|Granada: it's not a place that looks loud|
Standing in Farmgate, or at any other busy intersection in this everything-to-everyone city, you could be forgiven for thinking Bangladesh is the noisiest country on Earth. It’s not just the cacophony of car horns, the deafening rumble of bus engines or the carillon of rickshaw bells; there’s the bargaining for vegetables, the shouting at someone in the way; the call of ticket-sellers and touts. There’s one man on crutches chanting ‘Allah, Allah,’ in the hope of alms, as another calls ‘Allahu!’, while shifting a heavy sack. There’s the clash of crockery at a tea shop, the feet on pavement, someone cracking the bones in their fingers and the snip of scissors at a pavement barber’s. And being Bangladesh, there are hundreds of mobile calls in progress. Only Bangladeshis can hear that well!
Yes, Bangladesh as noisiest country is a claim that would’ve set my head nodding in delighted agreement; at least it was so, before 2006, before I found the other contender to the title: Nicaragua.
Cultures have a sound. Bangladeshis know this, for on 21 February you celebrate your language in a way no other country does, and you remember the sacrifices made for Bangla: not only in its written form, for its great works of literature or the beauty of its script; but in its oral form too, the sound of its vowels and consonants, the melody of its song. Ekushey is recognition that language is an integral part of culture and self-identity; so too with sound.
|The palm-filled courtyards of Granada|
A city of tradition, Granada is blessed with splendid Spanish-style villas featuring customary curve-tiled roofs and internal courtyards of palm trees and gardens. Street-side, houses are thick-walled and windows few; in every feature, the large wooden doors of each entrance and the use of columns and arches, the strong influence of Islamic architecture on Spanish tradition is evident. In Granada though, you’ll find no Muslims; instead small colonial-style churches are sprinkled here and there, with tall bell-towers in place of minarets. That Nicaragua is a very catholic country is evident in Granada. It’s a pious city. No, apart from the brash colour of the buildings, the mustard yellow, cool aqua, red ochre or lilac-trim, there’s little visual stimulus to allude to the city’s noise.
|The city's 'running of the bulls'|
|View from a bell tower|
|Hawkers in the leafy main square|
If that were not enough, Nicas have a penchant for festivals. Most festivals have an origin in Catholicism, and the catholic calendar when properly played out is a busy one. It’s not uncommon in Granada to accidentally run into a parade, church attendants at the front holding staves aloft, with flags, candles and a statue of some saint or the Virgin Mary; and at the back, most probably, will be a mariachi brass band, trumpets blasting and large drums pounding out a marching rhythm. There’s the running of the bulls, more famous in Pamplona, Spain, when bulls are let loose to chase spectators down the streets. There’s the parade of proud and strong horses from outlying estancias (farms), which curtsey and dance for peoples’ amusement. These events, and of course weddings, are also suitable for brass bands.
|View to the Cathedral and beyond, to the lake|
There’s much to do around Granada: you can go kayaking on the lake or visit one of the volcanoes that create the fascinating dinosaur landscape that makes up much of the country. There’s active Masaya volcano, where you can look down into a steaming, hot crater; a few years ago that volcano suddenly spit out a boulder that flattened a car. Closer to Granada is the extinct, water-filled Laguna de Apoyo crater, crystal clear and idyllic for swimming; and closer still, overlooking the town, is dormant Mombacho, whose hillsides are covered in jungle suitable for hiking. There you can see pillars of steam rising from cracks in the earth; but even the volcano-jungles, true to their nationality, manage to be noisy. Particularly in the mornings and evenings, when defending their territory of treetops, the howler monkeys bellow, a grunting rhythm that can be heard many hundreds of metres away.
|Laguna de Apoyo|
In South Asia, arguably, nowhere is home to literature more than Bengal and in Nicaragua it’s said ‘a Nica is a poet until proven otherwise’. What a great saying!
As you celebrate Nazrul, Tagore and the others, Nicaraguans remember in statues and street names their great author and poet Rubén Darío (1867-1916), renowned throughout Central America and often regarded as founder of the Latin American literature movement called modernismo.
|Granada home-cooked meal. Yum!|
|The Masaya Crater|
|The smoking Concepcion Volcano, on Ometepe Island to the south of Granada|
|Round-tiled roofs and horse-drawn taxi|
This article is also published by Star Magazine, here: The Culture of Sound
Excuse me, You forgot Your glasses, here: The Meaning of Seeing Things
|Catholic parade in Granada's streets|