Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bogota... Just Bogota!

That's right, I couldn't come up with a cute and witty title for this one. So after the Pantanal, and after seeing more than enough of the Amazon, and after leaving Bogota just to land right back to Bogota, I figured I was stuck with the place. So I spent four days making the best of it, namely enjoying not sleeping in a hammock for a change, being able to converse in Spanish, not having to put up with mosquitos, getting my sandals repaired agains, and actually shopping a bit... Bogota can be a little expensive compared to places like Bolivia and Peru, but arriving here, it was time to admit that being forced to stitch my shorts (and my jeans) back together twice a week probably wasn't practical. And after all that I even managed to do a little bit of sightseeing:

Cerro de Monseratte, ruling over a hill, overlooking Bogota

Down the streets in Bogota - Colombia had been one of the major centers of the Spanish colonies, so the cities here have extensive collections of colonial architecture.

Fortunately, half of Colombia is still in the Amazon (and another chunk lies along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts), so the tropical fruit on the streets continues to be abundant. And tasty!

Bogota is interesting in that it's really three distinct cities in one - there's Candelaria, the artsy and historic old colonial town, filled with churches, restaurants, cafes serving Colombian coffee, and artsy boutiques. Then there's Zona Rosa (actually, there's apparently a Zona Rosa in each Colombian town) - this is where the rich Colombians come to play: bars, restaurants, night clubs, and shopping malls to rival the best that Los Angeles has to offer. With prices to match - definitely not the place for your average Bogota resident. And then there's all the rest of Bogota - a sprawling metropolis of over 7 million people, featuring everything from high tech office high rises to your standard South American slums and shanty towns. I stayed in Candelaria, and ventured briefly into Zona Rosa for the night life.

All that cultural anthropology being said, I still don't generally like big cities all that much, so while going out to a Bogota night club at the top of a skyscraper in the center of the city was a lot of fun, my other entertainment options were starting to dwindle to an Andy Warhol exhibit (interesting) and seeing the Angels and Demons movie (less interesting) - in a word, I was getting a little bored and a little restless. Fortunately enough, after four days in Bogota, Irina flew down from the States to keep me company:

Proving that even Americans are becoming less and less afraid of Colombia's reputation. In another 5-10 years, the place is going to be rivaling other South American cities as the major tourist draw on the continent

So, we promptly set off for more sight-seeing around Bogota... starting with Monseratte again. It's a great 'mirador' point, as the locals like to call it

No, we didn't actually climb up the side of the mountain to get up here... I thought about it though...

Looking down on Candelaria - Bogota's old city district. In the center, the distinctly unique Iglesia Santa Clara - it might be the only truly Gothic-style church I've seen so far in South America...

From here, it was time to hop on a local bus, and catch a quick ride to the nearby suburb of Zipaquira. All I really knew about it was that it's the site of the 'Salt Cathedral,' which I definitely wanted to see, but, hey, there's actually a little more to it:

Starting with the tranquil main plaza, a big place lined with palm trees, with a big cathedral presiding over it

And then on to the Salt Cathedral - this is formerly a gigantic salt mine, which has seen been converted to an actual Catholic Cathedral. Well, I suppose, I didn't see any priests there, but certainly no shortage of crosses

Did I mention crosses? Big stone ones no less... With cool and eery blue lighting.

On the way to town, it was off to Andres Carne de Res - an absolutely ridiculous steak house in the Northern suburbs of Bogota, which is difficult to describe, but if you are ever here, definitely a must see! Oh, and the food's amazing as well.

From here on, it was back to Bogota for another day of sightseeing before heading out to the beach in Cartagena. So, some odds and ends around town:

Plaza Bolivar in the middle of town, with Bogota's very own Cathedral in the back

A rather picturesque car offering itself up for a quick photo shoot. The parking lot guard looked at us a bit crossly, but eventually stalked off without saying a word.

And the Bogota military museum... Just be glad to know that the gun she's holding isn't real...

And that was it for Bogota - off to Cartagena!

1 comment:

Ultra1 said...

I love the photo with the girl, canon and soldiers. That is great!