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Published: January 2nd 2020
Simon Bolivar Square
Just few days after the protest (el paro) all the writing on the wall shows well what the people think
From Guatemala City we flew to Bogota, Colombia directly; no more Central America, we thought we were already ready for the South. We didn’t know what to expect, my first time in South America.
At the airport we realised we could take an Uber, so we order one from the app. The driver asked us to go to his location instead than come to pick us up. Then the guy come to meet us and brought us in the car park where the car was parked and after paying the parking he asked me to go in the front seat because the police could stop us and take his car. Basically Uber is legal to exist but illegal for the driver to work for it. The Bogota experience just started and we already understood that here things are not running as everywhere else. The police favours the local taxi driver over the Uber driver so if you use Uber it has to be covert and you get in the front pretending your mate is giving you a ride.
We got an Airbnb in one of the most “secure and good” areas of the
La puerta falsa restaurant
First encounter with the traditional food, the famous Ajiaco soup with a plate of things to add to it: capers, cream, avocado and rice.
A Colombian tamal and the classical chocolate with cheese that Daria had to have.
city. Here the address are codes similar to the States, ours was Carrera 91, 14-01. A nice flat, 24/7 entrance doorman with gun. Just one button buzz, no keys at the gate, he will open you the door if you deserve it.
My friend Skiavoletch gave us lots of advice about Bogota including which area to stay and much more. First day we decided to go to the centre to have a look around and go to the Botero museum. The week before there was a huge ”Paro”(protest) because the government decide to apply new rules about different important national issues. You could see marks, signs and remnants of the protest on the streets, and writing all over the centre of the city saying “Duque HP” (prime minister son of a bitch) as well as broken shop windows and messages of hope from the people.
Botero museum was closed because of fear of more protests and vandalism in and around the museums. Not happy we decide to go and eat (Daria needs food when she’s not happy). We went to la Puerta Escondida, a recommended place where to eat the famous Ajaico soup (it
The Colonial area
did not disappoint!) Once there we also ordered a chicken tamal and a traditional Bogota drink that consists of a hot chocolate where you dip soft type of cheddar cheese (a bit gross but we had to try it). The soup was amazingly good: Corn, Chicken, cream, Avocado and capers. Tamal was good and similar to a Mexican one. The chocolate with cheese wasn’t t our favourite things, you know, culturally we found a bit weird to have chocolate with cheese but the gusti no disputamos, Colombians love it and they maybe won’t like to have cheese with pears.
Going back home took 1 and half hours, the traffic is really crazy, not like Rome, 10 times worse and at least 3 times more stinky. Plus as there is no metro or tram, everyone is piling into buses. That evening we went to what was described as the “luxury” barrio with nice bars and restaurants but what we found was more like Clapham high street on a Saturday night. Lots of young people not wearing much, drinking and some high, and LOTS of bars and clubs playing chart music ready to receive the youth. We felt old!
Colombian street food N1
We did go into a little salsa bar as we wanted to see people dancing and have a go ourselves but they told us we had to buy a whole bottle of tequila/vodka if we wanted to stay so we decided to leave.
In the street we stopped to look at a bicycle that had a motor engine added to it, all very hand made, when a rough looking girl approached us saying that was her boyfriend’s bike. She started speaking with us, she introduced herself with the name of Lady, because her mother gave her the name of princess Diana so she asked to be called just Lady. She was telling us that in this “posh” area, people judge her badly because she smoke weed and, making some gestures, she made us understand also other types of drugs and also because she was coming from the south of the city (the poorest area). Then the boyfriend arrive, he was very excited to speak with us, they thought that Daria was Colombian and I was the Italian guy that picked her up thanks to the money I had. We had to explain to them twice to make
them understand that we were both Italians but I don’t think the boyfriend got it...
Lady was there trying to sell tacky piggy banks; she was saying that this was her art, I thought she was trying to make us believe she was making them, but no, her art was to sell them, she got all the best techniques to convince people to buy that horrible stuff. She said she wanted to give us one for free. I know this technique, Africans use it too in Rome to sell small things to people that said that they don’t want to buy anything. I also know how to not accept it without looking disrespectful. In the end we walked away without any piggy bank but it took 20 minutes.
Some of the areas were quite clean and nice like la Candelaria (Colonial Barrio in the centre) and the area where we stayed but other place we passed with the bus they looked filthy and very rough, poor people with no shoes and dirty clothes all around, Graffiti and street art completely cover the walls leaving no spaces for other artist to paint. Daria didn’t feel very safe,
At the club
With Juan Camilo y Maria Cecilia
while I loved it. You could see the vibes of the city, so vibrant, so alive despite the living conditions being so border line. Unlike London where people beg, no one begs here - they sell. Because if you beg no one gives you nothing. Selling something and making a type of business is what Colombians do. We had people selling us plastic bags, bin bags, individual sweets, every type of house essentials...
Skiavoletch gave us so many places to visit, we couldn’t follow all of them but one great thing was to connect us with his friend Juan Camilo and his wife Maria Cecilia, who were very welcoming and sweet with us. We went for lunch at a traditional Arepa restaurant on a dirty main road, that we never would found such a hidden gem on our own. We loved the food and the owner told us his wife and daughters were living in Rome.
That same day at night we went out to a three floors club with Juan Camilo, Maria Cecilia and other two friends. The ground floor was Colombian music (Cumbia and then reggaeton), the first floor was 80/90’s music
and the third floor was electronic Colombian music. In Colombia the most common way of ordering drinks at the bar consist in ordering an entire bottle of spirits; you choose the size and the sodas you want, they give you some free sodas, glasses and a bucket of ice, than you mix your own drinks. This system avoids you to go back to the bar queueing and less work for the bar tenders. We had vodka and great fun dancing in all of the three floors. The next day, Domingo, we were in hangover mode and unfortunately missed out on the fact that on Sunday mornings, the citizens can take advantage of the main road that cross the city as it becomes closed to cars instead becoming a cycle route till 2pm. That’s something that we should do in Europe too.
Bogota was our first encounter with Colombia and it was a bit of a culture shock, especially for Daria that never experienced such a type of anarchic way of life, where people don’t take care of personal spaces and body contact. Me, I get less shocked, I have been to Naples different times and always enjoyed
but I have to admit that Napoles in comparison is like Stockholm.
We were staying in a nice quite area but this does not mean that electricity work all the time, and so the second day we experienced our first Colombian blackout, a 12 hour power cut. All area was in the dark, we were quite shocked about the situation but all the people we met around were very tranquil about it. In Colombia happens all the time.
Finally we managed to visit the Botero museum, we arrive early in the morning ready to enjoy the fatty characters of his paintings. I understood that he didn’t portrait fat people, instead he add chubbiness to everything and everybody he paint, animals and food too, all chubby, we found it very sweet. In the museum there were explanations of the artworks telling the political and social meanings of his works but it didn’t explain why he add this chubbiness to every single things.
On the final day we went to the famous ”Cerro de Montserrat” at 3250 metres above sea level and 450 metres above the Bogota altitude. There are 3 ways to
go up there: Cable car, Funicular train or the most antique transportation the human being had, the feet. We choose the two modern way, one to go up, the other to going down.
Up there a huge nativity scene was waiting for us, the church was open to the public and many people were enjoying the panorama. After a few obligatory selfies and pics and after trying to understand the layout of the city a bit, we decided to have a walk in the opposite direction of all the people and we realise that hidden behind the church there was the profane area where people could eat pork and drink alcohol.
So following the advice of Skiavoletch we had a Canelazo. That’s a king of punch made of a cinnamon ripe of tea topped with Aguardiente alcohol. We also tried the famous coca tea made from the coca leaf that is good for altitude. Both were very good.
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