Manizales Book Festival: Week 235

Soma - Tyrannus Melancholicus - Screen Print from the Feria del Libro de Manizales

It was that time of year when ambitious students print up their zines, tastefully display their most shocking art, and try to earn a bit of beer money. It was time for the Feria del Libro de Manizales.

The Manizales Book Festival had its main installation on Santander Avenue, outside the Palogrande Campus of the University of Caldas. Along the large, white building were tents and book vendors from all the main bookshops in the city. In between those were stalls of secondhand and special interest books.

However, my favorite part of the book festival were the student stalls in the courtyard of the building. There were around 15 of these little cardboard stands filled with cleverly designed notebooks, buttons, and zines.

Buttons from Tyrannus Melancholicus - Found at the Feria del Libro de Manizales

The first purchase I made was a screen print of a burning car from a vendor named Tyrannus Melancholicus. I was kind of surprised that even though it was an original piece of art, it was still cheaper than a paperback book. The same designer also had a zine about bread and a corresponding collection of cute buttons.

Larva graphic anthology - Feria del Libro de Manizales

Another exciting discovery we made was of a publication called Larva. Barret had been wanting to find graphic novels in Spanish to practice reading, but the hardcover volumes we found were a bit too pricey to justify their purchase. Larva, however, was not only on sale but it was also a sample of some of the best comic artists in Latin America.

Notebook by La Libreteria Ediciones - Feria del Libro de Manizales

The last purchase I made was from a Medellín-based designer called La Libretería Ediciones. At first glance, the cover of the notebook appeared to be a watercolor of a very busy public square. Then I noticed the dead man leaking blood on the cobblestones while two soldiers looked on. I loved the contrast between the softness of the media and the actual content of the imagery.

I hadn’t bought nearly as many books as I had hoped to, but I did walk away with a lot of work by Colombian artists. And I count that as a definite success.

About: Feria del Libro de Manizales

About: Tyrannus Melancholicus

About La Libretería Ediciones:

About: Larva 

El Peñol de Guatapé: Week 230

View of the man made lakes and El Penol: Guatape, Colombia

The route between Manizales and Medellín winds heavily along rivers and mountain ridges. Despite the narrow shoulder, houses, restaurants, and truck stops cling to the entire route. It is a beautiful drive, but not one you are able to appreciate if you prone to suffer from carsickness.

At the South Terminal in Medellín we caught a taxi to the North Terminal and from there we caught a bus to Guatapé. In front of us was a small group of tourists from Britain. All three were dutifully planning their next move in their travel notebooks, but they had absolutely no idea when they needed to get off the bus. Their heads poked up like gophers anytime traffic slowed.

Town shield and zocalo detail: Guatape, Colombia

The bus station in Guatapé was right along the malecón. With the exception of the zipline, the land along the waterfront was undeveloped. Dirt footpaths led from the sidewalk down to the boat docks, which made a killing during their sunset outings. We bought some sausages from one of the numerous food carts and walked to the end of town and across a bridge to our hostel.

We had learned from out last excursion that it is important to have a reservation during a three-day weekend. The only problem, we soon discovered, was that our reservation was one of the multiple overbookings at the hostel. Knowing there would be nothing else available in town, the owner offered us a mattress in the reception area.

“And how much will that cost?” I crankily asked.

“Free!” He replied. “Qué pena.” How embarrassing.

Sleeping inside the hostel reception, Guatape, Colombia

The bed was narrow, but we were able to fit comfortably and just when we turned in for the night we heard a timid rat-a-tat-tat at the door. I opened my eyes and saw the silhouette of a group of people out the window. “Barret, please open the door for them.”

Barret tossed off the sheets and unlocked the door. Our bed received a few curious glances, but then the next thing Barret knew he was helping people tally their beer from the fridge at the foot of our bed.

Colorful plaza: Guatape, Colombia

The long journey was worth it though. The following morning, once the rain stopped, Barret and I went into town for breakfast. Not many people were awake, so we had the streets to ourselves and a soft morning light for taking photos.

Guatapé is famous for its zócalos, the decorative boards the skirt all of the buildings. While the origin of zócalos is Spanish, the people of Guatapé have made them uniquely Colombian. The images cover a range of topics from local political events to traditional clothing and food.

Detail of an Avianca Airlines zocalo: Guatape, Colombia

Cobblestone streets with zocalos: Guatape, Colombia

Even the buildings on the outskirts of town were decorated. If not with zócalos, then at least with bright colors.

House with a horse zocalo: Guatape, Colombia

Block of colorful apartments next to a red rock: Guatape, Colombia

Row of painted houses with zocalos: Guatape, Colombia

Ticket stub for Penon de Guatape: Guatape, Colombia

After eating, Barret and I headed to El Peñol (aka Peñon de Guatapé). It is a massive, 200 meter high rock that towers over a landscape of man-made lakes and is also the most popular tourist destination in the area. While Guatapé had been quiet, El Peñol was a thriving mass of day trippers from Medellín. It did not detract from the experience, but it did make the climb up the zigzagging stairs feel like rush hour traffic.

Stairs leading up to the top of El Penol: Guatape, Colombia


Religious souvenir keychain from El Penol: Guatape, Colombia

There are a few things I feel like I can always count on in Colombia. The first is an abundance of religious trinkets and the second is a plethora of food stalls. On the summit of El Peñol I had a cup of salpicón (fruit cocktail) while Barret drank a Colombian michelada- beer with lime juice and a salt-rimmed glass. Together we shared sliced green mangoes covered in lime and salt. The steep ascent made us appreciate our refreshments all the more because we knew everything was carried up by hand. The mango we were eating had beaten us to the top by about 20 minutes.

One of the beautifully decorated tuk tuks that run to El Penol: Guatape, Colombia

Returning to Guatapé the cost for the tuk tuk (mototaxi) doubled, so Barret and I decided to walk the overgrown footpath back into town. Once we arrived we continued through the backstreets, which were just as decorated as the center of town, and out into the country on the way to a Benedictine monastery. The road was very quiet and the country views were peaceful. Had it not been late in the day, we would have continued all the way to the monastery. However, our feet were tired, so we turned back for dinner.

The backstreets of Guatape, Colombia

The cobblestone streets of Guatape in the evening: Colombia

The streetlights flashed on in the evening and warmed the cobblestone streets of Guatapé. Barret and I ended the night at a restaurant called D’Luigi. We sat in the back courtyard, which was filled with the scent of homemade pizza, and sipped a sweet version of mulled wine. The evening was perfect and the best part was that we had a proper hostel room to go back to.

Souvenir magnet from El Penol: Guatape, Colombia

How to get to El Peñol: From Guatapé it is a 15 minute tuk tuk ride or a 45 minute walk.

How to get to Guatapé: Hourly buses run from the North Terminal in Medellín.

Decorative fountain in the heart of the town: Guatape, Colombia

Mi Tierra & The Botero Museum: Week 224

Entrance to Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Mi Tierra is reached via a long hall lined with vintage posters and punctuated with a neon sign. Unlike the bars on the other side of the church square, there was no one waiting outside to hustle you in. And unless you knew about the bar, the inability to see into the venue from the sidewalk might be a bit dissuasive.

Luckily Tiffany, one of my colleagues, was in the know. She rounded up a large group of people from our training program and we set out on foot for the Chapinero venue. It was about ten o’clock when we arrived only to discover a metal gate blocking the entrance. Our hearts sank.

Someone rattled the gate and called down the hall. A minute or two passed without a sign of movement and then we heard footsteps approaching. It was Arturo, the owner.

Mi amor,” he affectionately called out to Tiffany. “¿Cómo estás?

Stuffed dog decoration inside Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Of course the bar was open. Come in, come in. I wasn’t quite sure if they had opened up just for us, or if they just kept the gate closed when the venue wasn’t busy. It kind of seemed like in Bogotá, if there were enough people, anything could be reopened.

Interior of Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

During the day, Mi Tierra was an antique shop. There were no windows, so the musty smell of second hand goods filled the room. Some of the items were displayed while the rest were pushed aside to make space for the small dance floor and six tables. The most accessible items around the dance floor were wigs, hats, instruments, a wheelchair, and a small crocodile statue.

A crocodile statue and the dance floor at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Props and the dance floor at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Props and the dance floor at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Props and the dance floor at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

We sat down at the largest table, the one with a vintage hairdryer, and began ordering drinks. Many bars rush you to order, but it almost felt like it was an afterthought for Arturo. “Tranquila,” he advised me when I wasn’t sure what I wanted or even how to say it. Take it easy.

Ordering drinks at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

Out of nowhere a birthday cake appeared for Arturo’s partner. We all sang happy birthday in English and then in Spanish. After the candles were blown out, Arturo grabbed the microphone for a heartfelt serenade.

A birthday celebration at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

The fact that such a large group of foreigners were invited in for a small birthday celebration just goes to show how friendly everyone was. While I had met a lot of nice people so far, it was the first time I felt such a generous ‘welcome’ in Colombia. If I’m ever back in Bogotá, you know where I will be.

The bar at Mi Tierra: Bogotá, Colombia

On my last day in Bogotá, three colleagues and I went to the touristy neighborhood of La Candelaria. It is one of the most historic neighborhoods in the city and many of the buildings are beautifully preserved.

Our first stop was at the Plaza de Bolívar. It dates back to 1539 when it was first called the Plaza Mayor. Nowadays, it is a massive paved area that fronts the Catedral Primada and the Capitolio Nacional (Nation’s Capital). The plaza usually attracts more people on the weekend, but this Saturday it had two strikes against it: it was raining and Colombia was set to play that afternoon in the Copa América.

El Presidente, 1997: Botero Museum, Bogotá

El Presidente, 1997

Just down the street was the Botero Museum. It was founded in 2000 with the donation of 203 artworks from Fernando Botero himself. More than half of the art was his own work, while the rest was that of international artists like Calder and Bacon. Not only was it a priceless collection, but it was also free to the public.

Mujer delante de una ventana, 1990: Botero Museum, Bogotá

Mujer delante de una ventana, 1990

While the international art collection was great, I was really there for Botero. His inflated figures are both fascinating in form and grotesque for the greed they represent.  Their fleshy figures devour their clothing and their small eyes sink into their faces, like raisins in pudding.

I could have spent all day La Candelaria looking at national treasures. However, some of the most important Colombian things can’t be found in a museum; they can only be found on a big screen TV. It was time to head back to the hotel to watch the Copa América.

Guerrilla de Eliseo Velásquez, 1988: Botero Museum, Bogotá

Guerrilla de Eliseo Velásquez, 1988

How to get to Mi Tierra: Calle 63 #11-47 (In front of Parque Lourdes), Chapinero, Bogotá

How to get to the Botero Museum: Calle 11 #4-41, Bogotá

Hombre con Perro: Botero Museum, Bogotá

Hombre con Perro, 1989

Laneway Learning: Week 218

Making sock puppets at Laneway Learning: Sydney, Australia

Laneway Learning is a series of informal classes that usually take place in bars. The one-off classes cover a variety of topics from floral arrangements to playing the ukulele. On Monday evening my friend and I slipped into the Duck Inn, the subject of the night was sock puppets.

We arrived early and took a seat at the bar to order dinner. I realized I was really going to enjoy the evening when I noticed that the customer to our right was a dark grey cat named Neko. He was daintily perched on the bar stool and coolly indifferent to the goings on around him.

By the time we finished dinner, the sock puppet hosts had set up all the materials- fabric, scissors, googly eyes, yarn, embroidery thread, and glue guns. When the lesson began, there were about 20 attendees. The cool autumnal weather permeated the windows next to the work tables, so Emma and I bought two glasses of hot mulled wine and got down to work.

My purple and black striped sock slowly took on a masculine persona that was something between a pirate and a librarian. Emma’s pink and white striped sock was definitely female and had a fluffy pink mane.

Towards the end of the night the room smelled like glue guns and burnt hair. Neko had roused out of his stupor to investigate the activity and in doing so had brushed his tail against a lit candle. Luckily he had emerged unscathed and everyone else left that night with an interesting Tuesday morning conversation starter for the office.

About: Laneway Learning

The Finders Keepers Markets: Week 217

Finders Keepers Market Autumn/Winter 2015: Sydney, Australia

The Finders Keepers is a super hip craft fair that takes places twice a year inside the Australian Technology Park in Sydney. It is pretty much Etsy in flesh and bones and it draws quite a large crowd. The hall was originally a locomotive workshop, so it definitely lends a shabby chic atmosphere to the markets.

Barret and I paid a small donation to enter the event center and we were immediately swept away by the crowd. There was everything from clothing to candles in the shape of doll heads that, when burned, exposed a waxy pink brain.

The Finders Keepers Market- You Me & Bones Candles: Sydney, Australia

My guilty pleasure at craft fairs is quality ceramics and the best products I found were at a small booth called Skimming Stones. The artist who designed the collection of six plates worked in collaboration with a Japanese ceramic company named Kihara.

Skimming Stones plates at The Finders Keepers markets: Sydney, Australia

The result was an interesting fusion of Australiana with the traditional blue and white colors of Arita pottery. Barret and I couldn’t resist a plate with the kookaburra. They are very cheeky birds that sound like monkeys and one once stole the food right out of Barret’s mouth.

The Finders Keepers Markets - Fluffe Cotton Candy: Sydney, Australia

The queues for the food trucks were very long, so I made the sensible decision to buy a piña colada flavored cotton candy with a pink umbrella. Later on, while Barret was distracted, I made another sensible decision to buy a ceramic necklace in the shape of a giant piece of macaroni.

Flower vendor at The Finders Keepers market: Sydney, Australia

There was so much to see that it took us just under two hours to visit only half of the booths. I was also trying to photograph all of the cute stuff I saw, but it wasn’t easy with the crowds.

Bowtie vendor at The Finders Keepers market: Sydney, Australia

Towards the exit, and a few stalls down from a Polaroid booth, Barret and I found screen printed tea towels. At this point we were running low on cash, but we scraped up enough for two. One had Sydney scenes and the other had sketches of terrace homes. I had a sinking suspicion that our luggage was going to be overweight, but it was definitely worth it.

Vendor business cards at The Finders Keepers markets: Sydney, Australia

About: The Finders Keepers

About: You, Me & Bones candles

About: Skimming Stones plates

About: Fluffe cotton candy

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