More please, I implored with my empty wine glass. With narrowed eyes, the sommelier hesitated a moment before reaching for a classic bottle of Chilean red. She reluctantly half-filled my glass. I left it lingering in the air a little longer in the vain hope of squeezing a few drops more from the lady, but alas, she was not about to indulge me. She knew what I was up to.
On top of the $12.000 pesos ($6 USD or £4) admission fee for Medellin’s Maridaje Gastronomy Festival, a tall wine glass cost about the same. My pal Alex and I were clearly loath to pay the asking price. The only solution was to sneakily share one glass. Admittedly, this ran counter to the unwritten code of conduct and led to several awkward situations (that were perhaps not worth the pennies we saved). To begin with, one of us would hide round the corner while the other explored the free delights on offer. We made sure to ask all the right questions with our best wine-tasting face showing.
As the alcohol began to take effect, the original plan was abandoned. We shamelessly ventured from stall to stall with our shared wine glass in extended hand.
But that is what the Maridaje Festival embodies – indulgence. We spent an entire afternoon examining endless stalls that showcased the best of Medellin’s wine, cheese and meat. A colossal hall was dedicated to each category, with vendors competing to shove their tasty product down your throat. I was in my element!
Food and drink were not the only items on the menu. The event, according to its marketing, is also dedicated to friendship. Quite a broad and ambiguous term but I imagine it refers to the party vibe that took hold once the sun went down. A light and music show commenced outside with alcoholic drinks on sale. People sat on steps with their glasses of wine and plates full of cheese and meat. Relishing the ambience, my friend and I danced around and made new friends until late in the evening.
The following day, I decided to check out the Afro-Colombia Music Festival in Parque de los Deseos (Park of Desires). It’s a nice spot in the centre of town with a pebble garden, stylish monuments and countless food and drink stalls. The festival celebrates music of African descent and there was no shortage of rap, calypso, samba and other genres I could not pick out. And like most things in Colombia, it was deafeningly loud. They could probably hear it in Africa.
The park was completely rammed full of people and the atmosphere was wild. At one point, I attempted to join the rowdy crowd at the front for a few songs. However, I soon found myself in a giant mosh pit. People were being knocked all over the place, disappearing from view before popping up on the other side of the stand. After five minutes of struggling to keep my balance and my food down, I emerged from the mosh pit a little worse for wear, battered and bruised all over. Sweat that was not my own drenched my face and shirt.
I enjoyed the rest of the gig from a safer spot. The energy never faltered until the final encore of a 15 or 20-man group left the audience feeling dazed and a little worn out. At midnight, the tired and drunken crowds dispersed, looking for their rides home. Eventually the park became silent and empty, the half-torn posters the only remaining hint of the slice of Africa that wowed Medellin.
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.
- Day Trips from Medellin: Guatapé and Santa Fé de Antioquia (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Famous Festivals in Colombia (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Things to do in Medellin (www.uncovercolombia.com)