The National Theater is the most magnificent building in the country. It is as elegant on the interior as it looks from this photo of its exterior. It is a source of national pride, as it should be. Consider that it was built in the 1890's when the population of San Jose, the capitol, was less than 20,000 people!
How did such a small country and small city build such a magnificent building more than a century ago? Costa Rica paid for the building by putting a tax on coffee exports. So for everyone around the world whose great grandparents drank coffee in the 1890's, thank you.
This gives me an opportunity to tell you something quaint about Costa Rica that shows its transition from a developing country. The country does not use street addresses and only now is it implementing street addresses in San Jose, even though its capitol now has more than 1 million people. Without addresses, how do people know how to find places? Everyone simply gives directions from someplace that everyone knows the location.
For example, the "address" for the French Embassy would be "behind the National Theater" because everyone knows the location of the theater. The Tico Times newspaper recently had an article about how in the future places like the Mercedes Benz dealership will be able to give a street number for their location, rather than saying "800 meters from the traffic circle near the multi-store mall."
The newspaper commented than San Jose is a big city and needs addresses with numbers, unlike the villages of Costa Rica where everyone still knows where everything is. The cost of adding numbers to buildings in San Jose will be paid for in large part by the Banco de Costa Rica because the bank will be allowed to put its logo on the building and house number signs.
You may have noticed that when I described the location of the new Italian restaurant in Tamarindo two days ago, I said it was across from the Century 21 office. That is the traditional way to give the location of a place in Costa Rica. Everyone in Tamarindo knows where the Century 21 office is. Maybe one day we will be able to give an address for our condo in Langosta, but until then, if we say it is on the beach road a block from the Barcelo Resort, that is the Tico way to give the equivalent of an address.
We are showing photos of the architecture of Santa Fe, New Mexico on our Viva la Voyage travel photo site this week.