7 Quirky, Cool (and Colorful) Things About Colombia

Maceta Festival sweets

Colombia is a gorgeous country, one that’s colorful in a literal and a figurative sense. lt’s also uniquely itself and quirky in certain ways. Some of these quirks, whether cool or colorful or both, are easy to notice when traveling there.

Here’s just some of what I encountered…

1. The Pinwheel/Sweets Festival

When I first stumbled onto this festival, in San Antonio, Cali, I thought I was Alice in Wonderland. Was I in the middle of some sort of trippy pinwheel festival? There were thousands of them everywhere!

Maceta Festival pinwheels

What I didn’t realize was that there were also sugary candy figurines and confetti mixed in with the pinwheels as part of a special bouquet that godparents give to their godchildren to celebrate the “Day of the Godchildren.”

It’s a special tradition and the celebration itself is known as the Festival de la Maceta. I happened to be in the neighborhood in Cali known for the festival–San Antonio–and so, it’s taken quite seriously there. There are a number of stores that sell macetas only or primarily.

Maceta Festival sweets

Oh, and by the way,  I think, but I’m not sure (my Spanish is pretty good and I googled it, but I’m unclear anyway) that the pinwheels themselves are actually candy, too.


2. Dogs in Soccer Shirts

Colombia did quite well in the World Cup and people were celebrating while I was there. So were the dogs. Or the owners wanted it to look that way–or maybe just for their pets to share in the fun. I have a feeling people dress up their dogs this way any time their team is playing in an important match.

Colombian dog clothing

3. The Church That Changes Colors

This church in Salento–Nuestra Señora del Carmen–sort of blew my mind. One night, while sitting nearby and eating some street food, I noticed that it changed colors. First, it was white (which it really was). Then, it became reddish pink, then teal, then purple, blue…yellow, etc.

Was this a flashback to the Pinwheel Fest? Nope. According to some locals, it is part of an annual religious celebration related . While and after the lights/colors changed, a procession made its way through town and the streets full of the locals. Glad I got to see it.

Red church, Guatape


4. Ant Snacks

There’s something about seeing people carrying cups of  ant snacks that caught my attention. After all, I don’t see this in the U.S. Ever. It was fun watching them snack on the ants, just as I might snack on pretzels or popcorn.

I liked the idea of it, too–I mean, trying the ants. From a distance, they sure looked tasty. Like burnt popcorn kernels.

But did I try them? And if so, what did they taste like? Story here.

Colombian ants as snack

5. Hot Chocolate ‘n’ Cheese–Together in a Cup

While couch-surfing in Bogotá, my host served me this combo–hot chocolate and cheese. It struck me as slightly unusual at first, but it wasn’t bad. After you let the cheese melt (and it absorbs the flavor of the chocolate), you can scoop it out and eat it with a spoon or try to catch it when you reach the bottom of the cup.

I saw this in a few of the pueblos at higher altitudes and with cooler weather, which makes sense. This is not something one would want in 100-degree weather along the coast.

Cheese and Chocolate

6. Towns That Smell Like Bread

Quite a few towns had a plethora of bakeries–and man, did they smell like bread. The towns, that is–not just the bakeries! I loved walking down the street enjoying the aroma. It was fantastic!

The two towns that smelled most like bread (to me) were Barichara and Villa de Leyva. I felt like these towns  were open-air bakeries.

Galguerías II.jpg

7. Funny Expressions Like “Rollo” and “Buenas”

Rollo–Bakery term? Heck no.

If you don’t speak Spanish, this might look like it sounds like “roll O.” And considering that so many towns smell like bread, it might make sense. They’re talking about rolls, right?

Wrong. The word is pronounced “ROW yo.” And it’s a very common expression. I heard it used a lot, especially in Bogotá. According to a friend who’s from there, it means a problem, a mess, a hassle, an annoyance and, quite often, person who’s a pain in the neck or rather complicated.

Saying “Goods” for “Hello”–a Lonely Adjective Indeed

In Colombia, many people say “buenas” for hello or good morning/good afternoon. They leave off the “dias” and “mañana” much of the time.  If you take it literally, which you shouldn’t (unless you’re writing this silly post and trying to make a point), it means “goods,” as a plural adjective (which Spanish has and English doesn’t.)

It’s a lonesome adjective missing a noun. Maybe it should try to hook up with a noun in a bakery? :)

8. Water in Bags

Not too colorful (unless you’re viewing a rainbow through the bag) and not unique to Colombia, this was simply quirky. Despite having lived in Ecuador, where I recall seeing these bags, this was the first time I actually drank water from one.

I liked it…most of the time. It was cheaper than bottled water (and I would hope a bit less harmful to the environment–still bad, I know) and great for traveling light. However, I do remember buying it a few times and it tasting like plastic. It made me wonder if it’d been left out in the sun or something. If so, not good.

woman drinking water from bag

What’s quirky about this is the experience of drinking the water. Do you cut the corner of the bag or bite it off? I usually bit it off. And kept it small. Too big and the water got all over my face. Sometimes, to avoid this, I (carefully) poured the water into my water bottle.

Your Thoughts/Experiences/Reactions

Have you been to Colombia? If so, what sort of quirky, cool and/or colorful stuff did you notice?

If you haven’t been there, have you visited any countries where you spotted some interesting quirks? If so, where and what?

More Quirky Stuff

Like reading about a country or city’s quirks? Here’s a post re: Quirky Quito, the capital of Ecuador–more specifically, how it’s changed since the 1990s.

Like mannequins? I love them. The weirder, the better. Here are several posts featuring some very unusual mannequins I’ve had the pleasure of photographing in various countries, including a few in the Middle East.


Photo Credits                                                                                                                                                                   Bread photo–Miguel Vaca – originally posted to Flickr  as Galguerías II. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.                                                                                                                                                                                   Woman drinking water from a bag: Tomas Prochazka (own work) via Wikimedia Commons.

12 Responses to 7 Quirky, Cool (and Colorful) Things About Colombia
  1. Jo (The Blonde)
    February 10, 2015 | 10:12 am

    I like the dogs in the shirts. So cute!
    In Thailand we also have water in bags, which I discovered recently. I find it quite amusing. At least it’s cheaper than a water in a bottle.
    Jo (The Blonde) recently posted..Thai culture – things you won’t find in your travel guidesMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      February 18, 2015 | 10:00 am

      Hi, Jo. Water in bags in Thailand, too? Cool. I think it’s a pretty good idea, as long as it’s not left sitting in the sun.

      Yeah, those dogs are adorable. :)

  2. Jason lewis
    February 12, 2015 | 6:39 am

    It sounds interesting. Really it does. Especially the 3rd one where The Church changes its colors. I mean it seems weird!! I would love to see the church by myself.
    Jason lewis recently posted..Understanding the Sea Lion Global DistributionMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      February 18, 2015 | 9:59 am

      Hi, Jason. Thanks for visiting the ‘bus.’ :) Yeah, that church was quite cool. Glad I got to see that!

  3. Chris Rohrer
    February 20, 2015 | 4:14 pm

    I would love to eat ant snacks! Yum!!! That looks like an amazing time:)
    Chris Rohrer recently posted..En La AtalayaMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      February 23, 2015 | 12:18 am

      Hi, Chris! Would you really try them? I mean, if you looked at them up close for a while? :) Hope all is well!

  4. Missouri Bus
    March 8, 2015 | 1:51 pm

    The dogs look so cute. And hot chocolate and cheese actually sounds really good.

    • CB Driver
      March 23, 2015 | 3:00 pm

      Hi, Missouri Bus. Yeah, they were cute. :) The cocoa n cheese was good in the cooler weather.

  5. Sofia
    April 27, 2015 | 2:24 am

    Those ants are quite big.. aren’t they? But I love that color-changing church.. seems like an enjoyable view while outside of it.. like you enjoying your snacks. Great post!

    • CB Driver
      May 2, 2015 | 6:03 pm

      Hi, Sofia. Yes, the ants are big! Maybe that’s part of the turn-off? :) The church was pretty–definitely.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. northierthanthou
    April 30, 2015 | 5:14 pm

    Oh wow That church is beautiful.
    northierthanthou recently posted..Sartre Was Right, But Hell Sometimes Has an Endearing QualityMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      May 2, 2015 | 6:01 pm

      Thanks! Glad I got to see it change colors as it did.

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