Last August we went on vacation to the Caribbean part of Colombia and had a wonderful time. Strolling the charming walled city center of Cartagena, admiring the quaint colonial buildings, bartering for a straw hat, enjoying a visit to the excellent gold museum and listening to street performances of black music was such a treat. The city is vibrantly alive, every afternoon tourists and residents alike congregate on the impressive walls that were once meant to protect the city from the British pirates, to watch the sunset over the sea. Cartagena was known to the world as the ‘pearl of the Indies’ and it truly is one of the architectural gems of South America. Staying in the heart of the city was another highlight. We found an amazing suite in a chique hostel with plenty of character that only boasted five rooms in total. Our quarters were under the roof with a very high ceiling and great views from the balcony over the narrow cobbled streets with its typical horse carts below. Although Colombia is not famous for its vegetarian cuisine we found some great places to eat (even for vegans)!
Our second stop was romantic Mompox on the Magdalena river. This amazingly laid back colonial town reminiscent of a Garcia Marquez novel (in fact ‘Chronicle of a death foretold’ was filmed there in 1987) sticks in my mind as the capital of wicker rocking chairs. By chance we stayed in the famous home of the ‘Momposina’, very beautiful woman that became the muse for a song. It was a lovely colonial building with its five rooms placed around a lush garden and a gorgeous tomcat serenading us. We spent the afternoons exploring the river promenade and its wildlife, Jesus Christ lizards, iguanas, herons, flycatchers, woodpeckers, and vultures, sipping endless cups of freshly brewed Colombian coffee. The evenings we spent in the Fuerte de San Anselmo restaurant with delicious home cooked Italian and Mediterranean food: pasta, pizzas, gazpachos and fresh salads, accompanied by a home brew of ginger ale or medicinal herbal spirits. Walter, the friendly Austrian owner makes wicked chocolate cakes (Sacher Torte), too! Incidentally, he is happy to adapt some of his dishes to the needs of vegans. He is also a great conversationalist with a splendid sense of humor!
The last part of our journey we spent in Santa Marta and in the folds of the Sierra Nevada, the home of the Arhuacos and the Kogis, the ‘Elder Brothers’. We had made an advance booking in an eco-lodge in the forest that could only be reached on the back of motorbikes driving uphill on an adventurous bumpy dirt track. When we arrived at the lodge we crossed the gushing mountain river in a swing and were greeted by the welcoming owner, Gloria Schwarb, who personally did all the catering during our stay and produced the most wonderful vegan meals. We felt we were treated like royalty and also found Gloria great company! Gloria and her family have truly created a piece of paradise off the beaten track and we felt absolutely privileged to recharge our batteries in a place surrounded by sheer beauty and love. Time seemed to stand still!
Many years ago at university, I had to do an assignment on the Garcia Marquez novel ‘One hundred years of solitude’ which was placed in the literary genre of ‘magic realism’. Meeting the most extraordinary people in Colombia and learning about their lives brought it home to us that Garcia Marquez simply described people’s true life stories, drawing inspiration from his own rich experience and the one of his family and friends, no matter how exotic they may seem to us. In fact, the truth is often stranger than fiction!
We would like to send our thanks to all the kind people who made our stay in Colombia an unforgettable one!
It is possible that we might organize some tours to Colombia in the future. Please let us have some feedback if you are interested.
Meanwhile here are some links to our videos on You Tube:
Eco Finca la Bonita, Santa Marta https://youtu.be/WZk7GKbLkT8
Black music & dance in Bolivar square, Cartagena https://youtu.be/ApoJIAe6w8s