Join us in exploring the City of Leon, Nicaragua, where the history of the revolution is still very much in evidence. Indeed, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the city where the locals were friendly and the tourists were few. Furthermore, being there was a great opportunity to learn all about the revolution and how it effected the people who lived in the city in that dark period of Nicaragua’s past.
To Nicaragua via El Salvador
Although we had loved Antigua, after five weeks we were getting itchy feet. In fact, we were ready to hit the road again. Our next destination was Nicaragua. We discovered that flights to Managua via San Salvador were the same price as a bus through Honduras and El Salvador. No contest! In all honesty, in reality we aren’t sure if it would have been quicker to travel overland – as it happened, our connecting flight was cancelled. As a result, we arrived in Managua five hours later than anticipated.
Hostal Monte Cristi, Managua
We spent a night at a the Hostal Monte Cristi near the airport. It was an unusual place, where we shared the residence with Monty the dog and a bunch of bunnies. The owners were really helpful – they still picked us up at the airport even though we were five hours late. The following day their trusty driver took us to the bus station, where we caught a packed collectivo heading to Leon.
Hot, Hot, Hot in Leon
For the next few days, we explored Leon under the scorching sun. It took a couple of days to adjust to the heat after the more moderate temperatures of Antigua. We stayed at a friendly family-run guest house which had rocking chairs in the courtyard.
Meeting an Ex-Guerrilla
Gritty Leon felt like an authentic Nicaraguan city. Non-pretentious, it has a rich intellectual, artistic and political history and was at the centre of the revolution in the seventies. As a matter of fact, one of our favourite experiences was visiting the intriguing Museum of Revolution.
The Museum is run by a group of ex-revolutionaries who also live in the building. In fact, they are now fighting against the colonial building being turned into a hotel. It was a building that bore witness to many violent battles at the time of the revolution and we saw an abundance of bullet holes in the walls. It would truly be a shame if the building was transformed into a hotel, however the museum is obviously in dire need of funding.
Glimpses of the building’s colonial past could be seen in the magnificent, but battered staircase. Although it was probably the most ramshackle museum we had ever been in, we nevertheless found it fascinating. Our guide was ex-revolutionary, Benito. He was a lovely man who had fought for his beliefs and had an intriguing story to tell.
Although Benito only spoke Spanish, we somehow managed to understand much of what he told us. He showed us a picture of himself when he was twenty standing with a group of fellow revolutionaries, which really brought his story to life. Additionally, there were press cuttings and old photographs on display of others who had been involved, many of whom had lost their lives. It was, in fact, pretty amazing to be shown around by someone who had actually been part of the revolution.
Museum of Legends and Traditions
Another museum that we discovered in Leon was the Museo de Legendes y Traditiones. This was a rather bizarre place, which had, in fact, been an ex-prison in a previous life. Various torture practises had been implemented there prior to its transformation.
Displaying strange and rather disconcerting papier-mâché figurines, it was somewhat creepy to wander around. Furthermore, we never knew quite what freaky sight we were going to come across in the next room! The museum had, in fact, been founded by a local woman, who had felt passionate about keeping the traditions and legends of Nicaragua alive.
Exploring the Streets of Leon
Somewhat more conventionally, Leon has an impressive art museum, Centro de Arte Fundacion Oritz Gurdian, with exhibits by many top Latin American artists. Additionally, we also enjoyed climbing up to the roof of the cathedral for some excellent views of the surrounding volcanoes.
Wandering the streets, we discovered some interesting street art, mostly relating to the revolution. Despite its rough edges, we liked Leon. It certainly provided us with a couple of unique experiences. Next stop – Granada!