Silence is a rarity in a continent as chaotic and wild as South America. The European-gothic Museo El Castillo is one of the few places in a Colombian city where tranquillity prospers. There really is no better place to spend a sunny afternoon than the calm gardens of the castle museum. And in Medellin, the city of eternal spring, the sun shines all the time.
The castle itself is a mock-gothic homage to rustic French châteaux. An aristocrat called Diego Echavarría Misas lived in the home with his family for half a century before donating it as a museum. It was built in 1930. There are tours of the home and its nine rooms through which you can learn about the family’s culture, history and influences.
The attraction lies in a central location of the city, yet is somehow secluded and private. Spread out across green hills, the gardens are kept in superb condition and offer panoramic views of the whole city. All around, there are fountains, exotic plants and wildlife, including chattering parrots.
I shared a taxi with a couple of friends to the museum in the Poblado area. As we walked through the gates, we trod carefully and spoke in hushed tones as if we might disturb someone. The lack of people felt quite eerie. In European cities, where summer only lasts two or three months, this type of place is bursting with pale sunbathers, hipsters with blaring speakers and topless students making barbeques. One of the great advantages of living in a city where it is always ‘bonito dia’ is that sunny days are not so special. The locals don’t race to fill an already overcrowded beach or park. My friends and I were the only ones in this postcard-pretty haven.
We sat at a table to eat, chat and take in the sun. I enjoyed the Colombian equivalent of a scone and a fresh fruit juice from the small café in the grounds. Then, as a few more people filtered through the gates, we decided to take the tour inside the castle, which is on offer several times per day.
What is clear from the tour is the family were heavily influenced by European art and culture. French and Spanish artwork and antique jewellery line the walls. There was very little British inspiration and nothing at all from the U.S. I liked how the names written below homages to musicians and artists had received a Spanish makeover of sorts. I wondered what Federico Chopin and Claudio Debussy would make of their adopted heritage.
All the rooms of the castle have been eerily maintained. A typical bedroom contains a cot or bed with old photos covering every stage of a person’s life. My favourite room is a charming library up a winding staircase with a small balcony overlooking the garden, the city and its mountainous backdrop. It’s easy to imagine Don Diego and family members relaxing here with a book and a pleasant breeze.
All in all, I was more enthralled by the look of the castle from the outside. There is something whimsical and Disney-like about its design, particularly in a busy, modern city like Medellin. When life in Colombia’s second city gets too manic, it is good to know I can escape to this antiquated retreat. After the tour, we left the old-world chateau feeling well rested in the midst of a setting sun.
About the author:
Andrew is a freelance journalist who lives in Medellin. He holds an NCTJ qualification and worked as an online reporter for The Sun and several other publications before moving abroad. His passions are travel, football and languages – he speaks French and Spanish. He is constantly astounded at how much Colombia – and Medellin in particular – have to offer.
- Things to do in Medellin (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- The Flower Festival in Medellin (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- The Basics of Public Transport in Medellin (www.uncovercolombia.com)