San Jose, Costa Rica
Jan 20, 2020
Hordes of tourists may descend on Costa Rica but few spend any time in San Jose. Even guidebooks seem to advise against it. Unlovely it might be, but the city has grit and it felt more real to me than all the other touristy areas I have been in so far.
A walking tour – the kind that is popular in most large cities – acquainted me with the twentieth century architects of Costa Rica, the fiery students from the famous all-girls’ school of that era, the tale of the La Soledad church, the short avenue of cork trees, conveniently close to the government liquor factories of old and a host of other tidbits of information. Many of the old colonial buildings have been beautifully restored. They stand cheek-by-jowl with ugly concrete monstrosities. Statues dot the many small parks and art in the form of graffiti adorns the walls.
On a Sunday, the streets were deserted but that changed dramatically the next day. Bustling streets are thronged with pedestrians and hawkers loudly advertise their goods. Streams of people wander down, shopping or browsing. There are plenty of police in sight; they ride on bicycles or motorbikes in pairs and meander down the street.
The central market is small for a city the size of San Jose. Within the one block, are shops selling potteries, clothes, shoes and loofas. Many are draped with roots and herbs – the alternative medicine market does well here apparently.
And of course, there is the usual tourist kitsch at exorbitant prices. The sodas, or eateries at the market are packed with people. I belly up as well and squeeze into an empty space at the counter.