Selva Negra: Nicaragua’s Black Forest
After a short drive from Matagalpa along windy roads and climbing to an elevation above 3,000 feet we arrived at the Selva Negra Mountain Resort in the late afternoon. Almost immediately we felt that we had taken a step back into both another time and another country. Picture a little bit of Germany set down in the highlands of northern Nicaragua. Quaint Bavarian-style bungalows and chalets, each with a few rocking chairs in front, were scattered along the road or set near a pond that reflected the deep greens of the cloud forest that surrounded the little valley. Although the mists had burned away earlier in the day the weather was noticeably cooler and damper and fresher when compared to the lower elevations of the country. The European style architecture and geese wandering around did little to ground us in Nicaragua; if a German milkmaid had come around the corner with a pail of sloshing milk we wouldn’t have been too surprised.
So, how did this bit of transplanted Germany wind up here in Nicaragua? Wikipedia says that, “In the 1850s, when gold was discovered in California, many American and European passengers made their way to California crossing the Isthmus of Central America through Nicaragua”. Among those seeking their fortunes was a German couple, Ludwig Elster and Katharina Braun. Evidently the northern highlands of Nicaragua reminded them of the region they were from and, travel-weary, they chose to remain in the area they later called Selva Negra, the Black Forest, rather than continue to San Francisco. They planted the first coffee beans in the area and were joined later in their farming community by other Europeans and Americans.
The Ecolodge was built in 1976 by Eddy and Mausi Kuhl, descendants of the original settlers who are the current owners of the 400 acre property. Daily tours of the historic coffee farm, observing some of the methods currently practiced for living green, horseback riding, hiking and bird and wildlife watching are a few of the things that can be done while visiting. Of course there’s always just relaxing, rocking in a chair, reading or chatting with new friends.
Anita says, “I decided to go on a hike with a couple of friends to see the panoramic view from the mountain top. After talking to the woman behind the counter about our plans and being assured that we were in for a real treat we set off with a map (which we lost halfway through the hike) and spent about three hours climbing steep, seemingly vertical trails, slipping and sliding around the paths. When we finally arrived at the promised panoramic viewpoint the riotous overgrowth and foliage from the trees almost totally obscured the view. And then we had to go D.O.W.N…
Obviously, some choices in how to spend one’s leisure time are better than others at Selva Negra.
By Anita and Richard, May, 2014