• Public Gallery  • Help  
• Join Now!  • Log In  • Feature Tour
 David Kohl | Home > 
Nicaragua
The Spanish may have conquered it, the Somozas may have ruled it but its forty volcanoes continue to dominate it.  Nicaragua is a marvelous Central American amalgam of natural wonders, colonial splendors and political survival.

Skipping Managua entirely, we made a beeline for the colonial city of Leon. Catching the last few days of its Semana Santa (Holy Week) festivities, we often found ourselves ambushed by one of Leon's many neighborhood religious processions.  But the highlight was watching the day-long creation of the Good Friday sawdust "carpets" (alfombras).  Thoroughly capitvating.  Heady political murals and dozens of colonial churches added to the conversation in this intellectually-charged, university town.

Granada, our next stop, is Nicaragua’s other, more restored colonial city.  Yes, it is more "gringoized" than Leon but it is a beautiful, comfortable and convenient base for exploring nearby attractions. For example, from Granada, with Lake Nicaragua lapping at its shores, Isla Ometepe, the lake’s mythic twin volcano island, is an easy and essential excursion.

But the no trip would be complete without checking out conditions at Volcan Masaya.  A night time tour is the most dramatic.  Just remain calm and “duck and cover” under a nearby car if the volcano decides to spew a few rocks in your direction.  Remember, you were warned.
Date(s): April 2009. Album by David Kohl. Photos by David Kohl & Ross Rosenberg. 1 - 80 of 80 Total. 939 Visits.
Start SlideshowSelect images and click to download to your computer 
Enlarge photo 1

Nicaragua Map

Enlarge photo 2

Granada
Granada – ostensibly Nicaragua’s most picturesque city – sits of the shores of Lake Nicaragua
(also known as Lago Colcibolca
– “Sweet Lake”).


Enlarge photo 3

La Merced facade
The Iglesia La Merced was built in 1781 but only the facade is original.  Like most of the other buildings in Granda, it was destroyed in 1863 and then later rebuilt.

Enlarge photo 4

La Merced bell tower
The church’s bell tower (accessed by a narrow spiral staircase) affords stunning panoramic views of the city.

Enlarge photo 5

Cathedral (viewed from La Merced)
Granada, founded in 1524 – but then destroyed (courtesy of American renegade William Walker) and rebuilt – the city serves as the tourist hub for the surrounding region.

Enlarge photo 6

Mombacho View
Looming just south of Granada is Volcan Mombacho.  Mombacho contains a cloud forest reserve with two world-class “zip lines” that whir tourists through its jungle-carpeted hillside.

Enlarge photo 7

Granada waterfront
A view of the malecon –
waterfront – of Granada
along Lake Nicaragua.  A
popular spot of Sunday
outings and boat trips
along the lake.


Enlarge photo 8

Monkey on Las Isletas
Las Isletas are a collection of 300 tiny islands conveniently grouped close to the Granada shoreline.

Enlarge photo 9

Heron on Las Isletas
Some of the islands are privately owned – adorned with elaborate mansions.  Others, are public.

Enlarge photo 10

Las Isletas weaver bird nests
The islands were created when a massive explosion of Volcan Mombacho spewed these balsalt isletas into the lake.

Enlarge photo 11

Granada Cathedral
The Parque Colon is the
heart of Granada.  The plaza
is flanked on one side by the
brilliantly painted Cathedral.
The Cathedral was burnt
down in 1857 but then
rebuilt in 1915.


Enlarge photo 12

Carriages
Horse-drawn carriages linger
around the Parque Colon. Tourists hire them for a leisurely ride around the city. Front view of the Hotel Plaza Colon - the most desirable place to stay in the city.


Enlarge photo 13

Carriage Close-Up
Horses with silly ribbons.

Enlarge photo 14

San Francisco Museum
The museum of the Iglesia de San Francisco contains several pre-Columbian sculptures dating from AD 800-1200. They were taken from the Zapatera Island in Lake Nicaragua.

Enlarge photo 15

Laguna de Apoyo
Laguna de Apoyo is a 918-foot deep crater lake – the deepest geological point in Central America.  This ancient volcano last erupted 20,000 years ago.  The water’s sulphur content makes it a soothing skin tonic as well as an effective mosquito repellent.

Enlarge photo 16

Laguna de Apoyo
View of Laguna de Apoyo from the Catarina mirador.

Enlarge photo 17

San Simian at Laguna de Apoyo
San Simian is a small
bungalow-style hotel on
the shores of the Laguna
de Apoyo.


Enlarge photo 18

San Simian
All the rooms have
mosquito netting – no ac.
One bungalow has an
outdoor bathtub.


Enlarge photo 19

Good Friday Procession
During Semana Santa (Holy Week), there are numerous processions throughout the city of Leon.  Stations of the Cross processions take place every Friday during Semana Santa.  The parishioners march through the streets stopping fourteen times - for the fourteen Stations of the Cross (the fourteen stops made by Jesus on his way to Calvary).

Enlarge photo 20

Semana Santa Procession
On Easter Sunday, local churches sponsor a “reunion” procession.  From one church, a procession starts carrying a statue of Jesus; from another church a group heads out with a status of Mary.  Both processions meet – thus symbolizing the reuniting of Mary and Jesus after his resurrection – and then return to their respective churches.

Enlarge photo 21

The Judea
The Judea – a theatrical show portraying the life of Jesus – is another Semana Santa tradition.

Enlarge photo 22

The Judea
Here, on Good Friday morning on a street corner in the Subtiava neighborhood, actors dramatize a scene from the trial of Christ.

Enlarge photo 23

The Judea
The actors are church members
who often play the same role year after year.


Enlarge photo 24

The Judea
Actors dress in period costumes and try to accurately recreate the last days of Christ’s life.

Enlarge photo 25

The Street of Carpets
More than a century ago, in the indigenous Subtiava suburb of Leon, a family created a colorful religious image of sawdust and other materials on the street in front of their home.  That street was traditionally crossed by the Service of Darkness Procession every Good Friday.

Enlarge photo 26

Street of Carpets
Other neighbors began to imitate this family’s creation: more and more carpets (alfombras) began to fill the street.  This tradition became so well know that the Subtiava street is now known as “Carpet Street”  (La Calle de las Alfombras).

Enlarge photo 27

Street of Carpets
The process begins early Good Friday morning.  Carpet streets are closed to all vehicular traffic for the day.  The “carpets” begin with a handmade, temporary wooden frame (varying in size) filled with plain sawdust and then moistened. The sawdust is then smoothed down – as above – with a large, flat piece of wood.

Enlarge photo 28

Street of Carpets
Unlike the more famous “carpets” of Antigua, Guatemala, these carpets use no molds.  They are created freehand. Watch a creation in progress.

Enlarge photo 29

Street of Carpets
Bags of pre-colored sawdust are used to make the carpets.  The sawdust is sculpted by hand.

Enlarge photo 30

Street of Carpets
Most of the carpets depict religious figures or scenes.

Enlarge photo 31

Street of Carpets
Wood planks are often used (as seen above) to reach areas in the center of the carpets.

Enlarge photo 32

Street of Carpets
The process continues throughout the day on Good Friday. We visited the street three times that day – morning, afternoon and evening.

Enlarge photo 33

More material

Enlarge photo 34

Street of Carpets
Carpet creators often try to reproduce drawings or illustrations.  This photo shows a woman referring to a book illustration for guidance.

Enlarge photo 35

Street of Carpets
Carpet "in process" in the afternoon.

Enlarge photo 36

Street of Carpets
Finished carpet viewed in the early evening.

Enlarge photo 37

Street of Carpets
Evening photo shows the completed "carpet".  The wooden frame has been removed.

Enlarge photo 38

Carpet detail
Later on Good Friday evening, the procession marches down the "Street of Carpets" - trampling and destroying all the carpets created during the day.

Enlarge photo 39

Carpet detail
Sometimes materials other than sawdust are incorporated into the carpet.  Notice the wood shavings used as the curls in Christ's hair.

Enlarge photo 40

Home Altar
Many people set up altars in front of their homes to be a stop for the procession.  The priest selects the houses that will function as one of the “stations”.

Enlarge photo 41

Cathedral
Leon – Nicaragua’s second largest city –served as Nicaragua’s capital for over 200 years.  Founded at its present site in 1610, it is known as Nicaragua’s intellectual and political center.  It is the home to UNAN (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua), the country’s first university and the city’s lifeblood.

Enlarge photo 42

Cathedral
The cathedral, which dominates the east side of the Parque Central, was begun in 1747 but was not completed until 1860.  It is the largest church in Central America and a UNESCO world heritage site.  A mural – representing the tumultuous history of Nicaragua – can be glimpsed to left

Enlarge photo 43

Lion in front of the Cathedral
Two boys captured “riding” one on the two free-standing lion sculptures in front of the cathedral.  The lion (leon) is the omnipresent symbol of the city of Leon.

Enlarge photo 44

Raspados for sale
Raspados are a popular street sweet made with shaved ice and topped with thick fruit syrups or condensed milk.

Enlarge photo 45

Raspado toppings
A street vendor in the Parque Central tops the shaved ice with one of a variety of toppings.

Enlarge photo 46

Parque Central vendor
Another of the numerous street vendors in the park.

Enlarge photo 47

Iglesia de San Francisco
The Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco was built in 1639 but had its exterior renovated in the 1980s to restore the damage done during the revolution.

Enlarge photo 48

Detail of the bells
Iglesia de San Francisco

Enlarge photo 49

Revolution mural
Mural on a street in Leon depicting scenes from the revolution.

Enlarge photo 50

Detail of revolution mural

Enlarge photo 51

CIA mural
The mural portrays the CIA as a serpent, emerging from a volcano and uncoiling around a ballot box.

Enlarge photo 52

Arcade of the Hotel La Perla, Leon
The second floor covered arcade of the Hotel La Perla.  It was once a private residence, a Chinese resturant and now a beautifully restored boutique hotel.

Enlarge photo 53

Iglesia La Recoleccion
The Iglesia La Recoleccion – a
beautiful yellow-painted baroque church built in 1786 – as viewed from the covered arcade at the Hotel La Perla.


Enlarge photo 54

Iglesia La Recoleccion
Close-up of the top of the church.

Enlarge photo 55

Entrance to the Museo de Leyendas
The Museo de Leyendas y Tradiciones is housed in a building that once served as a jail and torture center during the revolution.  The black-and-white murals at the entrance to the building depict explicit torture scenes.

Enlarge photo 56

No Mas Somozas
This mosaic, in the courtyard outside the Mueso de Leyendas
y Tradiciones, is entitled “No Mas Somozas” – “No
More Somozas” - after the notorious multi-generataional dictatorial family of Nicaragaua.


Enlarge photo 57

Courtyard Mosaic

Enlarge photo 58

Los Hervideros de San Jacinto
Los Hervideros de San Jacinto are large mud puddles formed as the result of the water table leaking onto the magma vein of the nearby Volcan Telica (viewed in the background).

Enlarge photo 59

Bubbling mud puddle
The mud micro-craters can change in size and location after rainfall. The sulphuric gases released by these craters can quickly asphyxiate the casual visitor. Watch the mud bubble

Enlarge photo 60

Volcan Telica
View of a puff of smoke being emitted from nearby Volcan Telica.

Enlarge photo 61

Our Guide
Local boys and girls serve as guides to safely navigate you through the warren of bubbling hot mud pits.

Enlarge photo 62

David with "guide"

Enlarge photo 63

Ometepe
Isla de Ometepe is the largest in Lake Nicaragua – the 10th largest freshwater lake in the world. Access is via a one-hour boat ride from San Jorge to the Isla’s port of Moyagalpa.

Enlarge photo 64

Chaco Verde Inn
The island is dominated by two volcanoes – Volcan Concepcion and Volcan Maderas. Volcan Concepcion
(the highest at 5,280 feet) can be seen in the background behind our small hotel- Chaco Verde Inn.


Enlarge photo 65

Volcan Concepcion
The islands name – Ometepe – is from the Nahuatl words for two (ome) and peaks(tepetl).

Enlarge photo 66

Volcan Concepcion
The climb to the top of Volcan Concepcion is a 10-12 hour hike up loose volcanic stone.

Enlarge photo 67

Volcan Concepcion
The volcano last threw out rocks and fire in 1957.

Enlarge photo 68

Volcan Concepcion close-up

Enlarge photo 69

Chaco Verde bird

Enlarge photo 70

Beach at Chaco Verde
Sunset view

Enlarge photo 71

Sunset at Chaco Verde

Enlarge photo 72

Sunset at Chaco Verde
That night at the Chaco Verde Inn we were treated to some local post-drinking tabletop top dancing. Check out this video

Enlarge photo 73

Masaya
As outlined in the precautions above, visitors must park their cars facing away from the lip of the crater – to ensure a quick escape – and they must remember to take cover under their cars in case of a volcanic explosion.

Enlarge photo 74

Masaya
Volcan Masaya National Park encompasses a massive caldera containing several craters.  The three most notable are: Volcan Nindiri, which last erupted in 1670; Volcan San Fernando, which blew its top off in 1772; and the Santiago Crater (wedged between the two), formed in 1852.

Enlarge photo 75

Masaya
The Masaya complex is only one of two active volcanoes in the world where visitors can drive and park at the rim. Watch it smoke.

Enlarge photo 76

Masaya
The Santiago Crater continuesto emit a generous amount ofulphuric gases. It last burped up on explosion of rocks in 2000.

Enlarge photo 77

Masaya
A short climb up the nearby hill from the parking lot rewards hikers with views of across the valley of the San Fernando Crater and Lake Masaya.

Enlarge photo 78

Cruz de Bobadilla
In the early 1500s, Father Francisco Bobadilla placed a cross on a hilltop overlooking the crater. He believed the cross would exorcise the devil from the depths of the crater.

Enlarge photo 79

Masaya
A short climb up the nearby hill from the parking lot rewards hikers with views of across the valley of the San Fernando Crater and Lake Masaya.

Enlarge photo 80

Masaya
At night, visitors have the best chance of seeing the red glow of lava in the depths of the steamy Santiago Crater.

 
 Select All.  
 Email a Comment
 Your Comment is
 immediately emailed
 to the album owner
Name:   Enter your comment
  
Email: 
Subject: