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‘Manizales, el mejor vividero del país.’ So runs the slogan on the city’s tourist map. It basically means it’s the best place to live in Colombia.
It’s a bit of a statement to make in a land that has an abundance of natural beauty spots. What Manizales claims to have, however, is more than just the impressive, hilly, landscape it’s set in.
As one of Colombia’s more moderately-populated department capitals, getting around the place doesn’t tend to be a headache. Indeed, it can be navigated easily enough on foot, if you don’t mind the steep inclines and declines that is. (On the commuting front, a city that has a cable car service incorporated into its public transport system is always a little special for us.)
Its location in the country’s famed and relatively well-developed Coffee Region (Eje Cafetero) boosts further its quality-of-living index. It’s not an isolated outpost. Word on the street is that there’s money floating about the place, there are employment opportunities, framed in a limited Colombian context as they must be.
Another bonus is that many everyday things are cheaper here compared to Bogotá.
On top of all this, not only are many of the locals friendly — something which can be said about many places in Colombia — the city also has a largely safe feel to it. This can’t be said about some of the other big urban centres here.
For those who feel more at home living the ‘high life’ in the hills than by the beach, as we do, at 2,200 metres above sea level, Manizales certainly ticks that box.
When the sun shines it can get up to a satisfying 24 degrees Celsius or even a little more. At night, the temperatures don’t drop as low as they generally do in the slightly loftier Bogotá.
As well as being in the Eje Cafetero, Manizales is also in Paisa Country. The home of the Paisas, those recognised as Colombia’s more business-minded and industrious types, is regarded as Medellín. We had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the country’s second city, so it could be said Manizales offers Paisa living without the Medellín drawbacks.
The musical Manizales accent is, as far as we’re concerned anyway, another pull factor. It’s rather enticing.
It could be said it has some sort of an Italian flavour to it. Whatever the case, it’s certainly quite distinct from the plainer Bogotá tones.
On that Italian front, the fact that meatballs — albóndigas in the local tongue — are a staple of the cuisine here, might suggest some sort of previous connection. (A tenuous link it may be, but the Manizales and Italian flags use the same colours, albeit in different order and direction. The city’s football team, Once de Caldas, however, display the green, white and red on its crest in the same way as Italy.)
Granted our week-long visit was over the Christmas holiday period, the city still seemed quite busy, yet with a relaxed vibe to it. We were assured this is how the place typically rolls.
Indeed, if one was considering a move out of the mayhem of Bogotá, Manizales doesn’t seem like a bad option at all.
As the locals would say themselves to such an idea, ‘bien pueda’, ‘well you can’.
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