Castle in Hiding

Museo El Castillo MedellinWondering what to do with our next to last full day in Medellin, we discovered we had not been to the castle yet. Finding the address for Museo El Castillo, we walked down the street to get a taxi.

I do not know what it is with the taxi drivers in this city, but three-quarters of them are useless for getting around. The streets are either carreras (avenues) or calles (streets) and they are numbered. They run perpendicular to one another.

An example from Medellin Living is as such:
An address is given as Kr 72 no. 14-28
A break is this:
•    Kr 72 = Carrera 72
•    no. 14 = Calle 14
•    28 = the house/ building number between Calle 14 and Calle 14a or Calle 15

Technically, if you can count, you can find an address with reasonable ease. After Ron told the driver where we wanted to go, he handed him the address on a piece of paper. Like many drivers we have had experience with, this one started ranting is a tone that did not sound like friendly chatter. Scratching his head, Ron then showed him the map with the address. This is a major landmark, not some off the beaten path spot. He had to stop three times to ask directions and then still had difficulty finding the place. Later I questioned whether this is a trick to run up the fare. Finally, it cost us 8,000 pesos ($2.44) for a ride that should have been half that in time and money.

Leaving us at the gate, we paid 10,000 pesos ($3.05) each for entry. We had seen pictures, but Museo El Castillo- Medellinseeing this little castle in person is impressive. Finding any good history about it has been difficult. There is nothing in English and the tours are in Spanish only.

Though I have not been able to find the original owner, built in the 1930s, it replicated the castles of the Loire Valley in France, bringing a piece of Europe to the Medellin affluent.

Museo El Castillo MedellinDiego Ricardo Echavarria Misas was a businessperson and philanthropist. He purchased the estate as a family home in 1943. He and his new German wife Benedikta enjoyed collecting art and cultural pieces, which they displayed throughout the nine rooms of the home. They lived here with their only child, a daughter.

In 1967, the daughter fell ill while studying in Europe. She had Guillan Barre Syndrome, dying before her parents could reach her. Adding to their misery, in 1971, Diego was kidnapped, the first of many kidnapping of wealthy business people to follow in Medellin. Reportedly, Pablo Escobar was the person responsible. Escobar had not yet achieved boss status; he was an executioner. Forty days later, they found Diego’s body.

The estate turned into a museum with everything inside, as it was when the family was alive. Because there were no tours in English, we were slightly free to roam on our own with one of the young staff members tailing us. When Ron and I went into separate rooms, she chose to stand in the center of the two and hope for the best.

Every inch of space filled with paintings, sculptures, photographs, and ceramics is overwhelming and sensory overload. It is truly a testament to avid collectors. Reportedly, the home has nine rooms, but we mistakenly wandered to areas not open to the public only because no one cautioned against it. These other spaces were vacant anyway. My favorite room was the library where there is a winding staircase, but blocked to visitors.

There’s no photography allowed within the castle, which is disappointing. Listening to others getting Museo El Castillo Medellina full tour and history in Spanish was a little annoying as well. This is a tourist site.

The grounds are expansive and lovely. The Spanish moss trees are quite spectacular. Colombia - Medellin January 2016 573There were many who had picnics on the lawn or were just relaxing on a hot day. In one section, a lively children’s party was in progress with at least 30 little ones engaged in fun and games.

On the way back, we walked to Centro Comercial Santafé, a lovely mall. It was a little shocking to see Christmas décor still filling the center courtyard. A skating rink in the center allows children to learn to skate by holding a helper penguin for Centro Comercial Santaféstability. If I only had a penguin when I was a child, I could have been able to skate today.

Approaching Happy Hour, we walked on to Hard Rock Café for a drink. Though we both to Centro Comercial Santaféordered from the Happy Hour menu, when the bill arrived, the prices were the normal tariffs. When we alerted the waiter, he apologized, but made such an issue about not being able to change it. He claimed that if they change anything in the register, the Bogotá office would do an audit of all of their accounts.

Finally, he agreed to change the bill to what it should be, but we still paid the tax and tip on the original. With puppy dog eyes, he insisted he would have to make up the difference. Since the manager does not speak English, we had to take his word for all of it. The second time Hard Rock Medellin had screwed us. So much for HAPPY Hour!

After completing my Ed.D., the frustration of finding a teaching position where I was willing to live, led to Ron and I leaving the country. We intended to travel for a year before settling somewhere in MA or RI. We left the US without any credit card debt, no car payments and our house mortgage paid by renters. We had $10,000 in the bank to make our way through a year.