Unlike some backpacker trips, ours has been characterized by a lot of slow movement and deciding things on the fly. Not the case for Colombia. Our trip to the country only worked out once we realized we had a two-week gap in our travels before heading to Hawaii, so with that short time, we’ve had flights set, no more than two to five days in each of three cities and a lot of moving around. I haven’t had much time to sit down and blog, so bear with me and my delays.
We are now in Medellin but our trip to Colombia began just over a week ago in the capital city of Bogota. Of all the huge metropolitan cities we’ve visited in South America, including Lima, Buenos Aires and Santiago, Bogota was the one that most caught our attention, the one that offered something more than being just like any big city.
As we noticed from the architecture, landscape and even the way people dressed, Bogota is an interesting, albeit sometimes jarring, mix of modern and colonial.
A better example would be comparing the colonial architecture to the massive and modern glass buildings we saw on the route from the airport to our hostel in the La Candelaria neighborhood. Unfortunately no pictures of that since I had just landed from Chile after an exhausting day of travel.
Anyway, the best way to soak in the energy of the city was by walking–anywhere and everywhere. Bogota reminded us a lot of Lima, in the way it seems to be more comfortable in its own cultural skin than, say, somewhere like Buenos Aires, which is more a mix of Europe and the U.S. It also smelled exactly like Cusco, Peru. Strange, I know, but I think it has something to do with mountain climates.
Here’s what we saw:
Loved loved loved obleas–two thin wafers with a layer of dulce de leche (called arequipe in Colombia), jam or cream in between. New Yorkers can try a very good version at Caracas in the East Village:
On Sundays, the city opens a main street for seven hours of walking and cycling:
We both fell in love with the area around Universidad de los Andes. Such a cool area with restaurants overflowing with students during lunchtime. We stopped for some fresh juice at Mora Mora, which reminded me of The Max from Saved By The Bell:
Eeeeveryone has beagles:
A visit to the gold museum, which everyone and their mommas recommended. Yeah, I don’t know about that. What I do know is: It’s official: Eaman and I are not museum people:
I’ve barely bought any souvenirs, but I was really excited by these sombrero-shaped earrings. Colorful and kitschy, no?:
Young Bogotans protesting last week’s bull fight, which, by the way, a guy at our hostel happily attended:
This is them, stopping to protest at a McDonald’s, and we just so happened to be there so Eaman could have a Big Mac. Whoops!
But it seemed like a half-protest, half-parade as people would burst into dance at any given moment–like this old man did:
We also climbed Monserrate — a peak in Bogota that offers a crazy view of the entire city, and what seemed like all of Colombia. We weren’t that enthusiastic about it at first — remember, we had just spent 1.5 months in Patagonia, surrounded by the most beautiful mountains in the world — but after a whole lot walking around the city, we wanted to do something different. Totally worth it.
South Americans are reaaally fascinated by The Simpsons, and look what we found at a gift shop atop the mountain?
Not pictured: Eaman celebrating Australia Day with some Aussies the night before I flew in and our excursion to the suburban club Andrés Carne de Res on a hostel party bus. (To be clear, the party bus looked more like an airport shuttle.) The club is one big restaurant slash bar filled with rich Bogotans. To me, it looked like a bunch of belligerent 20-year-olds using mommy and daddy’s credit cards. It was an interesting place and very different from a regular bar, but it also sort of felt like Disney World with all the empty space and bright decor. Oh, and cocktails were $20 — on average. Personally, I would’ve prefered a salsa club or some such. But it’s supposed to be one of the best clubs in Bogota, so I guess I checked that box.
And I’d be remiss to talk about Colombia and not mention safety. The country has been plagued by tons of negative press, stemming from drug wars and the rule — so to speak — of mafia leader Pablo Escobar. To be honest, Bogota didn’t feel any more or less safe than pick-pocketing capital Buenos Aires. Like any country in South America, you walk in groups, hold onto your purse and never walk around with wads of cash. The only difference we noticed is that in Bogota, it’s recommended to call a taxi to pick you up from wherever you are rather than hailing one on the street. Other than that, it’s really all the same stuff.
And Colombians want you to know that, too. Check out this ad at the Bogota airport:
But I must say, the one thing I didn’t like about Bogota was the weather. After being in balmy South America for four months, I have basically zero tolerance for cold. My blood has thinned, I tell ya! True, it was sunny and even hot sometimes during the day, but it was also schizophrenic with patches of intense sunlight followed by cold gloom. And don’t even get me started on the nights. I really don’t like wearing a fleece jacket to bed.
My pet peeve aside, Bogota did prove Colombia’s charm to us, and the coastal beach town of Cartagena? They proved it ten-fold. But that’s saved for the next post!