Manizales, Colombia

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Manizales, the tourist guide book says little about it. Including something along the line of leave your camera in your pocket as there are not many things to see in Manizales. So I had somewhat low expectations and decided to venture into Manizales before leaving for Salento. I was going to do a little exploring with the intention of leaving later in the day. I walked for a little bit, and exploring a new city alone can be a little stressful. I am definitely getting better at it. It is quite a skill as you don’t want to look like a tourist, yet you have to remember where you are and you are bound to get lost.

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I found a breakfast spot and sat down next to an older man and woman. If there are empty tables at a restaurant and you sit by yourself rather than with other people it can be considered to be rude. It is very Colombian to sit with other people like a community and get to know the people who are dining in the same place as you.

I met an old man named Alberto who only spoke Spanish and he was curious about my solo adventures. I told him I was leaving Manizales to Salento because I wanted to see the coffee farms there and he immediately took me under his wing and offered showing me around the town. I could not resist, so I said of course.  We first went for some coffee from the land of Manizales as it is known for its coffee farms and rich beans that are exported from the land. He paid for my breakfast and for the coffee, which is also very Colombian. When a man invites someone to do something whether it’s a movie, drinks, or out, they always always always pay. Its amazing and its considered rude if you do not let them pay.

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So for the rest of the day we drove around in his car touring the whole city. The energy of Manizales is tranquil and reminded me a lot of San Francisco. There were not vendors trying to sell you things, the people were so nice and laid back, and there were so many hills that mirrored the way San Francisco makes me feel. We saw a gorgeous cathedral, the largest and tallest in Colombia, we saw many beautiful views of the surrounding area which is all farms. And from a distance you can always see green hills and layers of houses next to each other, just like San Francisco is the background. This town is picture perfect and makes for an amazing city. Sometimes when people write in the guidebooks I don’t think they actually visit the places and give each city a chance.

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From the city we headed for beers with Alberto’s friend who owns a coffee shop. Then we went his friends coffee farm where I learned about coffee farming and got to ride his horse. They take such pride in their farms and horses. Alberto rides competitively and is so proud of it, constantly showing me pictures of his family and himself riding horses. The Colombian people here, and I think I have a good grasp on this now, are so willing to invite you into their lives. It is as if you are a part of their family and they want you to experience a good time. I felt so lucky to have met this man. But the night did not end there.

Alberto invited me to a party later that night for some beers. Of course, I agreed and met him around 7pm to take a bus to this party. At the front door of the party we are greeted with costumes we must wear, that were all handmade. We enter the kiosk hut and there are tables full of glitter, live music, a bar and people dancing. I realize that I am at a horse club, where I assume everyone owns a horse that is at this place and this is where all the competitive people who ride horses hang out. The theme of the party was Carnival Barranquilla, even though carnival has past, they still celebrate. Out comes the flour, foam and other sorts of carnival costumes. Dancing all night long and everyone so willing to meet me, dance with me, and make me feel included.

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