Edit Blog Post
Published: June 21st 2014
Over the years we’ve seen our fair share of cities, some have been good and some have not. Bogota is one of the good ones. It’s not without its drawbacks, the world famous drizzle being one, but what it loses in climatic charm it more than makes up for in culture. I’d be lying too if I said security wasn’t an issue, it is. The first weekend of World Cup football resulted in 9 fatalities and several disturbances across the city and reports of thefts and muggings aren’t uncommon.
However, the mayor seems to have a pretty good grip on things and isn’t afraid to use his political muscle. In the near three weeks we have been here the Mayor has called for two dry days (‘Le Seca’) meaning that no alcohol can be sold or consumed publicly city wide. Both ‘le seca’s’ lasted for 48 hours and according to Bogota’s English newspaper (The City Paper) were effective in reducing crime. Mayor Gustavo Petro seems like quite a forward thinking chap and banned Bull fighting in Bogota in 2012 when he came to office which is quite something in a country where bull fighting is regarded as a national past
time; needless to say he isn’t popular with everyone, not least because he is a former guerrilla, but it seems like he’s doing a good job.
The reality is Bogota is a city of contrasts, as mentioned we’ve been here for three weeks and in that time I feel like we have got quite a good taste for Colombia’s capital.
We’ve been staying in La Candalaria, Bogota’s old town, where we have been studying Spanish at international house and exploring the hundreds of museums and galleries the city has to offer. On our first full day we joined the government sponsored free walking tour. Complete with two young army cadets the tour took us through La Candalaria and Plaza Bolivar where we were given insights into Bogota’s turbulent past. It wasn’t an excellent tour but was a very good way to get to know La Candelaria. The paid for bike tour we took two days later was considerably better and probably a bit more impartial.
We joined up with the excellent Bogota bike tours on Sunday which is definitely the best day to do it. Why? Because of Ciclovia of course. The ciclovia initiative which began in
Bogota is now worldwide and makes getting to know a city by bike a unique (and safe(er)) experience. During most Sundays and public holidays several main roads are closed and everyone is invited to get out on their bikes. We were out for over five hours; highlights included the now unused bull ring, the downtown fruit market and the cementario Ingles where British legion soldiers were buried after their efforts during Latin Americas revolution against the Spanish.
I won’t go through a complete run down of everything we’ve done in Bogota, we have done quite a bit. However I do have to mention a few of Bogota’s museums of which there are many and in my opinion well deserving of their world renowned recognition.
My first mention goes to the Museo del Oro which is perhaps Bogota’s most famous; sponsored by Colombia’s central bank the gold museum houses the biggest collection of pre-Hispanic gold-work in the world. Over four floors you can see an impressive array of gold crafts some of which are so intricately detailed it’s hard to imagine they were made without modern technology. There’s also a very cool room where once inside, the doors close
behind you, the lights go out and a recording of a shaman sounds. Over the course of two or three minutes sections of the room light up showing various gold artefacts before the whole room is revealed to be a cylinder made up of dozens of gold artefacts. A bit cheesy perhaps but impressive nonetheless.
The national museum is equally impressive, not as much because of its collection but because it’s located inside a former prison which looks like a fortress; the highlights here were the huge collection of paintings of Colombia’s post colonialist founders which offered an insight into how modern Colombia was created.
My final museum mention goes to the Botero museum. Here the galleries dedicate themselves to Colombia’s most famous modern artist. Fernando Botero is a figurative painter of world renown, he is typically known for his figurative paintings of people with exaggerated limbs and bodies, some might say chubby. I’ll confess that I’m not a huge fan (pun intended) but I can see the appeal and I can appreciate the nations reverence for an artist whose work has sold for over a million dollars at auction. Credit must also go to Botero for his
generous donations of works, not only in the museum but across the whole of Colombia. The museum also houses some pieces by Dali, Picasso and impressionists, Renoir and Pissarro. Through the courtyard of the museum is the adjacent modern art museum which showcases temporary exhibitions by international contemporary artists. When we were there illustrator and animator William Kentridge was showing ‘Fortuna’. I was so impressed by his work and the curatorship of the show I’ve told anyone who would listen. More info on the show can be found here: http://www.banrepcultural.org/node/137008
As mentioned we have been busy in Bogota and I don’t want to bore you with a ‘what we did in Boga’ list but before I sign off I have to mention the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira. Although it is not strictly in Bogota it is a must see for visitors of the city. An hour or so on a couple of buses gets you to the small town of Zipaquiera, home to two huge salt mines. One of which has a Cathedral built into its depths. To reach it you follow the 14 Stations of the Cross underground, going further with each station where huge crosses are carved
into the salt and are lit with blue and green lights. For the religious the cathedral is very important, particularly at Easter when thousands visit the site. For the not so religious it remains an awe inspiring spectacle if not a little surreal. I’m glad we saw it; I certainly thought it was very unique but have since learned there are two others in Poland.
Needless to say Bogota has plenty to see and do and I didn’t even mention the bars and trendy shopping areas in the north part of the city or the beautiful parks. It is, like most big cities, congested, polluted and a little rough round the edges, caution is required for your personal safety but it certainly has plenty of charms and in my opinion is well worth a visit.
Tot: 2.118s; Tpl: 0.101s; cc: 22; qc: 74; dbt: 0.0552s; 1; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.5mb