Leon, City of Churches

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Saturday, February 10, 2007

Leave Ocotal for the capital Managua which has a fierce reputation among the cities of Central America. It is apparently crime-ridden and has little to offer tourists since earthquakes have repeatedly demolished the city leaving little heart and little architecture of note.

Havings said this, the scenery surrounding the capital is impressive, particularly for the snow-capped perfectly conical volcanoes.

We needed to change bus stations in Managua and decided upon a taxi as the safest option. A lady on the bus heard we were going to Leon, flagged down a taxi for us and agreed a fair price with the driver. Another example of genuine Nicaraguran hospitality even in the hectic capital where you would think people would be less likely to help backpackers.

Arrive in Leon tired, as much from the hot, dry 30 degree heat as the journey. Stay at Casa Vieja (Old House) which was a white-washed hotel with a courtyard and very few perpendicular lines. Had a real family feel to it and we were disappointed we didnīt have time to sit and chat.

Leon is rightly famous for itīs wealth of colonial churches, from the humble one built for the indigenous people to show them the error of their ways (!) to the huge and magnificent for the Spanish conquistadors. It seems a rather schizophrenic city with odd 60īs style high-rise buildings popping up among the colonial gems. Colourful murals depicting the Sandanista viewpoint of the civil war can be found throughout the town. Horses and carts still trot through the streets alongside the crazy taxi drivers.

In general, people look very well-dressed here and we assume they are doing OK however that doesnīt prevent us being hassled several times by beggars, predictably around the main square where tourists visit. We generally make our best guess about who to give to (or not to give to) but are particularly annoyed when we see a mother push her 3-year-old child foward to us, complete with crocodile tears. How can a child know there is a different way to live her life if the mother doesnīt show her?

Find a brilliant vegetarian restaurant in the city and really enjoy the strong flavours of falafel and hommus after our regular diet of rice, beans and eggs.

Walk home in the dimly-lit streets and Anna spots a jagged metal bar sticking out in the middle of the pavement but not before it had taken a chunk out of her shin and ripped her trousers. (She is relieved she had a recent tetanus shot).

Damn shame it didnīt happen in the USA because if it had we might have been able to sue the local council and pay for our whole holiday! Things like this in Central America are part of everyday life, the amount of times we have almost fallen in unmarked man-sized holes walking along...
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