Monday, October 2nd 2000

It wasn't raining but the streets were wet when we arrived in Granada. Founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernandez de Córdoba, the Spanish conquistador of Nicaragua, it is the oldest city in Nicaragua. The city of León, in the north of the country, was founded later the same year. Granada was wealthy and conservative; León, the capital, was poor and liberal. There was intense rivalry between them, which erupted into civil war many times. This eventually led to the founding of Managua, half way between the two, as a compromise capital in 1857.

The city didn't look like it had changed much in the last hundred years. The centre was full of crumbling colonial buildings, and horses and carts formed the majority of the traffic. The main thing we wanted to do while we were here was visit Volcán Masaya. This active volcano is just up the road from Granada, and it is an easy climb (apparently) to the top from the town of Masaya. The volcano began erupting most recently in December last year, and lava flows can often be seen in the crater. We got up early on our first morning in Granada to go to Masaya, but we found it was raining heavily. We had not seen any newspapers at all on Ometepe Island, but we saw one here, and finally discovered now what had been causing all the rain - Hurricane Keith was sitting off the east coast and lashing the whole country with rain.

So we waited in the hotel for the rain to stop, which it did at about 2pm. It was too late in the day to go to Masaya, so we explored Granada instead. We walked down to the shores of Lago Nicaragua, which must look quite appealing when it is sunny, but with the grey skies and wet beach it looked pretty grim. We saw more relics of the revolution on our walk around town - a statue of Hernández de Córdoba had a metal plaque on it mentioning Anastasio Somoza Debayle, and his name had been chiselled off. We also saw some intensive campaigning for the impending mayoral elections, with campaign trucks driving around blaring out slogans, and banners and poster up everywhere proclaiming the various candidates. As we walked down one deserted street, a Sandinista campaing truck slowly drove by, playing 'We Are The Champions' over its loudspeakers.

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