View of Caracas, Venezuela
I've always wanted to visit Latin America, and when the opportunity came for me to go to Caracas, Venezuela with a group of friends, I was there in a heartbeat. Venezuela is quite the place, from the busy subways of Caracas to the towering Kerepakupai-Merú Falls (Angel Falls) in the heart of the Canaima National Park, but nothing surprised or intrigued me more than a charming little town way up in the mountains called, Colonia Tovar. The fascinating thing about this town is that it is a German settlement in the middle of a Spanish speaking, Latin American country!
A brief look into history explains how this came to be. An agreement between the German and Venezuelan Governments saw the arrival of the first German settlers in 1843. This little town founded by Colonel Augustin Bodazzi and Alexander Benitz, was based primarily on agriculture. Colonia Tovar remained untouched by the world until 1960, and so pretty much everything about it is German-inspired. Perhaps the only thing "non-german" is the language spoken there, which is Spanish, of course.
Colonia Tovar is situated some 2000 km above sea level, so our ride there was pretty much all up hill. At times it felt like we were driving into the clouds, but it was just the fog that is a regular phenomenon at this elevation. When we arrived there, the first thing that struck me about this German town, was the architecture. Every building has a red clay tiled roof, and white or off-white walls intricately framed with dark wood, that is so typical of the Germans. The second thing that struck me was the presence of anglo-saxon peoples dressed in traditional German dress. If I didn't know any better, I would've believed I had gone through some kind of "worm-hole" and landed smack dead in the middle of Southern Germany.
Our first stop was, Arte Ceramica Tovar, a pottery store established by a German couple in 1959. During our lengthy stop here, we watched as they skillfully crafted some clay on the wheel, while they described the process to us. They even gave us a chance to test our knowledge and skills...of course we all sucked at it...but they sure made it look easy. Whether you are a local or a visitor their unique nature-inspired stoneware is sure to impress, with glazes and finishes that showcase their art heritage. From ornaments to mugs to fridge magnets, there's something for everyone. I came away with some gorgeous souvenir mugs.
Next it was time for lunch at one of the many excellent restaurants in Colonia Tovar offering typical German cuisine. An intensely flavored three course meal was served, which started off with a choice of fresh creamy soup...I chose split pea soup, while the others had Leek soup, Pumpkin soup etc. Though my soup was absolutely delicious it in no way compared to the main course. White rice, veggies and chicken. Looking at the rice you would not have guessed that it would be packed so full of flavor...it was as if they injected delicate flavors into each rice grain (yes it was that good!).
Strawberries and CreamDessert was an absolute treat. Sure you've had Strawberries and Cream but trust me you have not had THE best Strawberries and Cream unless you've had it German style in Colonia Tovar. I don't know where they got those strawberries from but they were huge, juicy and sweet! The cream on top just made it the dreamiest dessert I've ever had.