the market, or into the pot.
And like other countries with no idea of sustainable ecology, they’re dumping their gray water straight into the lake – the harbor doesn’t smell so great.
The people of Nicaragua themselves are fairly nice. They say that the Nicas want desperately to say hello, be helpful, and tell you about themselves. In Granada, at least, this isn’t particularly true. They’re nice enough, and they look at you with curiosity, but it’s not the open warmth of the Guates or the Belizians. The Belizians were probably the most warm, though the lack of a language barrier undoubtedly helped.
Prices have continued to stay low, and the beer taste is considerably improving. They serve both Tona and Victoria as the major selections. Both are good, I haven’t put them to the taste test to determine which is best, but they’re highly drinkable. The rum, Flor de Cana, is great as well. They have a 7 year that’s sublime: dark and oaky.
The expats, and long-stay travelers that we met were generally idiots. Some time ago we formulated the theory that the majority of business owners and expats were often people that couldn’t “hack it” in the States, whether it’s by business savvy, or whether it’s because socially they couldn’t make it. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, of course, though it’s surprisingly common.
The group of expats we ran into didn’t stray from the mold.
We hung out at the Zoom bar for one afternoon, meeting the people in the know, asking about the local real estate markets and talking the local politics. People were worried about the Sandanistas taking back over, which did come to pass in 2006. Ortega had run five unsuccessful campaigns since losing power in the 80s, but he’s back!
While at Zoom, we heard lots and lots of discussion about marrying locals, why it’s a bad idea, BJ’s from hookers, where to find hookers, how much hookers cost, needing to get rid of their girlfriend for the week to meet up with hookers, making sure the girlfriends don’t find out about the hookers, and so on and so on.
The place to be is the Bearded Monkey. They have rooms, and dorm rooms, but we stayed at the Cocilono Hospedaje, down from the Hospedaje Central, which is a hippie-joint. The Coclilio is more family oriented, which means quiet, and that’s great. And cheap! $14 for a double, cold water, fans. Not terrible for this city.
The money in Nicaragua is ridiculous, just like Honduras. The Cordoba is at 17 to one, similar to the Lempira in Honduras. We’ve got stacks of hundred dollar bills that are worth $6 a piece. It’s funny.
In town, you don’t have much to do. The Monkey shows movies in a sort of living room type set up, which is nice. $1. We watched the Corporation, which is a documentary and fairly balanced. Pretty interesting.
Otherwise, people make trips out to the islands, but the ferry runs only twice a week from the city. There are other towns around the side of the lake where you can get out there every day. There’s architecture, which is cool. The church just got painted, and is huge.
Tomorrow we’ll go to San Juan del Sur, and check out the fishing and the surf, and come back here and see what happens.