Our arrival in León was quite overwhelming… the bus station was chaotic and tricycle taxis were everywhere… we started walking and were dutifully followed by a parade of tricycle drivers shouting at us to get in and they would cycle us to the centre… we refused and carried on walking… but were still being followed by a series of voices shouting (obviously not their exact words – the tirades were in fact in Spanish!) ‘it’s too far to walk’, ‘it’s dangerous!’, ‘it’s over 4km to the centre’…
In spite of our desire to keep on walking it didn’t take us long to realise that it was a bit of a maze, and that exiting the bus station in the correct direction would take more than our beautifully crafted hand-drawn map (copied from Google the night before!!!). Thankfully the shop keepers in the area were less interested in our money than the tricycle taxi drivers and after some helpful instructions about how to leave the bus station, we were soon back on track and on our way to our home for the next 3 nights!
León is the second largest city in Nicaragua – and in fact the old capital of Nicaragua! It is also traditionally one of the more progressive cities in Nicaragua.
Our time in León was spent strolling around, it wasn’t very busy and there honestly wasn’t a whole heap to do – especially on the Sunday when we were there as most things were shut! However, we still found a couple of nice churches to look at – my favourite church to look at from the outside was La Recolección Church… And we located a supermarket selling beautifully crafted bottles of Nicaraguan pale ale that were perfect for drinking in our hostel garden! 🙂 Not to mention that PB made his first ever hair appointment – yes the barbers we found in León was appointment only!!!
We also paid a visit to the cathedral so that we could climb up and visit the roof for an overhead view of the city of León! Being on the roof reminded me of being back in Sucre in Bolivia – although Nicaragua seemed to have a few more rules for people on cathedral roofs to follow than Bolivia did!!! León – I have to admit – didn’t look as good overhead as Granada, but we liked our time on the cathedral roof nonetheless!
We also found heaps of statues of lions in León – yep, not surprising I guess given that león means lion – but they were very cool… Each lion was very different – some looked ferocious, while others looked more happy and pensive!
The city of León is also closely associated with its role in the Nicaraguan revolution, as it’s the place where almost the whole town fought with the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) against the government forces and President Samoza. There are heaps of revolutionary themed murals and placards around the city which are all very much pro FSLN – the city is still very much a pro-Sandinista area!
Our final stop in León, and possibly the highlight, was a visit to the Museo de la Revolución (Revolution museum). You can only visit the museum with a guide, however as all the guides were guerrilla fighters in the revolution, it makes it a pretty unique experience! Our guide was really interesting – not only had he fought in the revolution, but still today, he exuded passion for the cause – he was firmly pro the current Sandinista Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega.
The museum itself is housed in the former Palace of Communications of President Somoza! It was taken over by the revolutionaries during the war. In the museum we got an insight into the passing of history… we also got to follow our guide up a rickety staircase to the roof… it felt precarious walking on the corrugated iron sheets on the roof, but the guide reassured us that there was concrete underneath the old tin roof! The view from the roof was awesome – apparently on a clear day you can see the surrounding volcanoes from the roof… unfortunately for us it was a hazy day…
We enjoyed our stay in León – while it was still pretty much devoid of tourists, we liked the overall vibe more than that of Granada! On our last night in León – and therefore in Nicaragua – we noted that we’d like to come back… we were grateful that we hadn’t had to miss the country out altogether as we had initially expected, but there was still so much to see!