May 11th/12th – now we have arrived in León, the city of the lions.
Crossing the Cantabrian Mountains
Oviedo (Asturia) and León (Castilla y León) are separated by the Cantabrian Mountains. They extend the Pyrenees to the west. North of them, the climate of the green Atlantic Coast prevails, and south the dryer climate of the Castilian High Plateau, the Meseta. We cross the mountains using the Puerto de Pajares and look back at the green slopes facing the Atlantic.
Driving down south of the Puerto we find dryer vegetation. Soon we are in the flat lands of the Meseta and León appears in front of us.
Arriving in León, the city of the lions
The City of León is proud of their lions and we find lions all over. Here are some examples. In the Confiterías, we had a tasty empañada.
In May, León holds the Festival de Cine y Televisión
Some street lamps are held by lions.
And the palaces are decorated with lions.
This toothless lion we found near the San Isidoro church.
The Calle Ancha and the Cathedral Santa Maria de Regla
Our cosy hotel la Posada Regia is located near the main street of the center, the Calle Ancha. It is busy here, even at night (view from the Plaza de Puerto Obispo).
The famous west façade of the Gothic Catedral Santa Maria de Regla is being renovated. Building it started in 1253. The Cathedral soon needed renovation and the city started to tell the legend of the mole that keeps on digging tunnels under the Cathedral. Well, they had to find someone who might be guilty.
I return in the evening to look at the west façade again.
This is one of the three portals with the White Maria. The original is inside the church.
Some of the windows are from the 13th century, some are newer – even up to the 20th century. 1800 square meters of glass produce this solemn atmosphere.
The choir with the carved chairs from the 15th century is in the middle of the nave. This is Moses carved into the backrest.
This figure guards the entrance to the choir – I find another lion here.
The baptismal font shows yet another lion. Yes, we ARE in León.
Plaza Mayor and San Martín
The city center is for pedestrians only. Through narrow streets, we walk to the Plaza Mayor. The market is taking place here, in front of the old town hall.
Near the church San Martín, they sell clothes.
In the evening, the Plaza Mayor is empty – no market stands any more.
This is the so-called “wet” area (Barrio Húmedo). On a Saturday evening, it is very, very busy and loud here. I feel happy amongst all the cheerfully chatting people.
Palacio de los Guzmanes and Gaudí’s Casa de Botines
The Art Nouveau Casa de Botines belongs to Gaudí’s early works. Güell asked for it in 1894. Gaudí sits in front of his work and people join him here.
Next to Gaudí’s house, there is the Renaissance Palace of los Guzmanes.
The Plaza Santa Domingo marks the entry to the Calle Ancha – with this playful fountain.
San Isidoro and the Romanesque “Sistine Chapel”
The Romanesque Collegiate Church San Isidore is used for a solemn service on this Sunday morning.
The tympanum shows the Deposition from the Cross… pincers are used to remove the nails, the artist has observed that carefully.
We visit the Panteón Real or the Romanesque “Sistine Chapel”, as it is called. The frescoes have been painted around 1100 and show the life of Christ and a calendar that I like very much: For example in October, the pigs are eating acorns in the Ilex groves – much detail! No fotos allowed. Look at the well preserved frescoes in the Internet.
The Rio Bernesga and the Convento San Marcos
To wrap up our visit, we stroll along the lush promenade along the Rio Bernesga…
… and admire the monastery San Marcos built in plateresque style between the 16th and 18th century. Today, it is a luxurious five star Parador.
León was founded by the Romans in the 1st century AD. It was then called after the VIIth Roman Legion which was later shortened to “León”. It was conquered by the Arabs around 700 and, when reconquered in the 10th century, it became the capital of the kingdom León – for 200 years.
The annoying accident that ended not too badly
In the Museum San Isidoro, someone that came close to me discussing loudly took my wallet, though I had it close to me, while I was paying for some postcards. The museum personnel were extremely helpful. One of them took us to the local Police Office, where they sent us to the National Police office. I block my payment cards. At the National Police Office, I say, I want to make a denunciation. “About what”, the policeman at the entrance gate asks me. “My wallet has been stolen at the Museum Isidoro.” “This one?”, he asks and showed MY wallet, with all cards inside. I manage to deblock my EC cards. And we are very impressed about how helpful everyone is here: The guides at the museum, the reception lady at the hotel and the policeman at the National Police Station.
A wonderful light finish – dinner at the Kamado
Spanish food is rich – we felt very full from the delicious lechazo (milk lamb) that we had eaten in our hotel last night. Next door is the Kamado and it serves dimsam, the Chinese dumplings. Ursula has an unfermented green tea served luke warm (tasty) and I found the Galician Godello (a good match with my steamed dimsam dumplings). This was a great farewell, though not authentically Leonese. The pofessional young waitor impressed us. Good night now!
Sources: Marion Golder, “Nordspanien und der Jakobsweg”, Dumont 2017 and “Ganz Leon”, Reihe Ganz Spanien, Escudo de Oro 2014.