Thursday, May 28, 2009
Shake, rattle and roll at the symphony.
Honduras’ capital city isn’t on most traveller’s itinerary. Like every capital city it’s supposedly dirty, dangerous and not worth the trip. Coming in late last night the city had certainly seemed that way but we’ve learned that many cities can look completely different in the daylight when there are people around and you can actually see where you are and where you’re going (or not, Tela I’m looking at you).
Despite the rock hard bed we both slept like logs, and woke up bright and early refreshed but starving. Luckily there was a small café across the street in Hotel Granada 3 and kitty corner to Hotel Granada 1. Originality in hotel naming was obviously not a priority in Tegu. But fresh squeezed orange juice was – we got big gulp sized glasses with our breakfast which were absosmurfly delicious.
Now it was time to go exploring. It was still early but the streets were full of people and traffic all headed to school or work. And we realized just how close to everything the hotel was. We started at the central park, whereelse, which was full of people already just hanging around and talking. It had a cathedral whose facade was full of birds. And they too were just hanging around and chatting. I guess that’s what everyone does in the central park. Everyone but us – we were off to find the Museum of Art.
We found it easily – it’s a giant beautiful yellow building that used to be a colonial university. But it was 10 minutes before 9 and we had to wait until it was opened. When the guard finally opened the doors, he seemed surprised to find someone waiting to get in. I guess, they don’t usually have a line-up outside when they open. And I wonder if they even have many visitors since the ticket seller hadn’t even arrived yet. We waited inside for 15 minutes to buy our tickets so we could start walking around.
The gallery was actually worth the wait. It was very much a museum rather than art gallery as it traced the history of Honduran Art from the pre-columbian era all the way up to weird abstract modern stuff. Each room covered a different influence, the church, the pottery, the war. And as we traveled from room to room, the same security guard that let us in had to turn on the lights for us. I thought he’d run ahead of us and turn the rest of them on, but no he waited and walked with us. I guess he was bored or maybe no tourists had been in the museum in a long time.
We certainly didn’t see any more gringos when we were walking around. Even our hotel was filled with female delegates from some sort of conference. Perhaps here for the big woman’s rights protest (well, big is relative) that we discovered in front of the legislature next door to the museum. A woman approached us and asked us to sign a petition demanding access to birth control and equal rights on the job. She only had about three signatures so we added our names to help her cause.
Our next stop was supposed to be the History Museum housed in the former presidential palace, well according to our outdated Lonely Planet. Except it wasn’t there any more. It was now home to the National Archives and Library. However, we were given a private tour of the building (for free) which was in the midst of being restored – hence why they moved the museum out to another one further from town. The guide took us to the old ballroom where Adrian happily posed with the flag, and then up to the rooftop terrace for great views of the city (almost as good as the one from the top of our hotel - photo above). Like our private tour in Xela we were treated like visiting dignitaries complete with a request to sign an official guest book.
The guide had told us where to find the new history museum but it was a bit out of the way so we decided to pop in at a few other places first. The first was the national theatre. It was a beautiful building and we were allowed to walk around it (for free, Tegu, I like your prices). Upstairs there was a photo exhibit in honour of UNESCO’s year of cultural diversity. As we walked around we could hear musicians warming up in the theatre. I asked the lady who had let us in if there was a performance tonight. Yup, the Honduran Symphony was playing one of their few shows tonight and there were tickets still available. Seemed like fun, so we bought a pair ($3 each) and told her we’d see her tonight. I looked at our ticket numbers – they were number 1 and 2. Doesn’t look like the symphony is popular in Honduras.
On our way to the History Musuem, we found a newly opened Museum of National Identity. A heavy name for a very inviting building. It had been beautifully restored but cameras were not allowed. There was a brand spanking new Virtual Tour of Copan that seemed out of place in the building so of course we checked it out. It was just a computer generated movie that took you through the ruins, including the tunnels. Considering we refused to pay to see them when we were it was cool to get a peak at what we had missed. Cool in a completely cheesey sort of way. Plus it was nice to sit down after walking for a few hours. The rest of the museum was dedicated to the history of the country with a large in depth exhibit. It was all in Spanish but really well done. And it was so dense that after two hours Adrian and I considered our need for a History Museum fulfilled. In fact we felt like we’d seen everything we needed to see in Tegucigalpa. The downtown was compact and we ticked off all the sights in our 5 hours of wandering around.
We headed back to the hotel so I could figure out how to get to Nicaragua. Adrian left me alone on the hotel computer and went off in search of some English language book and magazine store across town. In the hour he was gone, I only managed to get google to upload fully. The internet had been super slow in Honduras but this was beyond super slow. That one website helped me figure out why. While we slept like logs last night, an earthquake had struck the Bay Islands, a big earthquake. Fortunately, it had caused minimal damage and deaths but it had wiped out the bridge on the highway between La Ceiba and San Pedro. If we hadn’t left Utila yesterday we would have been stuck there for a while. Phew.
But that didn’t answer my “how do we get to Nicaragua” question. So when Adrian returned unscathed from his solitary journey in dangerous (hah) Tegu we got ready and headed out for our night at the symphony. Inspired by Melissa’s menu choices the day before, we ducked into Wendy’s for dinner. Baked potatoes and salads. Our stomachs were still not right but maybe eating food that wasn’t deep fried would help. Then we went to the internet place next door. The internet was slow but manageable there. So I found the bus schedules I was looking for as well as the name and prices of hostels in Estelli, the Nicaraguan town we planned to head to tomorrow.
There was more news posted about the earthquake which came in handy when I had to reply to the many emails from friends and family wondering if we were okay. Armed with more facts I was able to put their minds at ease and also admit that we’d felt nothing over in Tegucigalpa, although I do remember dreaming about an earthquake and feeling disappointed that a subway felt stronger. Or maybe I just falsely implanted that memory so we wouldn’t sound so lame. Oh well, I took it as another sign to leave Honduras. We’d had some good times and even liked Tegu but after Guatemala, Honduras wasn’t as friendly or inviting – especially the taxi drivers.
Just as we were about to leave the internet place, it began to pour rain. So we waited with the rest of the pedestrians under an awning until it calmed to a dull drizzle before walking to the theatre. There were only a few people there when we arrived. We were a few minutes early and the rain had just stopped so I figured people were running late. Nope. When the conductor came out there were only about 10 people in the audience of the big old theatre and I’m sure all of them were family members of the musicians.
The orchestra was small but quite good and the conductor spent a few minutes before each piece explaining the meaning and history of each piece – in Spanish so I have no idea about the details. And it was over by 8:30 which meant we didn’t have to walk through dark and empty streets back to the hotel. It also left us plenty of time to pack and rest up to catch our 9am bus over the border. Bye, Bye, Honduras. Hello, Nicaragua.