Craning our necks to see what’s new in León
I’ve waxed poetic about my first home Spanish home, León. I’ve mentioned the city’s glorious cathedral, bright lights on dark streets, and the tapas culture; after a trip there this weekend, it’s about time I reveal the quirky things that made the city stand out.
1) Toilet tourism
Of all the city’s museums, you get my permission to skip the Museo de León, which mainly centers around the Great Fire of ’79. Instead, why not head to the Sierra-Pambley house, where you can see León’s first toilet. (They phrase it as the first living space to have running water, but let’s read through the lines, shall we?) At a time when the majority of the Leonese couldn’t fathom such luxury, the town’s magnate sat on this throne in 1912.
2) Modern Art that’s oh-so fly
Despite its traditional reputation, León has recently been flaunting a hip, edgy side. First came the MUSAC, a modern-art museum. Then, on a visit in November 2010, there were flower pots so big a couple’s outstretched arms could not encircle them. Now visitors can delight in two new works of art—a huge fly scaling the wall of the old jail as well as a crane dangling a bulbous rock at least 10 feet from the ground. The crane was especially malposed as a construction project stands out just beyond the machine’s claw, making it seem like part of the perpetual work-in-progress that are Spanish obras. As local guide Bea pointed out, all pedestrians gave the artwork a wide berth, unsure of what to make of such an object.
3) Lucha Leonesa
When grazing on tapas in León’s famous Barrio Húmedo, pop into Bacanal (Plaza San Martín) to get a through-the-years peek at all of the lucha leonesa fighters. In this sport, which is similar to other types of wrestling such as lucha canaria, opponents try to wrestle each other to the ground. The twist is that a thick length of rope is belted around each sportsman’s waist, which both helps and hinders him (or her) in the ring. When it comes to pushing someone off their feet, first one down’s a rotten egg.
A man of local lore, Genarín sprung from humble origins to become the center of a cult following which drinks in his honor. This notorious drunk, who called León’s streets hogar-dulce-hogar, was to be forever immortalized when he was run over by the city’s first garbage truck. Today, in the midst of somber Holy Week religious processions, merrymakers hold a rowdy, midnight parade to reenact his burial; a “brotherhood” of Genarín fans parade an effigy of this colorful character through the Barrio Húmedo for all to remember.
What are some quirky aspects of your favorite town?