A Day in Salento, Colombia
Salento, beautiful Colonial Town in the Heart of Coffee Country
Last week my husband and I visited Salento, a small town in the heart of coffee country in central Colombia. The drive from Pereira where we live took about 1 1/2 hours, most of it on a highway and then a little ways on a smaller paved road. Since we are in the mountains of Colombia, the road was curvy and the views around us were beautiful. We stopped a couple of km before Salento at a rest stop and had, of course, coffee! It was delicious and helped warm us up in the cool mountain air.
The road into Salento leads right up to the town square, the "plaza". On the plaza there is the Catholic church of course (all plazas have a Catholic church), many shops, cafes, a couple of government offices, and lots of people milling around. I'm always amazed at the number of people sitting around talking at the plazas here. Many are older men who are retired, and their social life takes place at the plaza.
We found a parking place down a side street...good thing the emergency brake works well, as no street is flat or level in this part of the country! We enjoyed looking around in the shops where artisans display their crafts: leather purses, straw hats, ponchos, jewelry, wind chimes, mosaics, bamboo lamps, trays, vases & candlesticks, coffee (of course), coffee wine, coffee candy and coffee with chocolate!
One of the things I appreciated the most was the colonial architecture, with the colorful windows, doors and balconies (see photos below). I couldn't seem to stop taking photos!
At the end of one prominent street, there are steps (many) up to the top of the hill, with 15 stations representing the life and death of Christ. During Holy week, the stairway gets a lot of use as many devout Catholics climb to the top. It is said that some even climb up on their knees although we didn't see anyone on their knees.
After working up an appetite, we drove a little further to Cocora, where there are several typical restaurants that serve trout as their specialty. We chose "Donde Juan B" (Juan B's Place), and enjoyed the live 3 man band who sang old (ancient) folk songs and boleros as we ate lunch. It always amazes me how EVERYONE here knows the words to all the old songs. Even the young people were singing along. I can't imagine going into a restaurant in the U.S. and hearing a trio sing songs from the 1940's with everyone singing along. I supposed it's part of their culture with songs being passed down from one generation to the next. Young people here seem to have a solid grasp on their roots.
The lunch was delicious: I started out with a Canelazo, a hot drink with cinnamon, rum, and passion fruit, and cinnamon sugar around the rim of the cup. It warmed me up! Then came fried trout, patacon (plantain banana pressed very thin and fried), salad and rice, and of course coffee to keep us awake on the drive home.
The Colombia people smile and laugh a lot, and there is an optimism in the air that is contagious. They have been through a lot as a nation, and as things are improving, the people can't help but feel hopeful and happy.
Until next time,