Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bogotá, Colombia (uno)

Landing in Bogotá was a very strange feeling, after three months of travelling and basically doing what I liked, here I was getting ready to volunteer for six months in a country I'd never been to and in a language I could only just get by in. The drive from the airport to the apartment I'd be staying in really surprised me, I don't know what I was expecting but what I was seeing certainly wasn't it: wide concrete autopistas and fly-overs, huge shopping centres and multiplexes, and large plazas; Bogotá is a massive, modern and incredibly vibrant city. I discovered just how true this was over the three and half weeks I lived in Bogotá, using the (sometimes incredibly effective and sometimes frustratingly slow) TransMilenio system to travel around, I barely scraped the surface of the city and even areas that I visited a few times still feel unexplored to me now.

The area I probably visited most was the tourist area of La Candelaria, a relatively small area compared to the vastness of Bogotá but nevertheless overflowing with musuems, galleries, and historical and government buildings. Probably the most famous landmark (and the one I always imagined when I thought of travelling to Bogotá) is Plaza Bolivar, the site of the Cathedral, the Palace of Justice, the office of the Mayor of Bogotá and the National Congress, and like seemingly every large plaza in major South America cities I've encountered so far, overrun with pigeons.
I saw the plaza in most of the changeable weathers that Bogotá offers, including pouring rain, drizzle, grey skies and sunny; it was impressive in all of them.

Also in La Candelaria is the Museo del Oro, a fascinating museum filled with thousands of gold pieces from the cultures that existed in Colombia and the surrounding areas before the Spanish conquistadors arrived.

A short walking distance from Plaza Bolivar and the Museo del Oro is the Museo Botero, which although I visited two or three times, still didn't manage to see all the art work that was on display. If you look up the road that the Museo is on and to the mountains beyond, you can see the peak of Monserrate and the church atop it. Monserrate and it's neighbouring peak of Guadalupe are constants over the city and mark the eastern borders.

Monserrate from the Museo Botero:

The view of Bogotá from Monserrate:

Monserrate was beautiful, particularly the view as the sun was going down and all the lights in the city gradually came flickering on. From up there you could see just how massive Bogotá really is, the city stretched out further than the eye could see to the west and north, and far up the foothills of the mountains to the south and east.

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