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Tag Archives: Costa Rica

Costa Rica has over one million hectares of natural reserves. These have been established in the course of the 20th century by private efforts and (increasingly) by the government of Costa Rica. While these natural reserves are clearly an important touristic asset for the country, these reserves do much more for the people. They create an awareness and pride of their natural resources.

Nowadays, many Costa Rican (tico) children are taught in school the value of the rainforest and the complexity of ecological interactions. About half of Costa Rica’s children live surrounded by, at least patches of, intact nature. For the other kids that grow up in urban areas, efforts are made to put them in touch with ecology as well. But of course, this is always an organisational and logistic problem due to financial straits. (Edunamica, for instance, is a private organisation that strives to boost talented students throughout the country; these students are later taking on coaching functions. Ecological education is becoming an increasingly important issue here. But one should of course not forget that there are often more pressing everyday matters for the inhabitants of Costa Rica.)

Also for Europeans and Americans the rainforest seems like a great place to educate ourselves about ecology. But do not forget that we are always outsiders and interrupt nature’s undisturbed way by visiting. On the other hand, national park entrance fees are an important support to maintain such areas. Make sure to pay the entrance fee… Also, nature guides in Costa Rica are fabulously educated and have a lot to tell you. So if you are really interested in learning something and you want more than just catch glimpse of some monkeys, than this is well worth its while. Not only will you bring some important knowledge home, but you will also support the spreading of knowledge in a new emerging profession, which in turn will spread again more knowledge: the guia natural (nature guide) of Central American nature.

By the way, the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism makes admirable efforts to properly educate and certify these guides. Costa Rica is clearly a regional leader in these issues and tourism has profited a lot from it already.

Due to an (apparent) rising problem in crime, there is no more money available from ATMs in San Jose, Costa Rica after 10pm. Due to police information there was an increasing number of robberies that followed the same pattern. People were mugged on the street, but not only the money was taken away that they had on them. They were forced to do an involuntary city tour, passing as many ATM as possible. They would then be forced at gun- or, (more often) knife-point to withdraw all the money they could from their bank account and with their credit card. Particularly now during Christmas time, when Costa Ricans receive their 13th month’s salary, this would provide for an easy prey.

Therefore it was decided to close down all ATM cashiers after 10 o clock at night. I do not know if it was a municipal decision or one made by the banks, but it is definitely good to know that measures are being taken (in Venezuela this has been an ongoing problem for years).

However, it is also good to know that you can no longer withdraw money at night. Take care of such financial matters during daytime if you happen to be in San José!

The only beer brewing house of Costa Rica, the Cerveceria de Costa Rica is celebrating its 100th birthday. Funny how time passes when you are enjoying yourself… I know it’s a little late to write about this, but I just noticed the label on my beer bottle a short while ago. The brewery is now also producing beer for Heineken and distributing less tasty stuff like Smirnoff Ice (arrrgh, groce). By the way, the cerveceria de Costa Rica was the first Latin American brewery to receive a license from Heineken to brew its tasty liquid.

However, after all those years “Pilsen” is still the right beer to go with. It gives you less of a headache than some other products, the worst being “Rock Ice“: if you really plan on waking up with a bad hangover, then enjoy this cerveze de chicas…

Interestingly, the brewery is also promoting the Nicaraguan Toña beer as well as the formidable Cerveza Gallo from Guatemala. To be honest, I have not yet encountered any of those products in Costa Rica (although I could kill somebody for a Gallo right now). But maybe this will happen before the next 100 years are over. Anyways, what with all developments and expansions here in Costa Rica, the variety of many things (not only beer) is growing. The “Bavaria” beer brand is living proof of how quality is advancing here. But don’t forget that it is not easy to brew European style beer in the tropics: with high temperature variations (from over 30 degrees Celsius to a cold fridge and back) and transport in this “beer unfriendly” environment, it is almost impossible to have a standard beer that keeps its quality. This is why many tropical beers have rather low alcohol levels and taste like water…

But in the temperate Central Valley and around San Jose nothing can come in between me an enjoying my beer…

Appendix: Not being American I was unaware, that Imperial beer is appearently also sold in the states. I found an interesting blog entry about Imperial’s advertising campaign, for once “without fake tits” ;). Interstingly, the cerveceria has stopped the famous Pirellli style- calendar with the “Chicas Pilsen”… even though I am not a big fan of advertising everything with breasts I have to admit: I will miss the calendar…

One of the most crucial questions for any person traveling to anywhere is what beer you drink… while in many countries you have a choice from a huge variety of beer, this is quite different in Central America. Most countries have between 2-3 beer brands to choose and mostly they are produced by the same brewery. This is the case with Balboa and Panama in Panama, Toña/Victoria in Nicaraugua and it most definitively is with Pilsen/Imperial in Costa Rica. Although the producing brewery Florida Co. has released some further beers, the question of faith is still: Imperial or Pilsen?

Truth be told, there is not much of a taste difference between the two. Pilsen contains a bit more alcohol (5,1%, compared to Imperial’s 4,6%) and is a bit more aromatic. But on a hot day when you’re just thirsty, wanting to enjoy a fresh cerveza you might hardly tell the difference between the two. Neither you will after having had a couple already. Nevertheless, Pilsen drinkers look down on “Imperialists” and vice versa. Imperial, also called “aguila” (the Spanish word for the eagle depicted on the bottle) is known as a gringo beer in some parts of Costa Rica, apparently because its design appeals more to tourists, uncertain which of the two beers to choose. Hence, they end up drinking Imperial.

I just want to point out that this war of believes is nothing short of pointless. Compared to the varieties of taste in European beers, there is not much of a difference between the two. However, the only Costa Rican brewery mentioned above has released a new brand of beer a couple of years ago, called “Bavaria“. There is a dark and a light one and, for Central American standards, this beer is a real revelation. As the name foretells, this beer is aimed towards the German brewing tradition (rather than the North American) and the result is definitively one of Central America’s best – particularly if you compare it to the light-beer water of Panama (with max. 3,5% alcohol)!

So I do recommend to drink Bavaria when you do have a real choice. If not (as in most parts of the country) and you can only choose between the two classical brands Imperial and Pilsen: I recommend you adapt to your environment and drink whatever they drink, assuring them that this is clearly the better beer than the other one…

Salud!