Santa Fe de Antioquia

Santa-Fe-de-Antioquia-Back-view-of-the-Cathedral

During a three-day weekend, the nothern bus terminal in Medellín is packed with tourists. When I saw the crowds lining up for tickets, I almost turned around and headed back to the metro. The only reason I didn’t was that I had no alternate plan for the day.

Thankfully most people were trying to get to Guatapé, which is in the opposite direction, so I only waited 45 minutes for my bus departure. The hour-long drive to Santa Fe de Antioquia is lined with fincas and water parks. Whenever I start to see these, I realize that the weather is going to be hotter than anticipated.

Puente-de-Occidente

Although Santa Fe de Antioquia was founded in 1541, the most iconic construction only dates back to 1895. Puente Occidente is a wooden suspension bridge which spans the río Cauca. It has a very delicate design with two walkways framing a small one-way road that is alternately shared by traffic.

The bridge used to be a very important transportation link but nowadays it’s a tourist attraction best enjoyed with a beer. At least that’s what my driver recommended.

Santa-Fe-de-Antioquia-Plaza

Because of the three-day weekend, the main plaza was filled with people, food, and souvenirs. I ate lunch on a shady balcony overlooking the tent-filled plaza before heading to the Museo Juan del Corral. It had a little bit of everything relating to colonial life.

Museo-Juan-de-Corral-Courtyard

The most famous item there is the table where the Independence Act was signed in 1813. My favorite pieces were the wrought iron portraits of the heroes of independence.

Santa-Fe-de-Antioquia-Side-View-of-Cathedral

Down the road is the Museo de Arte Religioso and across from that is an artisanal ice cream shop. Both are worth a visit. The two-level museum is located inside a very pretty building and the upstairs has a nice view of the cathedral.

Museo-de-Arte-Religiosa-Courtyard

Museo-de-Arte-Religioso-Tapestry

Santa Fe de Antioquia is a pretty place to visit if you are around Medellín. The best way to enjoy it would be to stay on a nearby finca for a few days to soak up the sun, cool off in a pool, and then head to the plaza in the evening for food and music. Maybe it’s a conspiracy, but I’m pretty sure the livliest bars are always the ones closest to the cathedral.

Santa-Fe-de-Antioquia-Plaza-with-Horse

About Santa Fe de Antioquia: $14,000 pesos from Medellín on Transportes Gómez Hernández

About Puente Occidente: 4km outside the pueblo and is best accessed by a mototaxi. The set rate is $15,000 pesos for a return trip and 30 minutes at the bridge.

About Museo Juan del Corral: Calle 11 No. 9-77, free entrance

About Museo de Arte Religioso: Calle 11 No. 8-12, $3,000 peso entrance

Advertisements

The Colonial Pueblo of Jardín

Jardin-Plaza-Fountain-Colombia

Jardín is a small pueblo in the department of Antioquia. It is popular because of its cobblestone plaza filled with roses. In the evening a light breeze cooled the plaza and knocked yellow flowers off a tall tree. For dinner I ordered a kebab and an arepa de choclo and sat down at a small table painted with diamonds.

Jardin-Plaza-Seating-Colombia-2

Shortly after sitting down, a woman briskly walked over to the table in front of me and began setting up bowls. She filled them with food and soon enough a hoard of stray dogs wandered over. She chastised the one dog that wouldn’t stop barking, but repented and gently called him ‘Mi alma’.

Jardin-Plaza-Seating-Colombia

In the morning I walked across the plaza to the local museum where a petite man in his late 50s gave me a tour. His wrote his full name on the back of my map, but told me to call him Saga. He had an egg-shaped head and red-rimmed eyes.

Saga was more concerned about the photos I was taking than the actual content of the tour. He directed the camera, moved me, and finally demanded my camera when we made it to the courtyard. He steadfastly believed I needed photos of myself with the flowers. However, for all the interest he showed, every single photo of me came out blurry.

Jardin-Museum-Courtyard-Stephanie

At the end of the tour I dropped a 2,000 peso tip in a wooden box. Saga immediately asked me to join him for a coffee. We sat at a little table in the plaza and he told me he was originally from a vereda three hours away. He also thought Spanish was the hardest language in the world. That was not the first time I’d heard that from a Spanish speaker.

Jardin-Dulces-de-Jardin-Dessert

Afterwards, I strolled around the pueblo and stopped for a treat at a cafe called Dulces de Jardín. The wall behind the counter was stacked with jars of arequipe. I bought a banana arequipe and a cup of yogurt. The dining area was flooded with natural light and surrounded by hanging plants.

Jardin-Mazamorra-Wall-Painting

The cable car wasn’t operating, so I walked over to La Garrucha for the funicular. It was a little slatted cattle car that left every hour on the half hour. It cost 5,000 pesos for the round trip ticket. Inside were two opposing wooden benches and the whole thing bounced when I boarded it. We closed ourselves in with a small padlock.

Jardin-Funicular-Colombia

There was a trail that led back down, but I decided to enjoy a pintado and the view for an hour. I spoke with one woman about Colombian authors and just as I was leaving a 70-year-old man asked if I could help him for a second. I had wanted to pay for the coffee, but he whipped out an English worksheet with a ‘que pena’ and placed it in front of me.

We spent the next half hour matching job titles while the funicular rattled up and down the valley on two metal wires. Normally I am very uninterested in giving English lessons, but he was such a sweetheart and he insisted on paying for my coffee. I’m a sucker for old people and pintados.

Jardin-View

How to get to Jardín: from the terminal in Manizales, catch a bus to La Pintada and then purchase another ticket from there to Jardín. Total travel time is about 3.5 hours.

 

 

 

 

Semana Santa & Coffee Fincas in Salamina: Week 263

View from the cemetery in Salamina, Colombia

My second trip to Salamina was actually the very last trip for The Lustrum Project. I can’t believe how quickly the last five years have passed!

Ever since my first visit I’d wanted to return. So when a friend came to town, it was the perfect opportunity to show her a part of Colombia that wasn’t exactly frozen in time but also wasn’t in a hurry to change.

The old lady who sits outside the cemetery with a cat on the end of a string was still there. It was an odd day to relax though, given the wailing of a funeral party on the other side of the wall.

At the back of an artisanal shop was the wool blanket I didn’t buy the first time round. Its plastic sheath was quite dusty.

Wall of records inside the town museum in Salamina, Colombia

Near the cathedral was a museum that displayed the history of the town and old-objects-in-general. While the information wasn’t entirely precise and the items weren’t exactly relevant, the stories were the best.

Photo of an old Catholic priest in the town museum in Salamina, Colombia

On one wall was a portrait of an unsmiling priest. He had maintained a muladar, a separate cemetery for sinners, until his brother was involved in unsavory business. Shortly after that revelation everyone could suddenly be buried in the same location.

A few frames over were collages of ‘typical Salamina people’. The photos were yellowed and each person had their nickname pasted on the photo. Siete Culos had the town’s biggest butt and the most demure stance. It was impossible to tell if he lived up to his reputation.

Photo of the local drunk in the town museum in Salamina, Colombia

The town drunk, Media Vida, had disappeared during turbulent times. Eddy, the caretaker, suggested he was most likely the victim of armed conflict.

Around 6pm Eddy’s wife called. When he answered the phone he said, “Mi Reina, there are a lot of people today!” Eddy had opened the museum especially for us and I had noticed before we left that we were the only two people to sign the guest book in the last three days.

Inner courtyard at Casa Carola B&B in Salamina, Colombia

I usually pick the cheapest hotel or hostel I can find, but my friend and I decided to upgrade for our girls weekend. Casa Carola was definitely worth it. The beautiful old building had been in owner’s family for generations and he had lovingly turned it into a chic bed and breakfast.

Inner courtyard at Casa Carola B&B in Salamina, Colombia

The gardens were lush and Salamina has the perfect weather for sipping tropical juices in the courtyard. A wall of traditional woodwork marked the entrance between the courtyard and the dining room.

Inner courtyard at Casa Carola B&B in Salamina, Colombia

The living room on the other side of the building was papered in a bold print and peppered with cracks. Antique chairs were set in a circle on a plush rug. It was the perfect location to unwind with a bottle of wine or crack open one of the many coffee table books lying around.

Wallpapered living room at Casa Carola B&B in Salamina, Colombia

Semana Santa is a full week of Easter celebrations in Colombia. Most towns hold different processions and we were lucky enough to catch the Procession de las Ramas on Palm Sunday.

Semana Santa Palm Sunday procession in Salamina, Colombia

Semana Santa Palm Sunday procession in Salamina, Colombia

The plaza was filled with school bands and students. The boys anchored small sprigs in the waistband of their pants. All of the Virgins had purple robes and gold shoes.

Semana Santa Palm Sunday procession in Salamina, Colombia

I must be getting older because I noticed that none of the band students had ear protection.

Semana Santa Palm Sunday procession in Salamina, Colombia

After the procession we went on a tour with Don Carlos, my long-lost blue-eyed Colombian relative and owner of Finca La Irlanda. We drove up to his finca, which unraveled over the steep slopes of a mountain, and began the afternoon with a cup of coffee sweetened with panela.

Where coffee beans dry at Finca La Irlanda in Salamina, Colombia

Don Carlos walked us through the process of being Nespresso AAA certified and the life cycle of a coffee plant. While the landscape was beautiful, I couldn’t help but imagine how much work it must have been to cart that ruby-red fruit up the slopes.

Compost pile at Finca La Irlanda in Salamina, Colombia

View of the coffee growing landscape from Finca La Irlanda in Salamina, Colombia

After the tour we were dropped off at a small vereda where a little boy entertained us with a tablet full of Shakira videos. We switched jeeps in La Merced and met a woman who had recently bought a fruit farm. She pointed the gate out to us when she disembarked and invited us to spend the night the next time we passed through.

It feels very clichéd to write about how warm and welcoming people are in Colombia, but it’s something I continually encounter. The country is rapidly modernizing, but there are still many charming places with old-world hospitality. Salamina is just one example, but it’s my personal favorite.

Semana Santa procession on Palm Sunday in Salamina, Colombia

About: Casa Carola B&B and the coffee plantation tour

El Dorado: Week 259

Gold artifacts on display at the Museo del Oro: Bogota, Colombia

The legend of El Dorado originated an hour and a half north of Bogota. Many explorers lost their lives in search of wealth beyond all measure; I caught a bus with tasseled curtains for 8,000 pesos. What difference a few hundred years makes.

The indigenous Muisca believed that gold was the vital energy of the Sun Father while lakes were the womb of the Earth Mother. By offering gold to Lake Guatavita they were ensuring the continuity of life and maintaining equilibrium.

One of the best accounts of the ‘El Dorado’ ceremony was published in 1636 by Juan Rodriguez Freyle. While his original account is available online in Spanish, the BBC has a more succinct summary.

Gold 'El Dorado' ceremony raft on display at the Museo del Oro: Bogota, Colombia

“When a leader died within Muisca society the process of succession for the chosen ‘golden one’ would unfold. The selected new leader of the community, commonly the nephew of the previous chief, would go through a long initiation process culminating in the final act of paddling out on a raft onto a sacred lake, such as Lake Guatavita in Central Colombia.

Surrounded by the four highest priests adorned with feathers, gold crowns and body ornaments, the leader, naked but for a covering of gold dust, would set out to make an offering of gold objects, emeralds and other precious objects to the gods by throwing them into the lake.

The shores of the circular lake were filled with richly adorned spectators playing musical instruments and burning fires that almost blocked out the daylight from this crucible-like lake basin. The raft itself had four burning fires on it throwing up plumes of incense into the sky.

When at the very centre of the lake, the priest would raise a flag to draw silence from the crowd. This moment would mark the point at which the crowds would commit allegiance to their new leader by shouting their approval from the lakeshore.”

Gold human-shaped poporo artifact on display at the Museo del Oro: Bogota, Colombia

The Spanish, or any other explorers for that matter, were obsessed with El Dorado. The more gold they ‘casually saw’ in the villages, the stronger they believed that El Dorado was the secret stash house of immeasurable wealth.

After all, if I was impressed by the collection at the Museo del Oro in Bogotá (which are the artifacts that weren’t melted and exported), imagine what the Europeans came across!

Although the Legend of El Dorado also came to represent a mythical golden city, the Spanish did eventually locate and try to drain Lake Guatavita in 1545. Gold was found along the bank but they never reached the supposed wealth in the middle of the lake.

Jaguar-influenced pottery on display at the Museo del Oro: Bogota, Colombia

Unfortunately, when Jess and I were nearing Lake Guatavita, the bus conductor told us we would not be able to visit. Even if we hadn’t seen the white smoke billowing off the surrounding hills it would’ve been impossible to avoid the acrid scent. Local fires combined with pollution meant the lake was temporarily closed for tourism.

Public plaza at Guatavita: near Bogota, Colombia

Suddenly without a destination we decided to visit the nearest town, which was named Guatavita. It was built in 1967 when the old town was intentionally flooded during the construction of a reservoir.

The moment Jess and I stepped into the plaza, I felt like I’d gone back in time or at least like I had walked into my friend’s 1970s condo before she remodeled it. Guatavita was not the historical town I was expecting; it was a quiet, faux-colonial master planned community.

Just off the main plaza was a small two-story museum about Lake Guatavita and the history of the town. There were a few market stalls, a big dessert stall, several restaurants, a dark church, and a bullfighting ring.

Inside the Catholic church at Guatavita: near Bogota, Colombia

City map on display at the local museum in Guatavita: near Bogota, Colombia

Wooden door of a public theater in Guatavita: near Bogota, Colombia

Instead of Lake Guatavita I saw the Tominé Reservoir. While historically less important, it had a pretty view and it was a short stroll away from hot coffee and a cup of strawberries and cream. That was as close to gold as we were going to get.

Tomine Reservoir next to Guatavita: near Bogota, Colombia

How to get to the Museo del Oro: Carerra 6A and Calle 16, Bogotá

How to get to Guatavita: Catch a Transmilenio Bus to Portal del Norte Station (you will need to purchase a fair card). At the station, transfer to the ‘Buses Intermunicipales’ platform and catch a bus to Guatavita. If Lake Guatavita is open, ask to conductor to drop you off at the entrance. It is a two hour walk between the lake and Guatavita.

About: El Dorado

Quindío Botanic Garden: Week 256

Aerial view of the butterfly garden at the Quindio Botanic Garden: Calarca, Colombia

The butterfly-shaped mariposario is the most iconic building at the Quindío Botanic Garden, but it is just one of many sights to see. The 10 hectares of subandean forest is located in Calarcá and is easily reached by bus or taxi from the bus terminal in Armenia.

It’s not possible to walk through the gardens on your own as several of the buildings are only accessible with a guide. Therefore, the 20,000 peso entrance fee includes a 2.5 hour guided tour.

We began in the palm garden where Laura, our guide, pointed out several native palms and their uses. One had a tangle of above-ground roots that she said were perfect for catching unfaithful men in the night.

Mother-in-Law's Hug parasitic tree at the Quindio Botanic Garden: Calarca, Colombia

Another tree on the tour was predatory and grew around an established tree until it smothered it and cut off its nutrient access. After Laura pointed out the dead trunk squished in the middle, like a layer of cake frosting, she laughed. “I don’t know why, but it’s also called mother-in-law’s hug.” (abrazo de suegra)

Suspension bride at the Quindio Botanic Garden: Calarca, Colombia

On that note, we crossed a suspension bridge to a viewing hut behind a two-way mirror. We saw a humming bird singing, another one fighting itself in the mirror, and a small mammal whose name I promptly forgot. Colombia is celebrated for the diversity of its bird life. So while there were many signs with bird names, the furry little vertebrates don’t often get a mention.

Small vertebrate at the Quindio Botanic Garden: Calarca, Colombia

We went back over the bridge and climbed up an observation tower. It was a nice view, but I could feel the structure sway quite a bit at the top and that was when I decided it was a good time to make haste.

Learning center and cafe at the Quindio Botanic Garden: Calarca, Colombia

There were two coffee shops at the botanic gardens. One was at the entrance and the other was by the bathroom and learning center. There were interesting displays on palm fiber art and a cactus garden with hummingbird feeders.

Palm root chairs at the Quindio Botanic Garden: Calarca, Colombia

I also saw an interesting sort of organic chair that is made after a palm tree has been cut down. The remaining stump and roots are pulled out of the earth and resemble, on their own accord, the kind of chair that Beetlejuice would have liked.

After a short break, we learned about a civil engineering project that is connecting two sides of the Cordillera Mountains. Then we wound our way into an insect display where Laura pointed out a type of ant that was traditionally used for punishments. Imagine putting on gloves filled venomous ants!

Butterfly garden at the Quindio Botanic Garden: Calarca, Colombia

The very last stop on the tour was the butterfly enclosure. Two professional photographers followed us around and took photos that were later displayed when we returned to the info center. I was terrible at convincing butterflies to rest on my finger, but one of the photographers rounded one up and stuck it on my nose.

Photographer inside the butterfly garden at the Quindio Botanic Garden: Calarca, Colombia

Most people probably consider the mariposario to be the highlight of the Quindío Botanic Garden, but for me it was the tour itself. The guides were friendly, the information was interesting, and it was great for Spanish practice too.

About: Quindío Botanic Garden

Close up texture of a spiky palm tree at Quindio Botanic Garden: Calarca, Colombia

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: