After a short stay in Managua I rode to Leon, Nicaragua.
City of Leon
Leon has a unique historical place within Nicaragua. Wikipedia says this about the city:
León has long been the political and intellectual center of the nation and its National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) was founded in 1813, making it the second oldest university in Central America. . . . León had been the capital of Nicaragua since colonial times, so naturally when Nicaragua withdrew from the United Provinces of Central America in 1839, León became the capital of the new nation. For some years the capital shifted back and forth between León and Granada, Nicaragua, with Liberal regimes preferring León and Conservative ones Granada, until as a compromise Managua was agreed upon to be the permanent capital in 1858.
Leon sees itself as the first capital of the revolution, which is proudly displayed on the city hall.
Revolution Museum and Graffiti
Reminders of the revolution can been seen throughout the town.
There is even a museum of the revolution in a building that hasn’t been restored since then.
When I was there they were still celebrating the revolution with flowers laid at memorials, speeches and re-enactments.
Like pretty much every latin american town, the churches are the one of the highlights. Leon is no different. The largest church is Our Lady of Grace Cathedral, León. According to wikipedia:
The Cathedral was awarded World Heritage Site status with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). . . . The Cathedral’s construction lasted between 1747 and 1814 and was consecrated by Pope Pius IX in 1860. Cathedral has maintained the status of being the largest cathedral in Central America and one of the best known in the Americas due to its distinct architecture and special cultural importance. . . . Seven tunnels start under the church and lead to the other churches in the city.
I also visited the La Recolección Church.
The one church that the art outside was magnificent was Iglesia El Calvario.
I would have loved to take pictures inside as well. But it was closed all but one time when a service was taking place. I didn’t want to be disrespectful.
I didn’t stay in Leon that long, but I got into a bit of a routine.
I stayed at Hotel Austria a block away from the main plaza. Yes, it was a bit strange staying at a place called Austria. However, it was clean, the staff friendly, relatively inexpensive (still over my budget) close to the center and they had secure parking for my motorcycle.
In the morning I walked to Pan Y Paz, a nice coffee shop a few blocks away.
It was a awesome place to work on blogs and answer email. And there were always lots of people coming and going. The food was great too.
By the afternoon it would get really hot and humid. Like many of the locals I retreated to where it was cool. That meant going back to my air conditioned room.
In the late afternoon/evening I re-emerged along with everyone else 🙂
I would go for a walk and explore the city.
Some were still sleeping 🙂
As it got to dusk I settled in at my favorite and only restaurant at the main plaza.
Of course I had my newly discovered favorite beer in Nicaragua, Victoria Frost.
And would spend the next couple of hours just watching people on the plaza.
One evening I was treated to a wedding for entertainment 🙂
My Impressions of Leon
At first I thought it wasn’t going to be that nice here. There isn’t the big pedestrian mall and lots of restaurants with patios that you find in other places like Antigua, Guatemala, or San Cristobal, Mexico. But eventually Leon grew on me. Perhaps because of the university, it is a vibrant town with lots going on. The streets are full of people selling things and they are busy. There is just a vibrancy about it. So I was sad when it was time to leave.