I always wanted to visit South America and finally after many years an opportunity came up. Due to cheap flight tickets and friends living in Bogota our choice was clear. Colombia, for many people symbol of drugs and violence but for me and my girlfriend Maria just another great opportunity to visit a new country and find out how Colombia really is.
When we arrived to Bogota’s “El Dorado airport” I immediately felt strange. First of all it was probably still the jet lag and even more important an altitude of the city. Bogota is located actually 2 640 meters above sea level which is almost the same height as Slovakian highest mountain. As told by locals and our friends Alejandro and Janka the best medicine to take is tea from Coca leafs. And yes it really works very well.
Having just 2 days in the capital of Colombia we needed to move it. Our first visit was Colombian first wonder called Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá located about 45 minutes North of Bogota. Once a salt mine, nowadays a huge Catholic church with many tunnels and different crosses symbolizing Calvary. It is being described as a “jewel of modern architecture” and on Sundays it can held up to 3000 people for the mass.
On our second day we decided to start early morning and visit Monserrate, Bogota’s viewpoint on the mountain at 3 152 meters above sea level where you can find a church, shrine, restaurant and some shops. In order to get there we had to take a cableway pretty steep up. Once you get there a magnificent view opens up and when you see the vast area of the city of Bogota you hardly can believe it. The city of approx. 10 million habitants doesn’t have many European style apartment buildings which hold lot of people and that’s why it is very spread out.
When we got down we headed towards the city center but immediately were stopped by police men. They asked where we were going. Just after a while I understood that there are two ways. One which goes to the city center and the other one which can take you to very dangerous neighborhood. The police men just wanted to make sure we head the right way. It was the first and already really positive impression. On the way we met a Lama just sitting close to the main road which was strange for us but I guess pretty normal over there.
When we walked in the streets of Bogota we realized that there were hardly any tourists and if so almost all of them were Latinos. So you can imagine how “gringo” like me can drag an attention, dressed in green jacket, blue T-shirt and red shoes. Jacket is actually very important thing to have while in Bogota. Climate is mild with temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius and it rains very often. For me the weather seemed like in UK. It got pretty chilly in the evenings and nights so you better be prepared.
The main square of the city is called “Plaza de Bolivar” on which is situated Palace of Justice and National Capitol. We also visited a tourist office on the square just to get a city map. Girl who worked there kindly marked places to visit on the map. Then she started to mark places where not to go in the night and finally she showed us places where not to go at all. Security is still an issue in the country but there was nothing I felt scared about. There is police on every corner all over the city. In fact, I have visited many countries around the world, but I have never seen so many police men in the city, ever. This fact makes you feel more secure. The fact that most of them looked like high schoolers less secure…
This old city district in Bogota is called “La Candelaria” and you can find there many museums from which one of the most famous is “Museo de Botero”. Botero is very famous Colombian painter and the entrance there is for free. Then we wandered around the colorful streets of Candelaria filled with graffiti. Bogota in general has a lot of great art on its walls. The shame is than most of graffiti is not that nice and just ruining the looks. Taxis in Bogota are everywhere and it’s the best way how to travel within the city because it’s really cheap. Although I don’t recommend to travel in the evenings. Traffic jams are huge and you can spend crazy amount of time stuck in the taxi or bus.
After just 2 days, Bogota left a good impression of enormous city with kind and smiling people always happy to help and make you feel welcome. There was no unsecure feeling what so ever. Just have to behave as Colombians say”no dar Papaya” which means “don’t give Papaya”. I will let you figure it out on your own.