This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Deep Down to the Salt Cathedral

iHaving spent our first couple of days in Bogota getting acclimated to a new city, new culture and new continent we decide to take a short day trip out of town to Zipaquirá to see the famous salt cathedral. From our tourist literature we believe that the entrance fee will be about US $4 each and furthermore, a 50% discount on Wednesdays. Meanwhile at the window it really costs US $8 to enter and half-priced Wednesdays was abolished last year. You would really think that by now that we would have learned to not trust a guidebook at all. Anyway, we are here, so we cough up the Colombian pesos and head toward the mine entrance.

The first section of the tour is pretty lame for a non-pilgrim. As we slowly head down a tunnel we stop at fourteen different places each representing a station of the cross as seen in Jerusalem. Pretty much each station has a variance of a cross carved out of the salt and the guide tells us the creator's artistic reasoning for doing it as such. This takes quite awhile and the combination of boredom, mine acoustics and the guide's rapid fire español has me unable to focus by station #5. Disappointed, we are thinking , "Is this it?" What a waste of 16 bucks (not including transportation costs). Luckily the tour takes a sharp incline down and we soon find ourselves in an immense chamber 180 meters underground which serves as a functioning Catholic church.

The pew of the church. They hold weddings here
 and get up to 3,000 people for Sunday mass 
This salt cathedral was completed in 1995 under an original built in the mine in 1950's that was deemed unstable and unsafe. To complete the new cathedral an incredible 250,000 tons of rock and salt was removed. The air down here feels noticeably thinner and looking up at the extremely high ceiling makes one wonder what is actually keeping up all the salt and rock from collapsing on our heads. This must be why in 2007 the salt cathedral was named the "First Wonder of Colombia". It also explains why miners are quite devout, have their own patron saint - the Virgen de Guasa and would want somewhere to pray close to their place of work.
Want to know how to create a salt cathedral controversy?:
take notice the indigenous features of the artist's depiction of Maria
After the tour there is an animated 3-D film with English subtitles where a robot takes us through the history of salt mining in the region. 70 million years ago the Andes region was covered by an ocean. The pre-Colombians started harvesting salt way back when and shows us up until the very modern process of salt mining today.
Salt mine movie theatre
And of course don't forget to visit the Salt Cathedral gift shop:

Your kids will just love playing with the salt miner action figures. Choose either the modern miner with pick and helmet

or the traditional salt miner with head basket and walking stick

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