In the center of the city, there is an extensive park vibrating with activity. People are selling foods of all kinds, cigarettes, toys, sunglasses and other items. Some people are just milling around while others are relaxing or napping under the shade of the trees. Granada is a safe city as was Managua. There are no concerns about being attacked, mugged or otherwise. Well, actually, there is a ‘zone’ that one does not venture to after dark, but it is well beyond the tourist needs and not all that attractive even in the daylight.
One of the highlights of the city, especially around this park is the horse and carriages. All along one side of the park, there are about 20 carriages waiting to be your taxi wherever you want to go. These are not just for tourists as they function as taxis as well as the taxi automobiles do, so locals use them as often as foreigners use them.
One day as we were returning from the grocery store, one of the young carriage operators stopped us to chat. His name is Giovanni. Yes, he has an Italian name; it is not really Juan and I am not trying to pull a fast one. Giovanni owns carriage number 34. His English is great. Part of me really wanted to take a carriage ride, but the other part of me had reservations. As we witnessed these horses as they passed us on the streets, some look so malnourished it made my heart bleed. I could not support the presumed cruelty to these animals making them slaves, while some may say if I did pay for the ride; the owner may have more money for feeding them. It is a vicious cycle. Telling Giovanni we may take a ride ‘someday’ since we were here for a week, kept him satisfied, but he insisted we remember his carriage number to find him when we changed our minds.
The next day, a tap on the shoulder alerted me to find Giovanni standing behind me. He offered a different type of tour if we weren’t into his horse and carriage ride. He could provide us with a tour of the islands in Lake Nicaragua. The lake covers 8,264 km² and is the largest lake in Central America, 19th in the world. It boasts 365 islands as Giovanni likes to say, there is one for every day of the year. For $25 each, he would pick us up at the hotel, drive us to the lake and spend 2 hours touring the lake with us to give an education. We accepted with arrangements for the next morning.
We told one of the women staying at the B and B with us and she decided to join in. We spent over 2 hours touring the lake viewing the different islands and were blown away. A number of them are privately owned, a few by US Americans, one by a Canadian, a couple by Europeans and the others are either Nicaraguan owned or for sale. Not all of the islands are large enough to inhabit, but there are plenty to go around. Those that are large enough have mansions on them, complete with swimming pools. As divine as they looked, the thought of needing to motor boat to shore for all your other needs, seemed too inconvenient for me. I would get island fever in a week’s time. Just think, when you had houseguests, you could not get away from them or they from you either.
On another day, we took a shuttle to Laguna de Apoyo. Imagine a giant volcano imploding on itself and then filling with water, which gives you the general history of the Laguna de Apoyo. Sitting on the rim are various hostels, but we booked a day trip with Hostel Paradiso for $12 each transportation fee and then $7 each usage fee once there. The ride was about 40 minutes to reach the place. Like its name suggests, this is a bit of paradise. At the top of the property, there is the hostel itself with common bathrooms. As you descend, the entire property is landscaped with flowering shrub plants and bougainvillea. At the next level is a restaurant and small bar. Further down is yet another small restaurant where footlockers are available for locking up your valuables. There are hammocks, rockers and lounge chairs all over the property, with the majority placed near this lower restaurant and along the shoreline. There are kayaks and inner tubes for guests to use. Since the ‘beach’ is not sand, but volcanic rocks, I did not swim. I was not particularly interested in swimming, but I had a book, so I was more than happy to sit in a lounge chair, relax and read. There were two reasons I avoided the water. 1. I have Princess and the Pea feet. The rocks would have been insufferable. 2. Finding out I am diabetic, I do all I can to protect my feet at all cost. The shuttle was there to return us to town by 4:30 pm, so I did not suffer in the least. The views are spectacular and I did some bird watching, snapping a number of photos.
Granada is a gorgeous little city when you stay in the center. As you expand out, you leave some of the quaint architecture behind and get into the reality of poverty. Regardless of how poor the people are, they are friendly. There was rare a moment when we passed someone on the street who did not say “Buenos”. They frequently abbreviate it leaving off the day, afternoon, or evening.
Why I would not live here is simple. The government still borders on the crazy. One American who has lived here for 4 years told us she knew of people who did things the government did not like (no details provided other than they were foreigners) so they had their building expropriated. Vroom, now you own it – now you don’t. It is government property and you have no recourse. It turned out not to be an isolated incident. I happened to mention to Gerry our host that if he were comfortable with gay people, he should advertise on Purple Roofs and EBAB. He said that although he has a no discrimination policy, down the street from him, a couple opened a gay hostel. Within a year, the government closed them down and seized the property. Okay, this is not as friendly a place as I had hoped. Nix Nic.
Other reasons are the smokers. They can smoke anywhere here. In restaurants, some have designated smoking sections, others don’t. I hate being a ‘reformed smoker’ and I still really enjoy the smell of tobacco, but not when I am eating or trying to enjoy an espresso. Then there is the dog problem. Homeless dogs are a major issue. There are more emaciated dogs roaming the streets than there are dogs at a Westminster dog show.
The government approved monthly salary is C$4,753.02 Cordoba = $190.12 (US Dollars). If anyone dares to say, “Well the cost of living is so cheap there…” I will smack you silly. As cheap as it is to live here, this is still extreme poverty. If you live in the US, try living independently on $12,000 a year and see what it feels like. This one issue really fries me.
When guests come to Budapest and they hear what I earn as a full-time university instructor responsible for 9 classes a semester, they often comment “Well the cost of living is so much less expensive here…” I go into a slow burn. It barely covers basic living costs; living in Budapest is not cheap.