During breakfast, while Peta is chatting up a fellow traveler and jazz musician, I purchase tickets to fly tomorrow from Medellin to Cartagena and organize a day trip from the big city to have a taste of Colombia’s Spanish Colonial architectural heritage.
I whisk my girlfriend off by cab to a bus terminal where within 10mn we are aboard a local bus to Antioquia Santa Fe. There is just enough time to read in the local paper about the day’s geopolitical affairs, highlighted by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez state visit to Colombia to meet his counterpart. The two countries have had a turbulent past and there remain plenty of opportunities for conflict, both of words and deeds. However, Colombia’s brand new president Santos (who won by election and took office on August 7th) just a few days ago has delivered his countrymen a masterful diplomatic breakthrough. After eight years of simmering tension between the two governments of Venezuela and Colombia, President Santos and President Chavez of Venezuela have agreed to a broad based set of talks dealing with finance, economic relations and social relations between the two countries. This is a dramatic reset of the relationship. It’s nice to be able to be here and hear firsthand reactions of the people to their new president.
We encounter a beautiful white walled town that is superbly preserved. Santa Fe lies amidst green mountains, a short 1:30 from Medellin, through mountainous terrain that just eight years ago would have been too risky to travel, due to the simmering war between the right-wing government and the left-wing FARC “rebels”, and the overlay of narco-traffic related para-military activities.
We can’t help but compare this Colonial city to Granada, Nicaragua. This city has cobblestones streets and no garbage. But where are the open doors and the people sitting outside on their rocking chairs? The tendency to compare and contrast stems from the fact that by now, we have a small registry of visual memories from a number of Spanish Colonial towns that were started pretty much at the same time, in the mid 1500s. Our architectural treasure trove includes Granada and Leon in Nicaragua, Antigua in Guatemala, Quito in Ecuador, Salta in Argentina and Puebla in Mexico. Each town or city has the familiar theme of church + grand government buildings around a parque central, bits of surviving cobbled streets and either white washed walls, or brightly colored buildings.
We are enjoying the mountain air, walking around looking at the architectural details of doorways and churches.
The fact that we are in the countryside means that prices for food and hotel are back to a Nicaragua level and this hotel and pool with its’ mountain view becomes an affordable treat on our Nica budget.