The weather forecast for the weekend was very bad with rain and thunderstorms all day on both Saturday and Sunday. We decided to deviate from the route and cycle to León and get a flat there. The closer we got to León, the more hikers we saw (heading in the same direction). Apparently, the “Caminio” here runs through León.
Finally, the rain fell in large quantities in many places we saw on the nos app (knee-high through the streets), but not in León, which gave us the opportunity to see the city. That the boat to Norway no longer runs due to bankruptcy makes us feel even more like there is an angel on our shoulders.
As always, we need to get our bearings first. The bus stop is right outside the door and we decipher that it goes every half hour. We get off roughly at the centre and find where the tourist information is on one of the map apps. That’s next to the cathedral, so a good start. The lady from the Tourist Information gives us a paper map of the city and circles and crosses out some things while she rattles on in the Spanish way in English, so that we still don’t understand anything. So we start with the cathedral. They have a good audio tour there afroom which we learn that it was built in just 50 years, so the architectural style is unified (Gothic), which is indeed beautiful. We are surprised at how much is still original and in good condition and then realise that no world war raged here and apparently no other wars either. A little later we learn that mistakes during restorations in the 18th century led to the building’s near collapse in the mid-19th century, but fortunately it was saved by skilled master builders who studied the mechanics of Gothic architecture. After this visit, we grab a terrace on a square in 1 of the 2 neighbourhoods the tourist info lady had ticked off.
On Sunday, we focus on the other district and visit the museum of the San Isodoro basilica. That place is particularly significant because of the monarch Alfonso IX who established a kind of parliament there in the 12th century, now recognised as the first in history. We walk past the remains of the Roman walls and then the question arises how about being Christian in such early times, even though Spain was occupied by Moors?
We google a bit and find out that there were Romans there even before Christ, who set up a permanent camp there to protect their territory from the “wild peoples of the North”. The Romans are driven out by the Visigoths during the great migrations. When these Visigoths quarrel among themselves, one of them enlists the help of the Moors who are in Morocco. These gladly come to help, but conquer a bit more than intended and seize power altogether. Except in those northern mountainous regions, where thus not only the Basques but some other peoples remain independent (including their own language). León was only briefly in Moorish hands and recaptured from Asturias and Cantabria. The kingdom of León is founded which will play a major role throughout the reconquista. Ferdinand and Isabella who finance Columbus’ expedition in 1492 are from this royal family. incidentally, 1492 is also the year the last Moorish enclave is conquered. That independence of those Northern peoples still works through to the present day…….
Finally, we visit casa Botines, an early design by Gaudi. There we learn about his design considerations and are once again deeply impressed by the enormous level of detailing he reaches in his designs.
We took it siteseeing more leisurely than in Bilbao and Kraków and feel fresh enough on Monday to start cycling again. As always, getting out of the city is a thing with heavy traffic that diminishes the further we get from the centre. Eventually we cycle fairly quietly on a pretty big road. Having cycled over a hill, we come across a monument that catches our attention so much that we stop to look at it. By now, the information board is illegible. We decipher something like ” a los Represaliados”. We suspect it is a tribute to people killed during the Franco era. Even without a World War, a society can suffer deep wounds.
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