How appropriate that I should end up at a Loire style castle during my trip to Medellin, Colombia. I spent a whole semester at Rutgers studying Loire Valley Chateaux like Blois and never imagined that there would be one modeled after them on the hills of the City of Eternal Spring. I'll take this as a tiny snack before I hit the Loire later this year.
Museo el Castillo
This "country home" was built in the 1930's for Jose Tobon Uribe by the HM Rodriguez firm (they were the first architectural firm in Medellin). It has some Gothic elements - towers, pointed doorways and windows.
This country home was purchased in 1943 by Diego Echavarría Misas and his German born wife Benedikta (Dita) Zur Nieden. They knew that they wanted to turn the house into a museum and leave it to the city in order to leave a cultural legacy.
A history of the Echavarría Family
The museum offers a very cheap tour (10,000 COP or $3USD). This gets you access to the grounds and a walking tour of the house. The tour is nice. I did it on a Sunday - and there were a bit too many people for my liking...but it was still a nice tour. Here's what I leaned about the family.
Diego Echavarría Misas was the son of Don Alejandro Echavarría, the founded the textile producer Coltejer (check out the tower in the city center - nice modern architecture). When Diego was a mere 16, he was sent to Germany to study. He lived in Europe for quite some time and spent a lot of it in Paris. During a trip to Germany, he met the love of his life, Benedikta Zur Nieden. They had one daughter named Isolde (yup - like the Wagner opera).
Diego was a stand up guy. Here are some good deeds he did:
- Founded the Itagui Library
- He built a clinic for farmers
- Donated the house he lived in before moving to the castle. The home is called Ditaires and is another nice spot to visit.
- Donated land & founded a school in honor of his daughter (more on this later).
The family was relatively happy. They lived in their gorgeous home, traveled, collected art, and thought about their legacy. Their daughter led a happy life. There are three areas that were completely her own in the home. Her infant room, her grown up room, and a tiny structure outside that was her playhouse.
Isolde played violin, her room was decorated with drawings she and her mother made, she had incredibly talented teachers. Isolde seemed to be doing ok and was sent to the United States to continue her education. While there, she found out she had Guillain-Barre-Landry, an autoimmune disease. She died of this disease at 19 years old.
Her father lived a relatively long life, but had a tragic end. On August 8, 1971 he was kidnapped at the entrance to his home. It is said that Pablo Escobar was behind his kidnapping. Six weeks later, he was found dead to the chagrin of the people of Medellin. His legacy lives on and this home stands a monument to the heart and creativity of the man and his family.
Tips for Visiting Museo el Castillo in Medellin, Colombia
Getting there: Just take a taxi or Uber. It's up a HUGE freakin' hill (as most things in Medellin are).
What to Wear: Don't be a gringo and wear shorts, sneakers and a tee (this is advice I beg you all to follow throughout Medellin). Do wear comfortable shoes. The best part of the visit is the park, so wear comfortable clothes, but look nice.
What to do: Picnic! Seriously, this is the perfect picnic spot. There are places set up for this throughout the property. Bring a bottle of wine, food, and have the most romantic picnic you've ever had.
Taking the Tour: The tour is run on the hour every hour. If you are a lady & bring a handbag, you will have to check it - so don't wait at the entrance, get as close as possible to the bag check so you can get that done quickly. The doors won't open until they are ready to let you in. There are three simple rules:
- Don't step on the rugs
- Don't touch things
- Don't take pictures inside the house
Follow these rules, otherwise I will yell at you and embarass you. Seriously. You're not a child. Follow the damn rules.
The house is small, so the tour is not taxing on the body. There are just nine rooms and tons of tchotchkes, if you're into antiques, you're going to love this place.
Learn Spanish: I'm only half joking. The tour is only in Spanish...but I've pretty much given you all you need to know. There will probably be someone in the tour who can translate for you.
Plan a day: The tour is quick, the grounds are gorgeous. Make a day of it. Bring a picnic. Three hours should be good enough, but you can certainly spend tons of time there.
Bird Watching: There are so many birds here. Their flight distance is not too crazy, so bring a good camera and take tons of pics.
Bug Spray: I needed none (and mosquitos love me). You should probably be ok without it (but since Zica's a danger - you're better safe than sorry).
Museo el Castillo
Museo El Castillo is located at: 32269 Calle 9 Sur Loma Los Balsos - Medellin, Colombia
(574) 266 09 00
Hours of Operation
Mon-Frid 9 am - 12 pm & 2 pm - 6 pm
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 10 am - 5 pm
Entrance cost : Adults $10,000 COP ($3USD) - Children & Students $6,000 ($2USD)
Parking : $3,000-5,000 COP
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