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Impressions of Colombia

A stubborn reputation of drugs and violence is not Colombia’s biggest asset, although things have radically changed for the better and travel is not unsafer here as anywhere else and there are so many things to discover and enjoy in this country of broad variety, situated on two oceans and developed along three mountain ranges, as at its Northern end the Andes mountains split out into three parallel ‘cordilleras’.

The colonial greed of Spanish bullionism has undeniably created immense havoc in the years, decades and centuries after Rodrigo de Bastidas set foot on the Caribbean coast near Santa Marta in 1525. Indigenous culture was broken for the sake of shipments of gold to the motherland and things got even more grim and gruesome with the infamous trade of black slaves, arriving in Cartagena by the thousands. The traces of uprooted people still have not fully faded in today's society of profound inequalities. But the rich diversity and mixture of indigenous tribes, descendants of Spanish colonists and enslaved Africans have produced a specific identity, in traditions and customs and in art of yesteryear and today: in archaeological sites and in museums displaying the unequalled craftsmanship of pre-Hispanic goldsmiths and others, in contemporary literature with names like Gabriel García Márquez, in music, in dance, in sculpture and in graffiti turned from vandalism into undeniable art.

While still recovering from the deep trauma of slavery, inquisition and colonial treasure hunting, Colombia also acquired a quite faul reputation of violence and chaos in more recent times, with drug cartels, paramilitary organisations, armed movements of rightist landowners and leftist FARC militias, all caught in a conflict of social order, inextricably intertwined with narcotics related interests and power struggles. Who has not heard of the city of Medellín and the narcotics king Pablo Escobar? However, Colombia is clearly on its way to throw off also these demons of recent times. Yes, in Cartagena I was casually asked a couple of times whether I wanted to purchase coke, in broad daylight, in the street: things are far from fully wiped clean. But Colombians today go biking on weekends to the top of the 'cerros' surrounding Bogotá and other cities, they play and dance to the rhythmic sounds of the mixture of Latino and African music, they spend evenings on terraces over a cup of genuine Colombian coffee enjoying the vipe of street musicians, they turn graffiti tagging into an art.

As a traveller, you really do not have to be any longer an adventurous fool defying destiny to explore Colombia. Neither is Colombian travel just limited to the Caribbean pearl of Cartagena, because the highlands of the Central Altiplano and the South invite to a diversity of beautiful nature and urban architecture. Together we are about to discover, indeed, the immense variety which this great country in the North-Eastern corner of South America has been keeping secret for far too long.

HOMame to HOMcol

Before visiting the place of your choice:

From the coastline of the Caribbean Sea endless extensive plains, sharp ridges and wide valleys colour in green the North-Western corner of the South American continent. This is Colombia, with its capital Bogotá on the altiplano of the Cordillera Oriental mountain range, at an altitude of 2,600 metres above sea level.

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