Everything I read prior to going to Nicaragua said to skip Managua. Our original plan had us spending the night at the Hotel Casa Real and spend a few hours checking out the nearby Cathedral before heading off to León by early afternoon. Although we spent the night in San Salvador, we mostly stuck to that plan. We arrived at the airport around 9:30am and took a hotel shuttle to the Casa Real. They provided us some breakfast and had agreed to hold our bags while we explored a little bit of the area nearby. With the old cathedral of Managua destroyed in 1972, it took nearly 20 years for a new cathedral to be built. The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was built in 1991, and is often simply called the new cathedral by the locals. This place definitely has a unique design looking perhaps more like a cement factory than a cathedral. The place was packed as we arrived in the middle of Palm Sunday mass. Though we couldn't see much of it, the inside of the building is quite lovely.
We walked back to the hotel and then to the nearby UCA bus station
where we caught an air-conditioned minivan to León for only 55 Nicaragua Cordoba each (less than $2 US) for the 1.5-2 hour journey. We were the last 2 passengers on-board so Ann got to sit in the back while I rode up-front right beside the driver. I'd been on these minivan-style buses before and as in other countries that use them, they packed us in like sardines. Sitting in the front allowed me to see the countryside which was nice. I took some pictures along the way of the various volcanoes and some of the interesting sights along the road. Our driver was extremely agressive passing in situations that I would never have attempted (and Ann thinks that I'm not nearly cautious enough in this respect ... it's a good thing she wasn't sitting in the front).
In our morning in Managua, and during our drive I learned that Nicaraguan drivers REALLY like to honk their horns and for many diverse reasons. By the time we arrived in León I had come up with the following list of things that honking the horn could mean depending on the situation:
1. Do you want a ride (taxi
... often requires repeated honks before you shoo them away)
2. Get out of the way.
3. I see you.
4. I'm going to pass you.
6. Damn, you're good looking (sometimes they have a separate horn for this that sounds like a whistle)
7. Go ahead and pull in front of me (extremely rare)
8. Why are you stopped there? (aka: what kind of idiot are you?)
9. My car is full.
10. Random frustration at traffic or whatever is on the road in front of them.
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