ARGENTINA – from sweltering heat to eternal ice.

How do you choose your travel destination? Do you have a list of dream countries? A bucket list that you are working off?

As for me, my list consists of every country on planet earth. I don’t have dream destinations. There are a couple of countries that I think of visiting. But mostly, I decide on where to go rather spontaneously. It can be really silly things that lead my steps.

What was it that brought me to Argentina then?

Well, I was standing on the Brazilian side of the powerful waterfalls of Iguazu. Looking across the border, I thought to myself “Argentina – why not making Argentina one of my next trips?!”

A couple of week later, there was a photo of those impressive walls of eternal ice in Patagonia on the facebook-timeline of a friend. That moment, I knew where to next: Argentina.

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PUERTO MADRYN – all about whales and wales

As much as I enjoy road trips, getting off the bus at yet another terminal, looking for accommodation, exploring new surroundings – it gets tiresome. Therefore, towards the end of a road trip, I’m looking forward to spending a couple of days in a beach destination. Somewhere I can lay on the beach, reading a nice book – or just napping.

Patagonian sea lion on the Valdes Peninsula close to Puerto Madryn
Between beach days, you get to see fascinating creatures in the surroundings of Puerto Madryn.

In Argentina, I’d chosen Puerto Madryn for this purpose. A beach town on the northern coast of Patagonia, famous for whales in the waters and migrants from Wales on the shores.

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PUERTO SANTA CRUZ – the forgotten capital

Travelling along the endless Argentine Atlantic coast, Puerto Santa Cruz is a perfect spot for a stopover.

Monument at the easternmost Punta Reparo, remembers the landing of Commodore Luis Py's Naval Squadron in defense Argentina against Chile in 1878.
Santa Cruz’ glory might be a bit forgotten, however, but it’s still very far from sinking.
This monument, located at the easternmost Punta Reparo, remembers the landing of Commodore Luis Py’s Naval Squadron in defense of Argentina against Chile in 1878.

Actually, Patagonia’s former capital is so serene and pleasant that, for a while, you might forget travelling on.

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EL CALAFATE & EL CHALTEN – Argentina’s Winter Wonderland

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine posted a photo on her facebook-timeline: A small boat floating on a light turquoise lake in front of a high wall of ice.

Couple taking pictures of the Perito Moreno Glacier close to El Calafate in Patagonia, Argentina
…and this is only a fraction of the gigantic glacier Perito Moreno!

What a mesmerizing sight!
It just sucked me in.
Just looking at this picture, I felt the cold crawling up my spine. I was convinced I could see my breath if I exhaled.
This place must be a mysterious place, a world of its own, governed by some beautiful, chilled ice-queen.

It was the National Park Los Glaciares in southern Patagonia.

I had to see this place for myself. As soon as possible.

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LOS ANTIGUOS – borderline serenity

Argentina is Latin America’s second-largest country and shares with Chile one of the world’s longest international borders. From North to South, those two countries snuggle on about 5,300 kilometers!

Lago Buenos Aires at sunset in Los Antiguos
The sun is tenderly setting over Lago Buenos Aires.

Unless you are flying, these dimensions can make travelling a bit challenging. Routes can be very long, trips of about 15 hours are not unusual.

An invitation to include some stops – for instance in the border-town of Los Antiguos.

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BARILOCHE – a Swiss Vacation on the Opposite Side of the Globe

Dramatically jagged mountains, covered by a picturesque layer of eternal snow overtowering fir-covered hills.
Trouts jumping in ice-cold turquoise waters of glacier lakes, rivers, and creeks.

Renata Green standing on the shore of Lago Puelo close to El Bolson
Embracing Beauty!

Not Swiss enough?
Well, the town of San Carlos de Bariloche cranks it up a notch by manufacturing some of the world’s best artisan chocolate and making you pose with a Saint Bernard dog – including the small barrel of rum around the neck; his neck, not yours.

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BUENOS AIRES – from the must-sees to the hidden gems

Buenos Aires and me – it was love at first sight. The stately baroque architecture like in Madrid, the elegant cafés – even a bit more charming than those in Paris. Old fashioned gelato parlors like in Rome. The powerful street art of Bogotá next to the picturesque decay of old Havana.

This city simply has it all.

Couple dancing Tango at the Cafe Tortoni in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tango – that’s what Buenos Aires stands for. But it’s only a fraction of what Argentina’s capital has to offer.

The beauty and energy of Buenos Aires took me by storm – and was definitely the highlight of my first trip to Argentina.

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Guide to CALI – And a Day Trip to Paradisiac Haciendas

Being my next stop after Bogotá, it was hard for Cali to score. Especially since the city isn’t that charming no matter what was your previous destination.

Cali prides itself to be the Salsa capital of the world (Their words – sorry, Cuba).
Where others need an entire troop of musicians, this gentleman rocks the street all bye:himself.

One of the best things I did in Cali was…staying in my hotel room. We are booked into a huge room on the 19th floor at the Torre de Cali Plaza Hotel overlooking the whole city.
¡Espectacular!

Room with a view by day…

Especially at night it seems that you are flying over the illuminated place.

…and by night.

Being a traveller, you are expected to leave your room from time to time, so we walked the city which didn’t struck me as particularly striking. There is the Plaza de Cayzedo, but otherwise the center consists mainly of plain finance and business buildings overshadowing a teeny tiny colonial area.

One of Cali’s main attractions is the Parque de los gatos where the visitor is greeted by Hernando Tejada’s “gato del rio”, and local and foreign artists painted about 15 cats to their liking. It’s pretty, but there are the BuddyBears in Berlin designed in the same fashion, there is the worldwide cow parade, lions in Munich and Hamburg’s symbolic “Hummel” – all painted by artists…to cut a long story short: The idea is far from being new and original.

Hernando Tejada: “El gato del rio”…
…and the rest of the catty gang. 

In cities it’s always all about views, and Cali is quite mountainous. The problem with mountains is you have to climb them. And – after four days freezing in Bogotá, I say this joyfully – in Cali it’s hot. Climbing in the noonish heat is sweat breaking. Hence it’s disappointing when you reach the top and the city still doesn’t look any prettier.

This is Sebastián de Belalcázar, one of the pleasant guys who conquered South America.

After climbing uphill and downhill a couple of times, we’ve had it and decided to pay Cristo Rey a visit. This Christ is overlooking Cali and prides himself being only 12 meters shorter than the one in Rio. Hm, I personally find 12 meters a lot. Anyway, we got on one of these busses I always thought existed only in clay and miniature size. But no, they are real, and passangers and goods are actually stacked according to the clay miniature models.

The bus ride is a truly Colombian experience and great fun, but it doesn’t bring you all the way up to Christ. The last 1.5 miles you’re on your own hiking uphill – in our case at 1 p.m. sweating and swearing. No wonder the construction worker at the site we passed presumed we were German. I hardly see any other nation walking uphill in the blistering sun around noon in South America.

Close to Thee. In cooperation with the sun, I even made Cristo Rey a halo.

Hacienda El Paraíso and Hacienda Piedechinche

To reach two ancient Haciendas from Cali is easy. It’s easy and it’s cheap, but it’s neither very comfortable nor fast since you take one of these public busses where the driver stops abruptly as soon as he spots a human being of any kind so that the conductor can scream and shout and advertise the final destination. Then the new passanger is squeezed into the bus, and off we go – till the driver breaks again because of a potential passanger who often isn’t one.
After about an hour you reach a ‘cruze’ at the town of Amaime where cabs are waiting to drive guests through a tree lined avenue along sugar cane and lush pastures. In front of the backdrop of the picturesque mountains tropical birds are overflying the sumptuous landscape – no wonder the first Hacienda’s name is “El Paraíso”. But the locals call it also “Hacienda María”, and María is the main reason people are visiting this place. The owner’s son Jorge Isaacs wrote the semi-biographic, hyper-romantic novel “María” in 1867 and since then every Colombian student had to cry over María’s death at the tender age of 18 from a broken heart. So every detail of the former Hacienda and all explanations during the tour are wrapped around sappy María.
Nevertheless, the Hacienda is worth the visit because the 200 years old building is beautiful, and the views are breathtaking.

View from Hacienda El Paraíso.
Patio of Hacienda El Paraíso – including María’s Roses. 

More complete is the visit to Hacienda Piedechinche, about five miles from El Paraíso. The building is older and it has no romantic story to it. Just a couple that had 16 kids who were mainly raised in boarding schools in the city (boys) and in cloisters (girls). These good people, too, made their fortune from sugar cane and abusing slaves; during neither tour was this fun fact emphasized, though.

What makes Piedechinche more special to me is the magnificent garden with numberless flowers and trees. It’s like being Gulliver in the land of giants – overtowered by humongous cactusses, farns, fan tree palms…you name it.

Hacienda Piedechinche 

I must say I liked both places a lot, and if someone insists on giving me a Hacienda for a weekend home, I will gracefully accept the favor.

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Cali, probably the hottest Salsa hotspots outside of Cuba, has tourism-wise not much more to offer than its nightlife.

Hernando Tejada's El Gato del Rio. The cat park is one of Cali's must-see places.

Hernando Tejada’s El Gato del Rio. The cat park is one of Cali’s must-see places.

But before you leave again, don’t miss out on a visit to the truly enchanting haciendas El Paraíso and Piedechinche. These two farms were transformed into beautiful museums showing how life used to be for the privileged Latin American land barons. Living la vida telenovela.

 

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SALENTO: Fifty Shades of Green

With this title I’m only trying to lure you into reading this chapter. In reality there are millions shades of green here in Salento. Before creating this place, God must have had a good night sleep and in the morning his favourite breakfast. And then he tossed countless trees and bushes and flowers on majestic mountains and created a paradise outside of paradise.

Sunrise over Quindio.
(Caspar David Friedrich was a wimp.)

After finishing his work, God felt a bit tired, therefore he quickly invented coffee plants of the highest quality and added them to this region that we call Quindio. It is Colombia’s smallest departamento and its coffee region.

The other man’s mountains are definitely greener. 
Coffee cherries 

Then good people came and constructed a chess board of cute little houses, and since they were in such a good mood being in this rich and lush environment and animated by their third cup of coffee, they painted them in bright colors. And they gave the place the Italian name Salento, because Italian is world’s most beautiful language, and this place deserves only the most beautiful.

Salento’s busy high street carrera 3
Salento by night
In Salento, food is synonymous to trout. At every restaurant you can order about five types of preparation; there are even trout burgers.
This one here is “trucha dorada” with “patacon gigante”, a giant chip made of green plantain. 

As things go, pretty attracts tourists, consequently there are packs of backpackers occupying the small place, and many shops and restaurants jumped on this global fusion-vegan-yoga-bandwagon. As a side effect, local people are much less friendly than in other places. Because, have I told you that Colombians are the most polite and friendliest people ever? Because they are. They are warm and welcoming and sweet.
Another very traveller friendly custom is that they don’t cheat, take advantage, try to sell you everything or talk you into something. Having been to quite many other places where people are also very friendly so they screw you over with a smile, I really love Colombian vendors, cab drivers, bus conductors, receptionists – basically everybody I had to deal with by now.

Valle de Cocora
(It looks so mushy ’cause it’s way up in the clouds)

For obvious reason, activities around Salento are all about nature: hiking, horse back riding, more hiking, swimming at a waterfall, hiking uphill, hiking downhill, and when you’re tired, there’s still hitch hiking.

The most unique and superb part is the Valle de Cocora located about 7.5 miles from Salento. Once you get there, there are several trails through the jungle that are not designed for couch potatoes. Because they are not designed at all. You have to climb over rocks and roots, wade through mud and horse dropping (because couch potatoes can do most part of the track riding), cross improvised bridges and climb pretty steep parts.

Creek Crossing 

Almost halfway up you can make a rest at an enchanting hummingbird reserve containing different species of hummingbirds as well as other birds and wildlife. That sounds cozy but the detour up to the reserve was for me the hardest part. Finally reaching there I was soaked in sweat and freezing in my sopping wet shirt once I cooled down a bit. Nevertheless the short break is refreshing before the last bit of mountaineering.

Going downhill you are rewarded for all the hardship by fantastic views of the Valley: On a bright green velvet grass carpet stand hundreds of wax palms that grow to a height of 150 to 200 ft. And since they grow only in the Andes of Colombia (and a small part of Peru), they are named after the region Quindio “Ceroxylon Quindiuense”. A majestic name for a majestic tree.

Green on Green 
On the serpentines around Salento Willy-Jeeps are the most common, comfortable and fun way to get around – and to school.

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Salento, nestled in the coffee mountains of Quindío, is the epitome of Colombian life: A small town with little houses painted in all the colors the hardware store had available.

The lucky people of Salento are spending their life right in a picture postcard.

Surrounded by rolling hills and rough mountains, lush greeneries watered by creeks and waterfalls – and coffee, lots and lots of coffee.

There’s a bus going every hour from Cali to Armenia and from there you take a minibus to Salento in the Quindío, Colombia’s smallest departamento and main coffee region.

If you’re coming from Medellín, there might be a direct shuttle to Salento  – since we were able to do it the other way around.

Salento is a very charming small town and especially the main square and Carrera 6 are extremely well maintained.

The houses are nicely painted everywhere in Salento – hence on Carrera 6, they are even a bit more colorful.
Doors and windows in bold colors.

As things go, pretty attracts tourists, consequently, there are packs of backpackers occupying the small place, and many shops and restaurants jumped on this global fusion-vegan-yoga-bandwagon. On the upside, there is an excellent infrastructure, many small shops, a small supermarket, banks, and ATMs.

If you don’t want to walk, there is always horseback riding. 
Anyway, for obvious reason, the main activities are taking place outside of Salento and are all about nature: hiking, horseback riding, more hiking, swimming at a waterfall, hiking uphill, hiking downhill, and when you’re tired, there’s still hitchhiking.

On the serpentines around Salento Willy-Jeeps are the most common, comfortable and fun way to get around – and to school.

A hike to the coffee fincas can be taken guided or individually. I honestly don’t see a reason what you need a guide for since you can’t get lost – it’s one road: Leave town to the southwest on Carrera #5 and keep walking.

Sumptuous bushes and trees as far as the eye can see.

 At the fincas, you get a guided tour and can buy coffee. We stopped after about one hour at the first one called Las Acacias which proved to be the smallest and best one. The others we checked had bigger groups and the coffee there was more expensive.

Coffee cherries. 

The most unique and superb part is the Valle de Cocora located about 7.5 miles from Salento. There are jeeps leaving from the main square taking you to the parking lot of the Valle.

Plaza de Bolívar with the church Nuestra Señora del Carmen.

From here, you can either just see the majestic fields of wax palms and do a short stroll.
Or you hike the whole tour that takes about five hours. If you’re not a big sports(wo)man, it might be a bit hard, but it’s absolutely doable and totally worth it.

Green, green grass of….Salento.

There are several trails through the jungle that are not designed for couch potatoes – since they are not designed at all. You have to climb over rocks and roots, wade through mud and horse dropping, cross improvised bridges, and climb pretty steep parts.

It’s definitely not a manicured English garden you’re walking.
A bridge.
Creek Crossing 

Almost halfway up, you can take a break at an enchanting hummingbird reserve containing different species of hummingbirds as well as other birds and wildlife.

Resting with the Humming Birds.

That sounds cozy but the detour up to the reserve was for me the hardest part. Finally reaching there, I was soaked in sweat and freezing in my sopping wet shirt once I cooled down a bit.
Nevertheless, the short break is refreshing before the last bit of mountaineering.

There they are: Wax palms.

As you reach the Finca La Montaña, you get another overwhelming view – and it’s said to be the halfway point. I don’t know if it’s because from here, we were walking downhill, but to me, the first part felt far longer.

Ms Green on the Green.

Going downhill, we were finally rewarded for all the hardship by fantastic views of the Valley: On a bright green velvet grass carpet are hundreds of wax palms that grow to a height of 150 to 200 ft. And since they grow only in the Andes of Colombia – and a small part of Peru – they are named after the region Quindío “Ceroxylon Quindiuense”.
A majestic name for a majestic tree.

More amazing views: It’s worth it to get up a bit earlier and climb the stairs to the Mirador de Salento, the viewing platform, at the eastern end of Carrera #4.

From the Mirador at the end of Carrera 4 you have a grand view….

Watching the sun rise and the world waking up over the mountains and hills….there is not a more majestic way of welcoming the new day!

….of the sunrise….

….and Salento town.

Best place to sleep:

Accommodations in Salento are mostly hostels, but there are also few hotels as well as fincas in secluded places in the coffee mountains. Since we were there for only two days and used public transportation, we preferred to stay close to the center.
Our boutique style hotel Salento Real Eja Cafetero was close to the main street yet in a quiet neighborhood.
Cozy, rustic rooms arranged around a patio – with a good breakfast included.

You can check their availability and prices here.*

Best place to eat:

Every restaurant offers trout – at the same price and the menus printed on identical paper were only the restaurant’s name differs.

However, I’d like to recommend to restaurants: The first one is El Tejadito De Salento, located on Carrera 6 #32. The portions are generous, the staff is friendly’n’fun, and the views just amazing.

In Salento, food is synonymous to trout. At every restaurant you can order about five types of preparation; there are even trout burgers.
This one here is “trucha dorada” with “patacon gigante”, a giant chip made of green plantain.

The other one is El Rincón de Lucy, also located on Carrera 6, #32 at the corner with Calle 5. They have a rather limited menu – about two main courses per day, but these are truly a bargain since you get a starter and even a house drink with it.



And if you’re not very hungry, just grab one of the Arepas the lady is preparing freshly right on the street.
They are small tortillas with some fixings like e.g. aromatic cheese.
Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Colombia? 
Then go to the main post and take your pick!


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Guide to MEDELLÍN – And a Day Trip to GUATAPÉ

Arriving at the outskirts of Medellin, we heard a deafening thunder followed by a bright lightning – something had exploded. Welcome to Medellín.

Fernando Botero “La Muerte de Pablo Escobar”


We understood that we didn’t experience a violent attack in the former murder capital, but that there was a thunderstorm coming down on Colombia’s “city of spring”. What gave us a hint? For instance the torrential rain that washed us towards our hotel. Oh man, I don’t wanna get stuck at my – however very nice and comfortable – hotel room! Since a couple of years ago during hurrican Mitch I had to spend scary days in a hotel room in Tegucigalpa while outside people lost all their belongings including their lives, extreme weather conditions make me extremely nervous.

These paintings at the organic shop and restaurant “Salud Pan” not only cheered us up, but also gave us faith (that brighter days would come).

Since due to the unpredictable weather it was difficult to plan a day out, I thought a touristy group trip would be the best option. And it actually was. Being the only Europeans on a busload of mostly Latinos, we visited El Templo Roca where the whole town got ready for palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday at El Nuevo Peñol. 

We took a boat ride on Lago Guatapé where a lovely Colombian family shared a laugh and their aguardiente from a tetra pak with us while we were manoeuvring around the remains of Pablo Escobar ‘s former mansion.

Gringas – always a welcomed fairground attraction. 

The main reason for doing this tour was the view from La Piedra. After climbing 750 steps, you have a great view of the picturesque composition of numberless islands. I’m sorry, guys, I took my pictures when there were darkgrey clouds and shitty light so they look nothing like the ones I saw on the internet. Please be so kind to google them from others if you want pretty; or look at mine if you go for a rather melancholic version.

Lunch with a view – and with lovely Indian people from Chicago that we befriended during the trip. 
Islands in the liquid sun.
Last stop Guatapé, the charming little town where every house shows stucco according to the owner’s trade. 

The next day it cleared up a bit, and we visited the center of Medellín.

Medellín is the way I was afraid Bogotá would be – dirty, aggressive, lost, many  poor, homeless people, groups of pathetic prostitutes lingering around churches. Godforsaken places – called ‘Parques’, definitely not being parks – full of sketchy people.

Going hooking between the statues at Parque Botero between the Museo de Antioquia and the Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe seems to be nothing like “Irma la douce”.
Enjoying a well deserved ice cream while serving and protecting.

Everybody knows Medellín’s rough, violent past. Many of these lost souls had to flee from their little piece of land on the country side, threaten, scared or chased away by one of the fighting forces, either the paramilitary right, the left wing guerilla or a drug cartel. Eventually they got stranded in the city. Like the lady that has been pushing all her belongings in a shopping cart across Plaza San Antonio for decades. She has lost her husband and kids by one of these groups and is now saving every peso she can afford, so one day she’ll be able to return to the place she fled from. How I know this? Juan told me. Who Juan is? The guide at Real Walking Tour Medellín who guides groups through downtown, pointing out special places and narrating the country’s, the city’s, and the people’s (hi-)stories; and it’s only thanks to his energetic and entertaining attitude that after following him and his anecdotes for almost four hours, you’re not too depressed. Because when you get to the root of it, all of them are more or less atrocious and depressing. Like the one of the two Botero birds on Plaza San Antonio (one of Medellín’s most dismal places): During a rock concert in 1995 someone placed a backpack with a bomb in Botero’s bird statue, and it killed 25 people including a pregnant woman and a 7 years old girl. Until this day nobody knows officially which group is responsable for this barbaric act. It was the very Fernando Botero who forbit the mayor of Medellin to clean the ruins of his work. Now there is a plaque with the victims’ names, and Botero donated a second bird that symbolizes peace and hope for the new Medellín.

Fernando Botero “El Pajaro” and “El Pajaro de la Paz”

As a reference to the sufference of her people, Colombian photographer Erika Diettes created at the Museo de Antioquia her “Relicarios”. From 2011 to 2015, the artist visited families all over Colombia who are mourning their disappeared loved ones, listened to their stories and got a ‘relict’ that once belonged to the victims. Some relatives even travelled from secluded places just to hand Diettes the treasured objects. Sealing these ‘tokens’ individually in cubes of rubber tripolymer, Erika Diettes arranged these ‘gravestones’ into a graveyard of rememberence.
For me this year’s most impressive exhibit so far.

Erika Diettes “Relicarios”

Erika Diettes’ work is one of the current exhibitions at the museum. Their permanent collection consists of many huge, fantastic Boteros and paintings and sculptures he donated from his private collection including Wilfredo Lam, Frank Stella, Alex Katz and many more.
There is also a room for the children and the childish who can put on a uniform and incarnate Botero’s painting “Pedrito” that shows the artists son who tragically passed away at the age of four; why does everything have to have a depressing twist to it in this city?!

Thank you, Fernando, for letting me have the honor to be “Pedrito” for a couple of minutes. 
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During the difficult years end of last century, Medellín was Colombia’s most infamous city – inseparably tied to the name Pablo Escobar and his drug cartel.

The unshapely people and things created by Colombian superstar Fernando Botero make parts of Medellín an outdoor museum.

Escobar was shot and killed by the Colombian National Police already in 1993, but like all the rest of this beautiful country, since then, Colombia progressed a lot; sadly, without the world taking notice.
I wish my post will change that at least a bit.

Medellín, being Colombia’s second largest city, obviously has an international airport.

However, we took a direct bus from Salento to Medellín which cost a bit more than the local buses, but is much faster and especially with the luggage more comfortable than venturing via Armenia or Pereira.

City Tour of Medellín

There are two main highlights in Medellín not to be missed: For one, the Museo de Antioquia – housing i. a. a vast collection of Fernando Botero’s paintings and sculptures – as well as the adjacent Parque Botero with many of his voluptuous statues.

Fernando Botero La Muerte de Pablo Escobar.
As a matter of fact, to many Colombians, Escobar was some sort of Robin Hood since he actually took care of things in regions that let him rule.

While a visit to the square is, obviously, free of charge, to visit the Museum, you need to buy a ticket, but it’s worth every peso.

Everything gets out of shape in Botero’s hands.

You not only get to see their permanent collection that includes many huge, fantastic Boteros as well as paintings and sculptures he donated from his private collection including works by Wilfredo Lam, Frank Stella, Alex Katz, and many more.

Paintbrushes -that’s what it takes.
Fernando Botero donated Armand Fernández’ Expansión Sinfónica – Concert Expansion.

There are also multiple temporary exhibitions – each and every one just sublime.

The one that impressed me most is by Colombian photographer Erika Diettes: As a reference to the suffering of her people,  she created at the Museo de Antioquia her Relicarios.

Erika Diettes “Relicarios”

From 2011 to 2015, the artist visited families all over Colombia who are mourning their disappeared loved ones, listened to their stories and got a ‘relict’ that once belonged to the victims. Some relatives even travelled from secluded places just to hand Diettes the treasured objects. Sealing these ‘tokens’ individually in cubes of rubber terpolymer, Erika Diettes arranged these ‘gravestones’ into a graveyard of remembrance.

Walking through this cemetery, you are looking at random pieces – and they are telling you a story; a very sad one.

Thank you, Fernando, for giving me the honor to be “Pedrito” for a couple of minutes. 


However, this exhibition was temporary – check their very informative website to see what’s one right now and plan your visit accordingly.

Part of the permanent collection is also a room for the children and the childish: You can put on a uniform and incarnate Botero’s painting Pedrito that shows the artist’s son who tragically passed away at the age of four;
why does everything have to have a depressing twist to it in this city?!

Museo de Antioquia
Carrera 52 # 52-43
Medellín
Phone: + 57 – 4 – 251 36 36
Email: info@museodeantioquia.org.co


The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a. m. to 5:30 p. m. and Sunday only till 4:30 p. m.

The other must-do activity should a guided tour by Real City Tours where local guides tell you a lot about what’s going on behind closed doors.

Sometimes even individualists might cherish the warmth of belonging to the herd.

Also, Medellín is developing and even was awarded for its progress, the vibe in the city center is not as relaxed as in Bogotá.

Medellín’s center is dirtier, poorer, more aggressive, a bit lost. Many homeless people and small groups of pathetic prostitutes lingering around churches. Godforsaken places – called Parques, definitely not being parks.

Enjoying a well-deserved ice cream while serving and protecting at the Plazuela Nutibara.

Everybody knows Medellín’s rough, violent past. Many of these lost souls had to flee from their little piece of land on the countryside, threaten, scared or chased away by one of the fighting forces, either the paramilitary right, the left wing guerilla or a drug cartel.
Eventually, they got stranded in the city.

Life is what happens in Medellín between Iglesia de la Veracruz, fruit carts, and office buildings.

This I’ve learned from Juan, our guide at Real Walking Tour Medellín who guides groups through downtown, pointing out special places and narrating the country’s, the city’s, and the people’s history and stories; and it’s only thanks to his energetic and entertaining attitude that after following him and his anecdotes for almost four hours, you’re not too depressed. Because when you get to the root of it, all of them are more or less atrocious and depressing. Like the one of the two Botero-birds on Plaza San Antonio, one of Medellín’s most dismal places:

During a rock concert in 1995, someone placed a backpack with a bomb in Botero’s bird statue, and it killed 25 people including a pregnant woman and a 7 years old girl. Until this day nobody knows officially which group is responsible for this barbaric act. It was the very Fernando Botero who forbid the mayor of Medellin to clean the ruins of his work. Now there is a plaque with the victims’ names, and Botero donated a second bird that symbolizes peace and hope for the new Medellín.

Fernando Botero “El Pajaro” and “El Pajaro de la Paz”

So I honestly recommend this tour, you’ll get a whole different and much more complete perspective on Medellín than walking around by yourself.

Day trip to Guatapé

Besides exploring a bit of the city, it’s also worth it to see the famous Guatapé, known for breathtaking views from the 200-meter high rock, that you have to climb over a couple of stairs, and of course the colorfully elaborated facades of the houses at the town of Guatapé.

Interestingly, on arrival in Medellín, we were greeted by a thunderstorm, so we stuck to the planned tour to Guatapé, but instead, of doing it individually by public bus, we joined an organized day trip. For US$ 28 per person including refreshments it was worth every cent, especially since we got to see far more places than we had seen going by ourselves.
Therefore I’d recommend it even if the weather is better.

The whole trip is nice and interesting, but also a bit bizarre since you are visiting places that technically do not exist anymore and were – at least partly – reconstructed…I don’t know, it is a bit Disney World-ish, but anyway, here are the places we go to see:

El Nuevo Peñol and El Templo Roca

Accomplishing the very ambitious project of filling up the reservoir of Guatapé transforming it into a large catchment lake, the old town of El Peñol was completely flooded; and reconstructed 1.5 miles west. Only that architecturally and sociologically, it has very little to do with its predecessor.

The most prominent landmark here is the church El Templo Roca, a house of worship hewn in stone.

Palm Sunday at El Nuevo Peñol.

Parque Temático Viejo Peñol 

Parque Temático – like I said: a little bit of Disney World.

Founded in 1714, this municipality used to live from agriculture, but slowly changed to tourism and river fishing. Until in the late 1970s, it was simply washed away.

The replica of the Peñol’s church – practically the counterpart to Cinderella’s castle at Disney.

What you see today, is a small replica of the vanished town – since the Nuevo Peñol looks nothing like this and lost all the colonial charm.

Lago de Guatapé

So the whole tour includes also a boat ride on the Lago Guatapé. Today, wealthy Colombians have some amazing holiday homes around the lake – and so did Mr. Pablo Escobar.

Pablo Escobar’s former residence – pretty run down.

You can spot the remains of his former mansion from the cruise.

El Peñón de Guatapé aka Stone of El Peñol

The main reason for doing this tour was the view from La Piedra, the Rock. Some call it El Peñón de Guatapé – that would be the people of Guatapé – other call it Stone of El Peñol; guess where those are from.

It might have been a bit less exhausting climbing the steps in liquid sunshine.

After climbing about 700 steps – the figures differ and I did not count while climbing – you have a great view of the picturesque composition of numberless islands.

Lunch with a view: Some refreshments before climbing the rock.

I’m sorry, guys, I took my pictures when there were dark grey clouds and shitty light so they look nothing like the ones I saw on the internet. Please be so kind as to google them from others if you want pretty; or look at mine if you go for a rather melancholic version.

Guatapé

On the one hand, the construction of the dam on Lago Guatapé, the region became one of the country’s most important electric production centers. At the same time, they nourish and cherish the colonial and artistic appearance of towns to make them attractive for tourists; which works pretty well.

Guatapé was founded in 1811 by Don Francisco Giraldo y Jimenez and declared a municipality in 1867.

Since the early twentieth century, the sockets, the zócalos, have been sculptured and show scenes related to the town’s history.

A Zócalo depicting its father Jose María Parra Jiménez who started this unique artistic tradition in 1919.

Some are just adorned with beautiful decors like flowers, market scenes or the typical chicken buses. But all these images have one thing in common: They are fantastically painted in bold colors.

The church Nuestra Señora Del Carmen….
….a well…
…and both together on a Zócalo.

Best place to sleep:


We stayed in the upper middle-class neighborhood San Joaquin – not on purpose but because the hotel sounded great – and it was. However, the Hotel El Portón de San Joaquin is not located in the center but three subway stops further west. It’s only one block from the Carrera 70, a very lively street packed with stores, restaurants, and bars.

The hotel has nice, very modern rooms and a rooftop sauna which is a great treat after a long day exploring. Also, booking the tour to Guatapé with them was far cheaper than what you find on the internet.

An opulent breakfast served in a very pleasant setting is included.

Check out their availability and prices here.*

Best place to eat:


We were so lucky that our hotel was only two blocks from the fantastic organic grocery store Salud Pan that every day also offers five great menu options including vegetarian food: soup, main course, dessert, and a drink at incredible 5 to 6 US$, depending on your choice of the main course.

Salud Pan
Circular 4ta No. 70 – 84
Barrio Laureles
Medellín
Phone: + 57 – 4 – 411 69 35

These paintings at the organic shop and restaurant “Salud Pan” not only cheered us up, but also gave us faith – that brighter days would come; and it actually cleared up the following day.

Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Colombia? 

Then go to the main post and take your pick!


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