If you like sharing a city of 2.5 million with 400.000 visitors attracted by the festival with little or no information available for the foreign visitors, continue reading! Here are a few tricks and tips, learned the hard way, to make a stay in Medellin for this busy festival enjoyable.
Start with making a reservation for accommodation early, some budget hostels will not even except one and makes sure to define what your room should look like. Any crevice is used to accommodate visitors during that week.
The festival lasts for 10 days with innumerable events and activities all day long. Trying to get a programme did not prove easy, the single person at the tourist information at Parque Berrio had one (!!!) programme that tourists copied by hand! It took us a while to find one on the, Spanish only, official website. The venues mentioned are completely meaningless, unless you know the city well, or so vague to be of any help, like the decorated Chivas “pass through the major streets in town”. Some hostels had copies of the programme available and made recommendations what to see, like the nightly concerts near the Jardin Botanico.
THE highlight of the festival is the “Defile de Silleteros” on the Friday of the last weekend. Huge arrangements of flowers are carried through the centre of town by farmers from Santa Elena, where the “Silletas” are “created” of at least 15 different kinds of flowers. The best are awarded and put on display on the Plaza Mayor for the last two days of the festival.
This parade is best watched from temporary stands placed throughout the route, BUT these seats can only be bought until Tuesday before the parade. So even though we arrived two days before the event we were without a chance to get one of the tickets ranging between 10 and 30 USD. Locals without a ticket for a stand started lining the streets hours before the defile begun, which we wanted to avoid.
By chance we spotted the starting point, near Metro station “Industriales” when we passed by on the train. So we pushed our way onto the bridge crossing the highway right were the parade started. This proved an excellent idea, because it was impossible to guess when the parade of 500 Silleteros, soldiers of all army sections and all sorts of other participants would pass through which part of town.
Saturday, a convoy of 200 vintage and other cars circled the main streets of town, its passenger dressed appropriate to the age of the automobile. No need to worry about a spot to watch, since its routine extends though a large part of the town. On Sunday, the last day of the festival, decorated Chivas took the streets, full of cheerful folks. Large spray cans are used by people inside and outside the Chivas to cover each other with foam.
The dress code for Columbians visitors is easy to describe: a kind of cowboy hat, accompanied by a folded poncho flung across the shoulder, a huge cup of beer or an oversized bottle of the same liquid at hand, at all times. Hundreds of street vendors make sure that stuff is available.