Men play chess in the Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo. The country has made attempts at world records for simultaneous chess matches but dominoes is actually the national pastime. Games involve much noise to disguise secret strategy signals.
Dominican Republic – Been There

Have a shot of Santo Domingo and get high – on life

Photo by Michael Dwyer

Dominican Republic – Been There Have a shot of Santo Domingo and get high – on life

When I explore the rich colonial history of the capital Santo Domingo – the capital of the Dominican Republic the oldest city in the Americas – I find its streets even more interesting.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

Life spills out of doorways, drivers block roads for a casual chat and sidewalks are thronged. Hawkers make their way through the crowds or besiege drivers at stop lights offering an incredible range of goods – I see everything from cell-phone chargers and lottery tickets to sugarcane and puppy dogs for sale.

One man offers me bottles of what looks like muddy water, filled with sticks. This is mamajuana, which is called the “Dominican Viagra”. Made from a base of rum and honey, with various other medicinal ingredients such as herbs and bark, it is based on ancient Taino Indian remedies. A shot can cure colds, cleanse the blood and liver, ease stomach ailments… well, you get the idea. And, of course, its nickname of “el para palo” comes from its reputation for helping men “lift wood”. I imagine the cabanas do a roaring trade in it.

I can’t bring myself to try it but there is another local drink much more to my taste. Morir Soñando – “to die dreaming” – is made from milk and fresh orange juice. This seemingly odd mixture is instantly refreshing and addictive when served mixed with ice on a hot day – the ice stops the acid in the OJ from curdling the milk. Its fresh ingredients and the varied local cuisine are a reminder of the agricultural wealth of the country.

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