Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bogotá (no pictures yet)

Bogotá is the capital of Colombia, and after Mexico City and New York it is the 3rd largest city in North and South America.  It doesn´t have a subway, so the 8 million inhabitants travel either by car, bus, or taxi, causing major traffic each morning and evening.

With so many people moving from one place to another, the streets, sidewalks, and bus stops are chaotic masses of people, cars, taxis, buses, and motorcycles that can be very confusing and disorienting to the foreign visitor.  I´ve found myself pushing my way through crowds, getting bumped into by people as they pass through (ironically even if there was enough space to move around me), and being jammed onto the buses.  One thing that I notice is the same as in Chile is the lack of a concept of personal space and that it´s not polite to push people onto a bus so that you can fit on yourself.

Despite the challenges of navigating such a sprawling city, it´s a nice place to visit.  The city in general isn´t as modern as Santiago, but you can still find everything that you need.  People are friendly and helpful, and it´s common for everyone to talk to taxi drivers, their doormen, maids, and other people that we would probably consider a more formal or less close relationship in the States.

I´ve also heard from people to be careful in Colombia.  While there are news reports of horrible things happening here, those instances are mostly in remote areas and are not the norm.  I do tend to get a bit nervous when I am out walking, but I always keep my hand in my pocket covering my wallet and my bag with my camera in front of me.  But I haven´t had any problems, and I don´t go out at night alone.  As with traveling anywhere, it seems like a good dose of common sense goes a long way.

So, what have I done so far here?

I arrived bright and early Wednesday morning and got a taxi to my friend Marcial´s apartment in the northern neighborhood of Chico.  We had some breakfast, and I napped to catch up on the sleep I didn´t get on the red eye flight.  We got some amazing burgers at a place called El Corral, and then I explored the La Candelaria area.  I got some hot chocolate and browsed an arts and crafts market, and I bought some artwork by Fernando Botero.  (He´s an artist from Colombia that is well-known for his depictions of very round and overweight people in most of his art)

At night Marcial and I went out to get some drinks in the T zone.  It´s an area with bars and restaurants with terraces, and they have become very popular in the past few years.  The area is in the shape of a T, hence its name.

Today I woke up with a bit of a sore throat, but I didn´t think much of it.  After a yummy breakfast of arepas, I headed out to catch a bike tour at 10:30.  By the time I got on the bus, however, I realized I wasn´t going to make it in time.  It turns out that there was a protest blocking traffic to where I had to go to, and so I had to get off the bus a few stops early.  Luckily a girl was going to the same area as me, and so we talked while we made our way there.

Since I didn´t make the bus tour, I decided to check out a few museums.  The Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) was pretty amazing, and it documented the role of gold in cultures dating back to thousands of years BC.  The artifacts they had on display were amazing.  After that, I went to the Fernando Botero Museum.  It displayed a lot of his artwork from over the years, and it was really cool seeing his work up close.  Unfortunately they didn´t have my favorite pieces of Los músicos or Tres músicos, but I still enjoyed seeing what they did have on display.

Remember that sore throat I mentioned that I woke up with?  Well, it didn´t get better as the day went on.  As I was going into the first museum, I started feeling warm and had body aches.  I had just spent about an hour getting to the area, so I decided to take it easy and at least check out the two museums.  Afterwards I got on the bus and made my way back to the apartment to rest.

After resting for most of the afternoon into the evening, I´m now feeling much better.  I took aspirin and got a sandwich for dinner, even though I wasn´t that hungry.  (I had gotten a few snacks in town with some hot tea, but they weren´t really much of a meal.)  Marcial thought it was good old altitude sickness, but I didn´t have any of the usual symptoms.

In any case, tomorrow I am off to Cartagena, a beach town in northern Colombia.  The beaches are supposed to be amazing, and there´s supposed to be lots to do there.  I actually haven´t done too much research about it, so I´ll see what they suggest when I get to the hostel.

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