Relaxing in the Castle

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
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163
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Trip End Nov 04, 2008


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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The good thing about not choosing your own hotel (due to the credit card requirement - see story yesterday), is that you will probably go to a better place than you had selected originally...and that was the case.

The Hotel Victoria was only $30 US per night for a double, ensuite bathroom, cable tv, mosquito net (vital!) and breakfast included. Additionally it has 2 great terraces overlooking the river with hammocks and rocking chairs for the siestas, and the restaurant serves simple but excellent food and it overlooks a small river full of turtles and caimans!

The camaron (river lobster) with garlic is the speciality of the place...a bit pricy at $13 dollars the plate, but well worth the luxury! So our first day at El Castillo was mainly relaxing and visiting the castle. El Castillo is the name of the town due to the fort the Spaniards built in the 17th century to stop the English, Dutch and French pirates raiding the other towns of San Carlos and Granada and taking all the hard earned stolen indian gold!

The castle and the town has been renovated recently, and all financed by Spain...so all the locals were happy to have spaniards walking around and using the streets paid by themselves! After finding that out I hate to have to pay the entry tax of $7 US to Nicaragua...but hey! thats solidarity!!

Anyway, the town is not hit too hard by tourism, so it has a natural charm, but that will change very soon as the Spanish development team (AECI) have also trained the locals in tourism guides, waiters, hotel management, etc and are pushing for more tourism. So this little town will probably change in the next couple of years. At the moment it is just a delightful place in the middle of the jungle with history hitting you right in the face.

A few pieces of history:
- All the famous pirates raided this place sooner or later (or tried): Morgan, Drake, Derempier
- Nelson lost his eye while conquering the fortress and got himself painted with it as background
- The spanish managed to control the pirates since the implementation
- During the gold rush in USA this was a main river hub. It was easier in those days to go New York or Orleans - San Juan - El Castillo - Granada - San Francisco by boat than to cross the wild West
- Mark Twain wrote about it

The musuem is well illustrated (only Spanish) and the fortress itself well maintained and restored ($2 to get in plus $1 for a camera).

A last point on this entry especially for Spanish speakers. This area was originally inhabited by Nuatl indians also known as Nicaros (Nicaragua comes from there...) and many words in modern Spanish come from their original words. For example:
- Aguacate: aguacatl
- Niņo: nene
- Padre: tata
- Nombre: Tocatl (tocayo)
- Coyote
- Tonto: chocho
- Madre: nana
- Tiza
- Tomate: tomatl

Other interesting stories related to the fortress:
- Rafaela Herrera: in 1762 the daughter of a Spanish commander in charge of the fortress and who had died a week before refused to surrender the fortress to the English (even though the sergeant in charge was going to do so), took command, shot 3 cannon shots herself (learnt from her father), with such luck that she sunk one of the attacking boats and killed the English commander. For full story: http://www.manfut.org/cronologia/rafaela.html

- William Walker based his filibuster troops in the fortress also: very interesting story about this "gentleman" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Walker_%28soldier%29

No more culture for today!
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