In the middle of the Costa Rican highlands, a few kilometers north of Atenas, is another town with a remarkable name, Grecia (Greece). Although the inhabitants are all Costa Ricans, they call themselves Griegos (Greeks) in accordance with the name of their town.

Grecia’s skyline is dominated by the bright red metal Cathedral de la Mercedes. With its white painted Neo-Gothic window frames, the church seems to be an apparition straight out of Disneyland. The Griegos imported the building elements, made of plates of thin metal welded together, from Belgium in 1897 much as their neighbors the Josefinos did with their Edificio Metalico in San Josh. They also did themselves proud with the interior, which boasts a white wooden vaulted ceiling, marble altars, fine wood carvings, an original brick floor, a crystal chandelier and intricate leaded stainedglass windows.

In the pretty Palm Park in front of the cathedral, with its little fountain and music pavilion, stands an obelisk commemorating Grecia’s founding in July 1864.

The nearby Casa de la Cultura is used for cultural events, and houses a small regional museum documenting the history and development of the area around Grecia in the course of the past 200 years. Incidentally – in case you missed the news – Grecia was awarded a prize several years ago for being the cleanest town in Latin America, and the town is busily sweeping and trimming in the hope of winning the prize a second time. –

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