Colombia: San Juan de Girón
Girón is a small town even though its 140 thousand inhabitants may seem so otherwise. However, if you only roam around the historic center it takes only a day to walk it through completely. Even though many asked us if we visited the town of Bucaramanga which is 9 kilometers away. They say it is beautiful there so it was only natural we would travel there. We are headed straight to Girón.
There are three squares in total in the city. The main sqaure
is Parque Principal de Girón and is the busiest. There are vendors selling food, people go there after work to have fun and sit on benches while children run around. Also, basilika Menor San Juan Bautista. Built in 1639, basilica is the main site of pilgrimage in Giron. There are five altars inside it.
Plazuela de Las Nieves is more tranquil. There is Capilla Nuestra Señora de las Nieves church. Locals sell here hand made souvenirs or jewelry. Plazuela Peralta is completely different. It is called Parque de los Enamorados – the park of the people in love - which is because of its illumination and how it is designed. It is very quiet and nobody is there.
Even though the city seems as a quiet place we are in Colombia after all. Nights are lively. We were fools to thing that it would be a quiet place at the edge of the city in a small hotel near a river. We were so wrong. Bars open every evening and music starts to play. And if we say it's loud, it's really loud. The bad thing about Colombia is that it is warm there therefore all bars and restaurants are not enclosed in the buildings but they spread onto the streets. It doesn't matter what day of the week it is. It is still very lively. When everything calms down as the dawn starts to break and I open the window the smell from a rendering nearby hits my nostrils. Despite it is quite far away from our hotel the smell is still horrible. I close the window and try to catch some more sleep.
For we walked the streets of Giron several times already, we go up on the hill above the city. There we intend to see the city center from higher altitude as well to view other districts apart from renovated historic center. Then you get different point of view of the the city. We go uphill to reach the statue of Christ. At the statue, there should be great view over the city. However, our plan doesn't work out as there are renovation works underway at the statue. Another way is to cross some private grounds but we are not entirely sure if it is a good idea. One man sees us and he tells other people to let us through. But then he rubs his fingers as to show that they should take a lot of money from us. We give a faint smile and go away to find nice vista at some other place.
Once we descend back to the city, we choose side streets. A lady with a child stops us and says that we should go there alone because some homeless guys can rob us. She goes with us so we would be safe. I thought that it wouldn't be a true day in Colombia if somebody didn't warn us against something. The lady takes us through the ugly part of the city and we are thankful to her. When you get out of the maintained and clean city center the street change and the landscape with it. There is more garbage and nothing is as clean and tranquil as in the historic part of the city. Still, there is nothing to worry about if you want to take an evening walk in the historic center. The streets are beautifully illuminated and there is no danger at all. Moreover, there are plenty of people on the Main Square.
In the evening, we are about to experience unvoluntary music number coming out of the bar below us again. It makes absolutely no difference which city you are in. One bar around is enough to prevent you from sleep. Still, we were pleasantly surprised by beautiful historic center and streets in Giron.
Text and photos: Tomáš Novák
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