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Superb Colombia!

Published on Friday 29 June 2012
 
 

Colombia is beautiful ! When I told my family and friends that I was off to Colombia, they all told me to be very cautious and to take care of myself… If they only knew !

I went to Medellin, a city that, in way too many movies, books and documentaries, has been presented as very tough and where drugs and violence are part of every day life. Yet, you can trust me, nothing is further from the truth these days.

Medellin holds his reputation from the sad and dark 80s and 90s, when Pablo Escobar terrorised the whole country. But, for me, it’s the new Colombia that I discovered a few months back, in perfect safety.

I went to the heart of a magnificent valley where the perfect weather is only equalled by the sheer beauty of the different landscapes, where you are greeted by kind and polite children like I saw nowhere else in any other trip. Medellin is the most scolarised city of Colombia. A city where fear and doubt were replaced with unity and pride thanks to investments in culture, education and infrastructure.

It is with a complete safety feeling that I walked through the streets of Medellin, without constantly having to look behind me as I did in many other south american countries.

The city is divided in six districts : the rich district is number 6 and the poorest district is number 1 ( even 0 for the favella ). I had no problem at all to go from one district to the other, without fear and with the same eagerness to discover a new part of Colombia where I was greeted like an old friend at each corner.

El Pobaldo ( Medellin’s old name ), well known for it’s diversity in clothing, it’s fashion and textiles, still divided between the rich south and the much more poor north, is a place that has to be seen. No burning sun or beaches here in the city called “ the city of eternal spring” . Weather here is perfect with immaculate surroundings.

It is a cable-car that gave Medellin’s north a second life. It is by riding this famous cable-car that one can truly understand how it contributed to the city’s reconstruction. By granting access to public transportation, to culture, to consideration and hope, to a less fortunate part of population, it literraly gave the city a second life.

I walked through the superb Arvi national park and also across the Botero plaza discovering a Colombia very different from the one mentionned in news bulletin. In fact, this Colombia:

 

Then, i went to Bogota, bordered by the majestic Andes Cordillera to the east.

Gold, emerald and silver mines all around the city. Bogota, Colombia’s capital, with it’s 8 millions people.

Immense and constantly moving, Bogota does not possess a metro or train service. We get around by bus in Bogota, which is a bit surprising for a city of that magnitude.

 

I rode the cable-car to get on top of Mount Monserrate, a sublime pilgrimmage site where the extent of the city can be admired, about 3200 meters above it. Breathless and a bit dizzy from the altitude, I climbeb up the stairs of the Montserrate church under a cold rain which did not prevent me from admiring the spectacular view.

In this cosmopolitan city where culture and education are fundamental values, it seemed to me, that after all that it been through, Bogota is finally enjoying life.

The Bolivar plaza which houses the cathedral and the president’s palace, the bohemian ( and very much my style ) Plaza de Chorro de Quevedo, the superb district of La Candelaria with it’s colonial historic center, and the popular areas T and G ( packed with restaurants, shops, bars and clubs ) all contribute to give the city an exciting breath of fresh air.

Bogota, with it’s unpredictable weather and it’s superb districts and people, made me fall in love with Colombia for the second time, having just dried my tears from my separation from Medellin.

In the colorful district of Usaquen, I walked along backalleys filled with multicoloured carpets where charming and smiling artists exhibited their creations.

Of course, I spent some colombian pesos at the suday market where, strangely enough, the large crowds did not spoil the quiet ambiance of this beautiful place.

On some streets corners, children held puppies in their arms, hoping to sell them to touched passers-by. A young bohemian artist gave to me a fabric bracelet that he had just braided himself. The district, as it’s people, was breathing freedom.

La Macarena is a district that looks a lot like me. Charmed by many countries from around the world, colorfoul and a bit “crazy’’, it’s a romantic and calm area that you have to discover hand in hand with the one you love. The small library-cafe at the corner of the main street would almost certainly become my headquarters if I was to decide to go and live in Bogota.

I could not possibly end this small travelogue without talking about my visit to the famous salt cathedral, a unique and totally magic site. Located at about 40 minutes from Bogota, in the city of Zipaquirà, this cathedral carved in the depths ( 120 meters ! ) of a salt mine, is both a touristic and a sacred place. The breathtaking light effects are almost as impressive as the immensity of the gigantic engravings, all made of salt, representing first the different stations of the cross and then, the three most important steps : the birth and baptism, the life and death and the ressurection of Christ. No need to be a religious believer to fully experience this unique and pure underground gem !

This Colombia that I discovered like a true novice, charmed me with it’s magnificient open-mindness, it’s warmth - not necessarily linked with the temperature - and the small urge of hope that seemed to blow off from each breath it took.

 

Blogger : Sarah-Emilie Nault

Editor : Véronique Leduc

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Blog: Superb Colombia!

Colombia is beautiful ! When I told my family and friends that I was off to Colombia, they all told me to be very cautious and to take care of myself… If they only knew ! ...