Our plane ride to San Jose was clear but quite bumpy especially as we neared the city. We followed the coastline for a while before heading over the mountains and into the valley where San Jose sits. We had been told that San Jose was just a big city with not much to offer except that it was dirty and crowded and perhaps not very safe. However, we had read about a couple of places we wanted to visit and have learned that safety is largely something that you make for yourself by not doing stupid things.
|The old airport terminal building|
We took a city tour to get the lay of the land. Along the way we saw the original airport which is now an art museum next to a huge park where we saw some guys playing American football. Several lovely parks are spread around town. All were busy. One of the government buildings still has bullet holes from the civil war that led to the dismantling of the military. They are left as a reminder of why this is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t waste its money on weapons and soldiers that are too often only used to suppress the people.
Another interesting site is their new soccer stadium built by the Chinese. China is working worldwide to increase its influence, often at the expense of the USA. They usually do this by providing infrastructure that the countries don’t have the money or the will to build themselves. This does provide some nice things for these countries, but it provides nothing else, often not even help in maintaining what they build. The worst part is that the things they provide are completely built with Chinese labor and mostly Chinese materials, so the local people get little business and no on-the-job training. It is too bad that these countries feel compelled to accept the Chinese largesse under these conditions. Other nations do often include some requirements about using donor materials, but not to the extent that Chinese do and most of the workers will be local so there is still a lot of benefit to the local economy. Maintenance is always a problem.
We walked downtown twice, once for dinner and the second time to visit the Gold Museum which was excellent. The city is interesting with a lot of fast food chains in addition to the local restaurants. Street vendors were ubiquitous even though they were provided with one main pedestrian-only street. The most interesting site was what appeared to be a car repair shop located in two parking slots.
The gold museum was amazing. The pre-Columbian gold pieces and other art work are beautifully crafted and the museum does an excellent job of explaining the meaning behind the art and the lives of those who lived in Costa Rica before Columbus. It’s also small enough to be fully explored in a couple of hours which I think is about the limit of what most of us can do while still retaining focus and interest.
We were certainly glad we decided to spend a couple of days in this nice city and get to know the country a little better. And we never felt anything other than safe even as left the populous downtown area to return to our hotel.