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Published: September 30th 2013
We arrived in Bogota just before 9am following an early flight (and even earlier taxi!) from Armenia. Fortunately our room was ready so we were able to check in as soon as we arrived at the hostel. The lady said our room wasn’t in the main building so walked us to an apartment block nearby and showed us to our very own studio apartment complete with kitchen which would be our home for the next two nights.
Our apartment was in the La Candalaria district of Bogota, which is close to most of the major sites and museums. The suburb is really strange, there are gorgeous old building (sometimes covered in terrible graffiti) right next to grimey ‘newer’ building which look like they were transplanted from communist Russia. Its shame they didn’t think about architecture of these newer buildings (/ didn’t have the money at the time) because it could have been a really beautiful area. We made our way towards Plaza de Bolivar which is bordered by a number of cathedrals and other historical buildings. We then saw a motorcade off in the distance so walked towards it and alongside what turned out to be the Presidents house (hence
the motorcade!). He lives in a gorgeous, heavily guarded, building called Casa de Nariño which is just behind the Capitolio Nacional. After snooping at the Presidents house for a while we decided it was time to visit the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum).
The Museo del Oro presents over 55,000 pieces of gold (and some other materials) from all the major pre-Hispanic cultures in Colombia. The first area of the museum presents the various techniques used to produce the artefacts throughout history, involved in producing the gold artefacts, including that they figured out that you could add copper and other metals to gold and it would reduce the melting point. The second section presents the developments in workmanship, design and uses of the gold artefacts in the seven different regions of Colombia from the time they started working with gold. The designs differed a fair bit between the regions, however you could tell which communities traded with each other as they picked up little bits and pieces of each other’s style. The third area presents the symbology associated with a lot of the artefacts which belonged to shamans as well as how gold was used in rituals. A large
number of the artefacts found in this section were recovered from Laguna de Guatavita which is west of Bogota. These relics were thrown into the lagoon as offerings to a golden god who they believed lived on the lake floor. A lot of these relics from Laguna de Guatavita are presented in a room which you enter in complete darkness. Once the doors close, the music starts and light show begins you realise that the walls of the circular room are completely covered with (golden) relics. This was surprisingly well done and not at all tacky. The final room brings it all together and included my favourite piece – a puma!
After the museum we went and had lunch at an Arab restaurant nearby. We spent the rest of the afternoon being incredibly lazy in our apartment and trying to get the hot water in the shower to work (no luck!). That night we had Mongolian at a little restaurant very close to our apartment.
The next morning we made our way back to Plaza de Bolivar to take some photos before heading over to Museo Histórico Policia. The museum is in a lovely old building which was
At the museum we were given a tour by a young guy called David who was in the middle of his national service. The museum was quite interesting, particularly given Colombia’s recent history. One room was dedicated to the hunt for and eventual death of Pablo Escobar in Medellin and included various items owned by Escobar as well as the roof tile he apparently hit his head on during a fall when the police were closing in on him. A Harley Davidson motorbike Escobar had gifted to his cousin was also on display, David remarked that some people think pink is the original colour and added “imagine that, a gangster with a pink bike!”. There were also the obligatory rooms filled with guns, uniforms, radios etc showing the evolution of equipment over the lifetime of the Colombian Police Force. However I think the best thing about the museum was having the opportunity to chat to David and hear about his national service (which seems to involve a whole lot of standing around) and get his view on Colombia.
The street the Police Museum is on is lined with shops selling police badges, military badges, uniforms, boots and so on
which were apparently open to the general public (seems like a silly idea?). Scott picked up a few Colombian Police Force badges before we made our way towards La Puerta Falsa (the False Door) for lunch. La Puerta Falsa is apparently one of the most popular snack shops / cafes in Bogota and was highly recommended to us by the Colombians we did the Inca Trail with. We ordered a tamale and an ajiaco (traditional Bogotano chicken, corn and potato soup which you add rice to so it’s actually more like a stew) to share. The food was yummy (but still no Thai!) and we were very full by the time we’d finished.
That afternoon we headed over to Monserrate which is one of the many mountains surrounding Bogota. We cheated and caught the funicular (cable car) up to the top rather than climbing the 1500 steps up which, judging by how exhausted the climbers were when they reached the top, was quite a sensible idea. Fortunately the sky was really clear so we had a really good view of Bogota which allowed us to get a sense of how vast the city is.
After Monserrate we caught
a cab to one of the many shopping centres in the Zona Rosa district as I was running short of clothes and Scott (stupidly) suggested I buy some new tops instead of getting washing done. As we got closer to the shopping centre we definitely got the sense we were heading into a more upmarket area, it actually reminded me of Sydney with the hills and 5-7 storey apartment buildings everywhere. Colombia has a massive middle class (one of the largest in Latin America) and it seemed like the majority of them were at the shopping centre. Given the wealth of the middle class Colombians, the clothes weren’t a bargain at all so unfortunately I didn’t get to indulge that much. We treated ourselves to a snack at Crepes y Waffles (a Colombian chain store selling, surprisingly, crepes and waffles which the Colombians from the Inca Trail raved about!); Scott had salted caramel ice-cream and I had a waffle with Areqiupe (dulce de leche).
Following our snack we caught another cab to Usaquen, which was a suburb the our Inca Trail buddies recommended we visit for the buildings and the market. After checking out the migration expo (anyone want
to move to India for work?) we found ourselves a great seat at the Bogota Beer Company (BBC) pub. I was surprised this spot was empty as the pub was packed, but soon realised why after we sat down and noticed the strange looks people were giving us. Seems we we’d chosen the seats under the TV screening the soccer match… We ordered some drinks and a serve of tiny bite sized roasted potatoes and settled in for some people watching.
We had a fairly low key dinner close to our apartment as neither of us were very hungry after our late snack of potatoes. We chose an ‘Asian’ restaurant, which turned out to be not the greatest choice…maybe their kebabs were better than their noodles?
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