Monday, June 1, 2009
The legends of Leon
Today was going to be a lazy day until the wifi at the hostel stopped co-operating. So we were forced to go out and find something to do – I know, the horror. I can feel your sympathy from here.
We considered going to Leon Viejo, the old city which was destroyed in a volcanic eruption and buried under ash 250 years ago. Sort of like a Central American Pompei but with a sticker price of $50US I had done some internet sleuthing. Although it is a UN World Heritage site, Leon Viejo looked nothing like Pompei. Photos showed a sprinkling of building foundations and one or two rebuilt buildings. Now it definitely didn’t seem worth it.
I looked up from the computer to see the Dutch couple from Utila in the hostel. They had just arrived in Leon and were also looking for things to do. Gemma told us to check out the government tourism office. On our way there we popped into a private tour company but the only thing besides the volcano was a three-day $150 tour and that needed a minimum of 4 people. So no go. Next we went to the official tourism office but the best they could do was give us the name of a guide who could show us around the city which we’d already done ourselves. Maybe we would go to a pacific coast beach instead. But first we went to check out some the museums. Unfortunately it was Sunday and in Nicaragua that meant, the art gallery and Ruben Dario museums were both closed and there was nothing on at the theatre. One was open: the Museum of Legends and Traditions.
Our ancient guidebook described it as a quirky homegrown museum operating out of someone’s home. But since then it had gotten much bigger and even had an official building. It was now housed in the old prison that had operated as a torture centre during the revolution. So the Museum of Legends and Traditions was actually two museums. A children’s museum full of paper mache puppets surrounded by a torture museum consisting of painted depictions of atrocities. The combination was more than a little odd.
A guide took us around and explained (in Spanish) the stories of all the puppet figures, breaking every so often to explain the torture scenes in the wall murals. A lot of the legends involved scorned women coming back as ghosts (with or without the breast hanging out) to tempt young. And a lot of the torture involved pulling of fingernails and ye olde favourite, waterboarding.
I tried to translate as much as possible for Adrian but I really just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. I was suffering my own form of torture. You see, each room in the museum was home to a swarm of mosquitoes. And forget flies to honey, it was mosquitoes to Liz. Within seconds I had twenty welts on my bare legs. I felt like that guy in the old OFF commercial where he stuck his bare arm in the glass box of mosquitoes. Except I didn’t have any repellant. As soon as the tour was over, I practically ran back to the hostel to take some antihistamines.
Safely back at the hostel and medicated, we bumped into Stefania, the Italian girl from Antigua. We caught up on what we’d been doing in the last month. While we had been puttering around Honduras she’d been hanging out at Jesus’s place in San Pedro Sula. No that’s not some code for church. Jesus was the super cool friendly guy from the hostel in Antigua and he lived in San Pedro. Stefania admitted she’d done very little while she was there except enjoy having her own room, air conditioning and all the creature comforts and modern amenities of Jesus’ place. I would have done the same thing too. We compared earthquake stories – well ours was pretty boring, but Stefania was a lot closer to the epicenter and was thrown out of bed by the force of it. She was just as surprised as we were at how little damage it had done. The earthquake had thwarted her beach plans. So we decided to head to the Pacific Coast tomorrow morning.