Friday 3 May 2024

Bustling Bogota

Hello from Bogota, Colombia's capital and the largest city I've ever been. I think there are ten million people living in Bogota which is divided into twenty areas. We stayed in El Candelaria, which is in the centre of the city and it took us two hours to get to from the point of seeing the Welcome to Bogota sign!  El Candelaria is an area of beautiful colonial buildings and museums. We spent a few days wandering the streets, visiting museums and eating delicious traditional food. Candelaria's streets are crowded with passers-by and street stalls. I am not sure how to describe this but, while wandering the streets of Bogota, it felt like you're being accepted, as a visitor, into the community and it felt like everyone is trying to help you and make you enjoy the city!

It was a weird feeling but maybe this has something to do with Bogota's crazy ex-mayor, Antanas Mockus. I promise this is not some random information - I read about Mockus in our guidebook and I thought it was too good not to share his story with you all.

Basically, in the 1990s, Bogota was known as a world capital of crime; kidnappings, murders and car bombings were common in the streets and some people thought it would take a super hero to change Bogota. Enter Mockus, ready in his super-citizen costume to transform Bogota into a place where people felt safe to walk the streets. And if you are wondering whether I made this up, the answer is no. He did often show up in official meetings in a costume with a cape encouraging people to be 'super-citizens'. As far as I could tell, Mockus did so many imaginative and progressive things, and he was beloved by people in the city. For example, to stop gun crime in the city, he put an amnesty on guns in exchange for food, and had the metal made into spoons for babies. Or when the city's water was low, he starred - NAKED - in an ad on national television showing the citizens how to shower using less water! He also hired hundreds of mime artists to mock drivers who broke the traffic rules - apparently this worked better than fines! Reading about him made us all laugh, but I also thought he was very inspirational in a crazy kind of way.

But almost as crazy as Mockus was some of the food we had in Bogota. Starting with the most gigantonormous pan au chocolate we had. It was as big as a flat football and larger than my face, I kid you not! We also tried a traditional soup and stew; Ajiaco (the soup) and Sancocho (the stew). Ajiaco is a thick soup of chicken, potato, sweetcorn, capers, and cream. There are many different types of sancocho but mine consisted of beef ribs, potato, sweetcorn and yuca, both dishes were served with rice and avocado. I loved both and would gladly have one again!

Unfortunately, while we were in Bogota, Dan caught a cold, but despite this, we still got to visit Bogota's famous Gold museum. I thought it was also a bit like a history museum as there were gold pieces from several pre-Hispanic cultures, the Tayrona one of them. It was amazing to see gold pieces and ceremonial clothes from Ciudad Perdida and the Tayrona, it feels weird but in an amazing way that I can actually say that I've been to these places. I was disappointed that we didn't see the eagle famed in the tales of the looters and the most valuable piece found when they discovered the city. My two favourite exhibits from the museum were:

  • A flying fish in 3d which was very beautifully shaped.
  • A shell covered in several layers of gold, the shell had rotted away leaving just the gold.

In the next few days we are leaving Colombia which will involve a lot of driving and many one-night stops so I might not be able to write posts quickly. But fear not, I'll be back!

Bye for now, Orestis.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this wonderful introduction to Bogota. It sounds so amazing. I should so love to go. When you get back I am going to play you music by Classico Latino, one of the members of the band is from Colombia. Your descriptions of the museums, the street artists and the buzz of the place are brilliant. Is Mockus still alive? What an extraordinary person. Wow. Lots of love Mxx