We woke up eager to explore the rest of the Casco Viejo area and after a delicious breakfast (by Chef Lauren) we were on our feet and out the door. We covered the rest of the town on foot and learned more about the history of the area. The site of Casco Viejo was chosen specifically for protection against pirate attacks since the original settlement Panama Viejo was burned to the ground after being sacked by the infamous pirate Henry Morgan. The city location offers better protected from the ocean and they built a fortification wall on the eastern side of the city for protection from landward attack. Next to the wall is Plaza Herrera, named in honor of Panamanian general and statesman Tomas Herrera. Before it was Plaza Hererra, it was actually a plaza famous for holding bullfights in the the mid 19th century.
As we continued to explore we found many more parks and cathedrals along the way.....
The Golden Altar shown in the picture above and to the left is actually made of wood and covered with low-grade gold leaf. A famously false legend was that it was saved from Henry Morgan's pirate attack. The story involves the church's friar taking the valuable pieces of the altar such as the gold columns and plunging them in the nearby Pacific Ocean, leaving the altar looking like it was unfinished. When Morgan arrived at the church to take it over, the friar told him the altar was under construction and had the nerve to ask him for the 1000 ducats to complete it. Morgan was amused by the request, and reportedly exclaimed that "this friar is even more of a pirate than I am!" Morgan then ordered that the friar be given the money he had asked for.
Lauren just reminded me to write about a very American thing I said to our bunk mate but first let me back up and tell you a little about him. We are in a dorm style room with 4 beds and lucked out a little with only having one other person with us for the week. Our bunk mate is from Italy and has done quite a bit of traveling on his current trip and in his past. He is a very nice older gentleman and speaks English quite well so we have had a few conversations with him over the first couple of days. So not back to what I said....location: we were out on our walk about and passed by our bunk mate on a crowded street with a lot of locals around. He nodded hello to us, Lauren waved and said "Hi" and without thought the greeting that came out of my mouth was "Howdy!". We both found it pretty funny, and my only saving grace was that it was better than "Hidey Ho, Neighbor!" (we finished the Home Improvement box set right before we left).
Some of the strangest things make our day now that we are traveling on a budget. We were very excited to find the "Walmart" of the area on our walk and immediately began shopping with the locals for some of our meals for the week. I am so lucky to have a chef for a wife because I would have just stood at the door dumbfounded where to start and what to make (probably would have been a lot of instant mashed potatoes), but Lauren dove right in and sent me on a quest for a shopping basket. I could not for the life of me figure out the basket system which is embarrassing to say the least, but let me break this down for you. There is a wall of baskets all with numbers on them and a line of locals waiting to get one. Is it just a cubby system where they hold your stuff while you shop? I saw some bags and jackets in some empty basket slots. Or is it like a membership system and you always get the same basket? TBD I will figure this out before we leave!