Often people tend to avoid visiting the capital city of Nicaragua and there are plenty of reasons for that.
Managua is not very attractive place to be. It is huge, it is not really tourist friendly, the city is fairly new and it doesn’t seem to have a proper citycentre. When you arrive to Managua, it feels like you’re entering a neverending suburb.
Apart from a little ugly colourful imitation of Klimt’s trees all over the city and a terribly dirty lake, Managua could be an impressive example of ginormous colourful NON-Place which you pass and never remember again.
But I am kind of glad that we still went there, because if we didn’t go to Managua, my impression of Nicaragua would have been completely different.
I found it very interesting that in Managua they don’t use traditional directions. If you look at the city on Google maps, you would be able to see the names of the streets but when you arrive there, you realise that there are no street signs or street numbers. Locals orientate by attraction points, such as big tree, or a bus station or a big building. So if you ask someone how to get to a hotel or anywhere else, most likely you would hear something like: go 200 metres south from the big tree a few blocks away.
I struggle to understand how their postmen work. But it is a very interesting specific of the whole country in general.
Managua, for a capital feels really deserted. There are so few tourists that you feel almost lonely sometimes (that is quite common for Nicaragua in general). Homeless people especially are not yet used to white faces around so you might get very discouraged by them. But I think we should give a bit more credit to the country for trying hard to fix their reputation, and it is very easy to see that.
If you go to Managua, again, I really recommend couchsurfing, but not for saving on accommodation, because it is cheap enough there anyway, but as a way to meet locals. We cooked a dinner with a local girl from Managua. She was an architect, she was involved a lot with a community projects and she had a strong opinions on the changes happening in the country. I guess when any of us is visiting a new place, we tend to accept what we see as a final result, as an absolute rule, as a stereotype. But when you interact with someone who lives in that place, you understand that the experience of the traveller is very subjective and contextualised. It is hard to see and feel the complexity of every country, and experience its advantages and disadvantages in full. That’s why, even though Managua to many people seems like a trash hole to avoid, spending 3 hours with an educated local opens your eyes on things.
The trash hole that we see 3 blocks away from the bus station is different from expensive rich areas, big shopping malls and western bars. Unemployed people we pass on the street is only exception, but we take it as rule. Nicaragua now is better than Nicaragua many years ago. The change doesn’t happen within a day, it takes time and generations and I think it is great when someone can prove you that.