Saturday, October 9, 2010

I think I have the black lung, pops

An hour and a half outside of Bogotá, lies the sleepy town of Zipaquirá.  An otherwise unremarkable place except for having Colombia’s #1 tourist attraction: a Roman Catholic cathedral built 200 meters underground in a still-working salt mine.  In addition to the main cathedral which holds Sunday services that can accommodate around 8000 people, there are 14 smaller chapels representing the events of Jesus’ last journey.  You can wander unchaperoned through the three different underground levels, stumbling across beautiful sculptures, secluded rock confession booths and narrow pathways leading from place to place.  Pictures don’t really do it justice but we can see why it’s considered one of Colombia’s most notable architectural achievements.

We paid an extra $5 each to take the special “miner’s route”.  Described as dark and claustrophobic, we expected to get an intimate view of the paths actual miners took.  Well, apart from the first three-minute walk, we were basically in big, well-lit spaces not much different than the rest of the cathedral.  Tear.  We did, however, get to discover that Juan has a future as a salt miner if nothing else works out.   Our guide stopped at some point and started making people take turns with a pick-axe.  When it was Juan’s turn and the guide found out we were from the U.S., he promptly said, “Oh.  Well, let’s see how an American does it!” and everyone laughed.  Luckily for us, Juan salvaged our pride by breaking the biggest piece of salt off the wall out of the entire group.  Yay for Juan!

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