Visiting Bogota

Colombia Bogota Cathedral Colombia Bogota  Palacio
I normally start each web page with a country’s national square or some famous icon even though I might have visited it towards the middle or end of my trip. In Colombia though, Bolivar Square was actually the very first place I visited since it was only a block away from my hotel. At the time there was a large market that took up the entire square which I wrote about further below on this page. On the left is the Primary Cathedral of Bogota which was built in the early 1800s, and on the right the National Capitol building that was finished 100 years later in 1926.
Colombia Soldier Colombia Bogota Modern High Rise Building
As Colombia once had a very bad reputation I found that inside the Simon Bolivar square and all around Bogota were a large number of police and military personnel on guard. With so much protection, unlike trips to Afghanistan or some places in Africa, I was never worried during this trip about any major problems. I figured the most that might probably happen was someone stealing my belongings, but of course I still used common sense. Even though I wasn’t concerned about violence I still must admit that the negative reputation of Colombia was with me before I arrived to the country. I expected Bogota to be a sprawling slum packed with lots of not so friendly looking people. Instead I arrived to a very modern and clean city filled with colonial buildings that stand in the shadows of towering skyscrapers. Much of Colombia’s turnaround is credited to former president Alvaro Uribe who was in power from 2002 until 2010. His father was killed in 1983 by the FARC guerilla group, and under Uribe’s leadership the FARC as well as other criminals and militias saw many of their leaders killed or arrested. Some of the most dangerous groups lost more than half their numbers from either losing their lives in battles or from laying down their arms and abandoning their leaders. Colombia once had one of the highest recorded murder and kidnapping rates in the world and those numbers have dropped over 70% in the past decade!
Colombia Bogota Mercado Souvenirs Colombia Bogota Llama
Back to Simon Bolivar Square, as I said the Friday morning I visited there was a large market going on that took up the entire square. On the left is some animal statues that seem to have been made out of seeds that were glued together and painted. On the right is a llama that was in the square for anyone who wanted to have their photo taken with it. There was live music going in the square with some dancers and all kinds of fruits and foods for sale. Most people gave me free samples and it was here in the square where I tried mura for the first time on this trip. I had mura berries and mura flavored drinks throughout my trip in Colombia. It appears that mura is the South American version of the blackberry, or maybe it’s the same exact thing but just called mura in South America!
Colombia Bogota Donuts Colombia Bogota Mercado Pig
Aside from fruits I bought a donut from the guy above since he was nice enough to let me take his picture and tried some other foods in the market. One thing I refused to try was meat from the pig on the right. Even though I’m not a vegetarian, seeing the entire animal dead and stuffed with other food wasn’t appealing to me. If food from street vendors in the market isn’t for you there are plenty of high end restaurants to choose from in Bogota. The two photos below were from an Italian restaurant I happened to stumble into while roaming the city. The restaurant was nicely decorated and had a great staff. On the lower right was my appetizer which was just as good as the meal itself. After my meal my waiter took me to the third floor to show me the 360 view that overlooked parts of the city.
Colombia Bogota Fine Dining Bogata Fine Dining
Colombia Bogota Church Colombia Bogota Store Jesus
Colombia has always been a Christian country and within the city and all across the country are churches, cathedrals, and several places that sell religious items. One store I went into that was right outside Simon Bolivar square had its entire ceiling with Jesus’ on the cross for sale. The entire street here seemed to be dominated by religious stores.
Colombia Bogota Monserrate Colombia Bogota Monserrate Jesus
If you spend any time in Bogota one church you can’t miss is the one on the upper left that watches over the city at the top of Cerro Monserrate. Cerro Monserrate was built long before Colombia existed. It was built by the governor of the New Kingdom of Granada in the 1600s. Since the church is on a steep hill and located over 10,000 feet or more than 3100 meters, a cable car is the most common way of reaching the top of mountain. There is a small train that occasionally rides to the top and for those looking for a good workout steep hiking trails are another option. Above is Cerro Monserrate itself on the left, and a large statue of Jesus in the distance that reminded me of Rio De Janiero’s Christ the Redeemer statue. Below was my first encounter after getting off the cable car, some gigantic months that were the size of my hand, by far the largest I have ever seen!
Colombia Giant Moth Colombia Giant Moth
Colombia Bogota Cerro Monserrate Tram Wires Bogota
Above is a photo of the view while taking the cable car to Cerro Monserrate and on the right another view of the city of Bogota. I didn’t realize Bogota was such a large city until my visit to Colombia. If Bogota was part of the United States, it would be America’s largest city surpassed only by New York City in terms of population. From Monserrate you can see for yourself how big of a city this is, but there is more than just beautiful views. Monserrate has several restaurants, gardens, and hiking trails. I even saw a few locals doing trail running which must have been very challenging at 10,000 feet! Aside from there the place had quite a number of tourists which seemed to be mostly Europeans and Americans. Below are two more photos I took at the top of Cerro Monserrate.
Colombia Bogota Monserrate House Colombia Bogota Monserrate Chapel
Colombia Bogota Museo De Oro Colombia Bogota's Museo De Oro Gold Mask
Another place that shouldn’t be missed while in Bogota is the Gold Museum which is walking distance from Simon Bolivar Plaza. Colombia and South America have several gold museums but the one located in Bogota takes up several floors and is the largest in the world. The pre-hispanic gold was created by different South American tribes and there are over 55,000 pieces of gold in the museum with 6,000 of those on display. Above is a photo of the inside of the museum and a gold mask on the right that was once used to cover the dead. Below is a seashell that was covered in gold hundreds of years ago. The seashell itself eventually eroded away and now only the gold remains intact. I imagine this sole piece of gold art would probably be able to pay for my remaining expeditions!
Colombia Bogota Bogota's Museo De Oro Shell Colombia Bogota's Museo De Oro Trinkets
Colombia Bogota Museum Jose Padillo Colombia Bogota Museum Cannon Panama War
Another museum that’s nice to visit and is even free is the museum of military history. The museum covers Colombia’s battles from its revolutionary war to the modern times. The upper left is a photo of a portrait of Jose Padillo and a model of one of his ships during the Spanish Revolutionary War. At the time the country of Colombia included parts of Panama, Venezuela and Ecuador. Jose Padillo was seen as the father of the Colombian Navy and was famous for defeating the Spanish in the Battle of Lake Maracaibo. On the upper right is a cannon from what is known as the 1,000 year war when Panama fought Colombia for independence at the turn of the 20th century. No one expected the war to last so long and eventually other countries pressured both sides to end the confrontation. This included the United States who was supporting the construction of the Panama Canal at the time and wanted to protect its investment. Below are two more modern war machines that were used in the 60s and 70s.
Colombia Bogota Museum Military Tank Colombia Bogota Museum Military Plane
Colombia Bogota Art Colombia Bogota Art
What amazed me about Bogota was all the free museums and art they had around the city. Like I said earlier, I didn’t have high expectations for Bogota but the city certainly impressed me. On the upper left was a wall along the street decorated with what seemed to be vintage French advertisements. On the right was an enormous art painting from yet another free art gallery. During a walk through the city I also came across a small market that sold mostly books and a few guys selling music CDs and movies. On the lower left was a huge bookstore, probably the largest and nicest in the country that was built in a small shopping center.
Colombia Bogota Books Colombia Bogota Bookstore
Colombia Bogota The String Trick Colombia Bogota The String Trick
In another park I came across were some people who had set up the two cans and a string trick across a wide road. I actually have never done this, but the plastic cups they were using seemed to work just as well as cans. I tried to participate in the conversation but since my Spanish isn’t too great it was difficult for me to understand the other guy, but otherwise their little set up seemed to be working well. On a side note you might think the Colombian guy in the right hand photo looks more American or European than someone from South America. I saw many people like this all over Colombia, so I wasn’t surprised to later learn that 20% of Colombia’s entire population is white.

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