Today was my last full day in San Jose and of my Central American Journey. I decided to check out the Gold and Jade museums and walk around the city. With the help of my handy guidebook and map I ventured out into San Jose on foot. I managed to find my way to the Museo del Oro Precolombino (Central Bank Museum). There were actually a few interesting exhibits there. The most popular exhibit was the Pre-Colombian Gold section. There were several pieces of gold objects on display. They incorporated a lot of animals into the gold pieces, lots of birds. Each gold piece had a different meaning and story attached to it, it was interesting what people use to believe. After I checked out all the gold pieces on display, I ventured over to the Numismatic Museum.
There I learned about the history of Costa Rican currency. It showed the evolution of the Colon and all the different designs of previous and current coins and bank notes. They had on display the 5 colon, series D bank note, which to my amazement is considered to be the most beautiful bill in the world by various publications. It was amazing to me because I actually have that bank note at home. (Side story: When I was 13 I went on a bus tour to Yellowstone park with family and friends. On the tour we met a guy named Ty who was going to Dental School in Costa Rica. He was such a cool guy and he gave each of us a 5 colon bank note) The front of the bill has the national flower, the guaria morada orchid and a portrait of former President Rafael Yglesias Castro.
While the back of the bill is the painting that is kept in the National Theater, "allegory of coffee and banana." If i remember correctly the bananas in the painting were incorrectly drawn upside down. The funny thing is that they don't even use 5 colon bank notes anymore, I think the lowest bank note is 1,000 colon. Another cool thing I learned about the colon bank notes was that if you hold it up next to a black light, you can see the hidden pictures/numbering to prevent counterfeit bills. So awesome! I pulled out every single colon bill I was carrying and put it under the black light to see the hidden picture and accents, sadly I didn't have a large variety of bills left.
After the museum I grabbed some lunch around the city central before heading over to the Museo de Jade (Jade Museum).
I must have read the map key wrong because I totally walked in the wrong direction. I was so hot and sweaty by the time I reached the Jade Museum, thank goodness for air conditioning. The museum was inside a building that looked like a bank or corporate office, I almost didn't see it on the left side. The Jade Museum was much smaller than the Central Bank Museum. As with the gold, the jade pieces gave a look into the history of Costa Rica. Several jade pieces incorporated animals and had special uses and meanings. There were also ceramic pieces, like pottery. The collection of Jade was cool, but I think I was done with museums for the day.
I walked around the city central looking for markets to buy souvenirs to bring back home for myself and friends.
I stopped by the Mercado Central, which was a maze of shops. They sold everything from fresh fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, souvenirs, to food. I didn't really find anything, all the souvenirs were really cheesy. Plus it was pretty cramped navigating my way through the market, I had to keep a close eye on my belongings. I decided to go back to the Mercado Nacional de Artesania y Pintura that I had visited during my first day in San Jose. I picked up a hammock for myself, hopefully I'll find a place to hang it when I get back home. I also decided to buy one of those hand made wind mobiles with the fishes because this girl was buying one for her Mom. Apparently her Mom had visited San Jose, Costa Rica a few years ago and had regretted not buying the wind mobile, so she requested her daughter to buy it during her trip. I also picked up a bunch of necklaces from these awesome artisans. It was a husband and wife that operated the little stall. He twisted some wire around a tile piece in seconds to make a beautiful pendant, I picked up like 6 of them to give to friends. The artisan market is definitely worth checking out, they had a lot of cool handmade gifts at great prices. They also have some typical souvenirs, like t-shirts and magnets.