In the morning after writing my post about the crazy cultural interaction going on the night before, we headed off for a short tour of the capital of Colombia. We went to the older historic areas and to where the government buildings, national cathedral, and presidentâ€™s home are, Plaza de Bolivar, built in the 16th century.Â Â
I love colonial architecture, even though it reminds us of colonialism. A topic too heavy to get into here. But it definitely is enchanting, especially with hills and narrow streets and small balconies on colourful buildings. Expansive stone structures with pillars and just the oldness of it all, coming from such a young country, always fascinates me. I also havenâ€™t been to Europe, and the first colonial buildings I saw were in the Dominican Republic.
What made our visit interesting was that since it was on a Sunday, the area had many streets closed off for pedestrians. There were people scattered throughout the Bolivar Plaza, among hundreds and hundreds of pigeons, and vendors of ice cream and corn kernels to feed the pigeons.
Iâ€™ve never seen so many people on bicycles â€“ the streets were filled with people out to exercise as the pedestrian Sundays were created for people to get out and do sports on their day off. Even the major highway we drove on to the airport had two centre lanes closed off. It looked like a bicycle race of some sort but Iâ€™m told it is just a regular Sunday pastime here in Bogota.
Another great thing about Bogota is the surroundings of the city. While it is a bustling city of concrete and apartments like most cities, it is surrounded in green. Lush mountains act as the lungs of the city and nothing can be built above 1500 feet. So where many citiesâ€™ mountains are completely built up with homes, here the trees create a serene, natural environment that contrasts with the busy built environment below.
I have to admit there is quite a military presence in Bogota, soldiers in camouflage with big guns, here and there in the streets. I am told it is to prevent crime, and to make people feel safe, not to make people fearful that something is going on (the effect which of course it actually does have). So you begin to ignore it and realize that nothing is going on, itâ€™s just the way things are here. We felt really comfortable walking around taking pictures, especially on the streets closed for pedestrians to have the right of way! (For those of you who know Latin America well you can attest to the fact that this is not very common!)
For lunch we went to a beautiful restaurant called â€œClub Colombia,â€ which was just that, a club.Â It was furnished with plush leather couches and two terraces and a huge buffet serving all kinds of traditional Colombian food. There were envueltos which are made from corn finely mashed with spices such as raisins and nutmeg wrapped and cooked in corn husks. There were arepas which look like tortillas but are thicker, also made with corn and which could be garnished with fresh salsas and other vegetables. There were fresh blended juices, rice dishes and empanadas and I could go on. Everything was delicious and the coffee absolutely amazing. Iâ€™ve only been drinking coffee for a few years so have never considered myself a connoisseur but I have to admit itâ€™s the best Iâ€™ve tried. Strong and flavorful at the same time as soft and sweet, yum!
In the afternoon we took a short flight, about 2 hours (actually longer than I thought it would be) to the island of San Andres in the Caribbean. We are now actually closer to Nicaragua and Costa Rica than to Colombia by over 2 hundred miles!