Thursday, December 2, 2021

[GRANADA] Meet Antigua's Sister


And the resemblance can’t be any more similar. I already forgot where I read it, but it was mentioned once that Antigua and Granada were, indeed, considered as sister cities. Town layout and overall Hispanic character aside, the two also share other similarities such as the presence of a volcano in the background and the ubiquitous colorful houses which make you feel as though you’re roaming the streets in the New World of the 1500’s on the other side of the Pacific.


I really had no itinerary for Granada. For colonial towns like this I simply get lost in the streets and stumble upon random houses and churches that my phone’s camera just loves to take pictures of. But first, how to get here? It really depends on your point of origin. I came from Rivas, which meant the chicken bus would have been my cheapest option. However, given the chaos I walked into at Rivas’ market, I decided to not play it cheap and just hired a taxi to bring me straight to Granada.


The hour and a half drive cost me USD30. Not bad. Just think of it as an Uber ride in the US. Rumor has it that you can haggle it down further to around $20, but I wasn’t in the mood for negotiating. I just wanted to get out of Rivas fast. The drive was not that scenic, mostly rural with all the empty fields you will see from the car window. When you start seeing colonial architecture beginning to multiply, that’s when you know that you have arrived in the town proper. Welcome to Granada! And now, what to do here?


As with many other Nicaraguan towns and cities, you are most likely to find a lake and a volcano hiding somewhere. In the case of Granada, the volcano is Mombacho and it's not hiding at all. It is easily visible from the town square with a persistent mist surrounding its cone. This is where I draw the comparisons with Antigua, except that Antigua felt a bit mystic to me somehow. As for Granada, it felt more like a mix between Guatemala’s Antigua and Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende. Quaint. Quiet. Quintessential, maybe?


Back to the issue of tourist attractions, if volcanoes are not your thing, then you can hop on a taxi to the border with Masaya to check out Laguna de Apoyo which can easily be reached from either town because of its location right at the middle. It can also be a half day tour en route to either town if you are moving ahead with your itinerary. It is said to be the lake with the clearest water in the entire country and seems like a legit chill out spot if you google photos of it.


What I did instead was a simple stroll around town, discovering way too many churches for such a small land area. Granada has several of them that come in different shapes and sizes. The first one I stumbled upon while walking east was a rundown church whose façade looked like it has seen better centuries, devoid of any color and standing there monotonously gray. The church is along Calle La Calzada, considered to be the town’s tourist central, pedestrian cobblestoned streets and all.


Walk back along this street towards the center of the town and you will end up at that bright yellow cathedral with round domes that you will never miss when you search for Granada on Google Photos. That is the Our Lady of the Assumption cathedral. I opted for the English name because the Spanish name is uber long. It gave me flashbacks of Cartagena, although this one feels a bit artificial, as if not really old, just built a few decades ago and then painted that way. Apparently, the cathedral has a long history of being constructed, burning, and being rebuilt dating all the way back to the 1500’s.


And it was only completed in 1972, so I guess that’s why it looks like a modern church posing as old to me. Anyway, what else to see in Granada? Just walk along some random streets and enjoy the houses. They come in all colors and styles, and they actually do make you feel as though you have been transported back to the Spanish colonial era. They are that legit. I was half expecting a guardia civil to come out and bring me to trial for being a heretic. But nobody did. I guess it was just my lucky day!

[GRANADA] Meet Antigua's Sister

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