A Salamina Surprise
‘This used to be the main theatre until it collapsed one night four years ago,’ the barista informed me in a matter of fact tone of voice.
Surrounded by towering peaks and painted in bright pastel colours, Salamina first seemed just like any other town in El Eje Cafetero (the Colombian coffee growing region). Looks are deceiving, as the saying goes. The fact that it was different dawned on me as I sat in Fruty Caffe in the main square. Looking up from a cup of coffee, something had caught my eye.
A Decorative Detail?
There, in close proximity to the toilets, stood two enormous film projectors. They literally looked as if they had been teleported straight from the 1940s. Why were they there? A quirky decorative detail? Did the owner have a penchant for collecting antique objects? Yet, no matter how strange they appeared, they somehow didn’t look totally out of place. I had to know more, which is when I asked the question that elicited the surprising response.
‘Did it collapse financially?’ I inquired. At that point, I genuinely thought that I had misunderstood her Spanish.
‘No, it fell down in the middle of the night,’ she stated in the same unconcerned tone. She made it somehow sound almost like an everyday occurrence, nothing out of the ordinary. As I looked around the cavernous interior of the café, things started to make sense. I was suddenly looking at the walls of the building around me in a completely new light…
‘Oh, but we were so happy,’ the lady then added with a smile.
The Truth About Salamina
By this stage, I was genuinely baffled. The building we were in was a theatre until it literally fell down one night, but they were happy about this. What type of people were these? The answer came quickly.
‘Yes, there was a concert with lots of school children that night. If it had happened a few hours earlier, things could have been so much worse.’
Her explanation taught me something of the spirit of the town. Also, I would later learn, in Salamina nothing was quite as it seemed. For all its charm and beauty, every stone and even every plant or tree told a story. And not all those stories were happy ones! To tell the truth, some were heartbreaking.
Things indeed could have been much worse!
Getting There and Away
Getting to Salamina is straightforward. There are regular buses to and from Manizales Bus Station. In addition to this, there is the option of taking a taxi. This is a better choice for travellers who are short of time or who need to make connections to other destinations in Colombia. Travellers can also take a bus to Aguadas, another heritage town north of Salamina, and then connect on to destinations further north such as Jardin and Medellin.
Salamina is not yet on the backpacker radar, although this is changing rapidly. However, the result is a lack of backpacker friendly hostels. Hotel Colonial and Hospedaje La Casona offer good value for budget travellers. Those who want a bit of pampering should check out La Casa de Lola Garcia.