There’s a song that says “Walker, there is no road, you make the road by walking” and that’s what I did last week. I grabbed my camera and decided to go and take pictures of San Jose downtown, photography in black and white, colors, different perspectives and textures of a city that I thought I knew well…
Why would a San José inhabitant would go take pictures in its own city (When supposedly I know it so well)? You may ask that…, and the answer to life, the universe and everything else is right there: Inside, in the place that lies between the heart, the eyes and the mind. We are on a pursuit of splendor, ever since the Romans tried to capture the real beauty, and so I said to myself; San José beauty is right there, you don’t even have to look for it, you pass before it every single day.
I started by deciding where to walk at; north, south, east, west… Nah… I’ll be facing the sun today, I said. And that I did. A hard taks for any amateur photographer. Just a block from where started I found this beautiful and classical historical icon of the city named “El Colegio de Señoritas” (‘The girls school’). The sun was gently sheltering this marvelous building and I had to sit there, to admire the architect’s creativity, the way every single corner was made with the clearest care, I took pictures of this outstanding structure, different angles and textures and… said good bye and pass to the next place.
As I walked, I took pictures of birds, sculptures, parks, the sun, the sky, everything was just made to be capture that day, up until “La Soledad” (A church constructed in the middle of the twentieth century), a lovely construction, that can combine the mystical simplicity with a mightiness sense. With the light on its back, it was totally breathtaking,I had to simply amaze at the incredible landscape that us humans can create. It had the perfect mixture between the walls’ white and the marvelous blue sky behind. I had to remind myself not to think about the moment, but simply be the moment.
A reminder that accompanied me through the walk, while continually astonishing at the spectacular things around me. And sometimes forget to notice.
In the meantime, the iconic figure of John Lennon, was singing from his bench… “I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round, I really love to watch them roll” while looking at the monument to the young artist, in front of the church.
As I was going up the hill, immersed in these thoughts, a train passed and behind it… Bam! The monumental National Museum, (The old headquarters of the Costa Rican army) one tower, specifically one tower, with the memory of an old battle stamped on its facade. This reminded me how incredibly grateful I am of Costa Rica not having an army and how we’ll never know what a war really is… You see I am a millenial, a generation surrounded by phones, used to the internet and into video games, drenched in comfort and solved needs. The bullet holes hit me in the face as the memory of what I never knew.
In San José, a coffee is a compulsory thing. I know! I know! In Costa Rica it is! The coffee is so good that you simply must (I never realized how good coffee is until I got out of my land and tried another coffee from somewhere else!) So, I had to stop, ordered a coffee, had a sandwich and continued my search for beauty in the city where I live.
As I end up my photographic exploration of the old headquarters of the army I walked up a little further, a bit out of the center of the city and into the old “California neighborhood“. Long, long time ago, I cannot remember, a cinema theater named California was here… And that’s how this area came to be called California… for us, millenials it is a big party place, with at least five popular bars in less than three blocks. We call it “La Cali”.
But for many years, even before the old cinema theatre, there was “la aduana”. Turned to be a expositions, gallery, fairs place and theater, la aduana was the old custom’s building, right next to the train station… of course. The old holes for the carts and (Afterwards) container trucks are still there in this solid brick building that could tell, also a thousand stories.
I run to the next icon which has the most history of it all; The Atlantic Train Station (Yes, Atlantic… for years we only knew the Caribbean Sea as the mighty Atlantic) , built in 1908, I cannot fathom all the stories that happened in this place, as for many years it was the only way in and out of Costa Rica… People waiting, people welcoming, people saying hello, saying good bye, tears of sadness and happiness, everything! My own great-grandmother lived in a train wagon in this station waiting for a ship to dock at Limon in 1910! And yes! I know! Ports and train stations in the World have similar stories, but Costa Rica was so small (Still is!) that every story here gets personal!
OK! Well! In conclusion! Impressive station and historical icon… but the most amazing fact is that it is still creating history for my grandchildren! Up until now, Costa Rican people use it; moms, dads, students, kids, so many people with such different plans, expectations, dreams! Wow, remarkably human place to be in. And probably one of the best things about it is that it’s right in San Jose pure entrance.
If you could summarize Costa Rica in one word, it would definitely be GREEN! Green here, green, there, trees everywhere and that is how the city welcomes you, loads of trees and a street in the middle, leading the way. Walking down I found the National Library and the National Park in front of it, large and in every turn with a new statue, a monument or gorgeous tree. Walking a little further you find two more parks, each one of them as beautiful as the previous one and in the middle, hidden, the Metal School. This wonderful construction was created in 1897 by a Belgium factory in metal… All of it! Metal plates, made in Europe and brought by oxcarts! and each one of these walls has great details. Of course, dozens of pictures where done.
Already on my way back home, I had to take a decision; where was going to be my last discovery? So I decided for an old friend, our amazing National Theater. I sat on a cafe and from a second floor started an exercise, finding something I had never seen before. And so the game began, I can say, withoubt a doubt, that always, universally, there’s something new to see on that magic structure, the amazing doors, the impeccable windows and the hidden and yet so visible red catwalk.
Today, after walking through my pictures, remembering the experiences, the people, the scenery and the time invested in pure happiness, there is something I can say; definitely you made the road by walking on it.
Written by Carlos Soto for Camino Travel