After suffering in the boiling heat of Panama City followed by the boiling heat and oppressive humidity of Cartagena, the cooler climate of Bogotá was a WELCOME reprieve. (Speaking for myself here…tropical climates do not seem to have the same mind-altering/ire-inducing effects on Mr. Whitmore.) Moments after we touched down in Colombia’s capital city, I was zipping up my down jacket and practically dancing off the plane.
Our airbnb was located in La Candelaria, which is pegged as Bogotá’s “artsy” neighborhood. The area is chock-full of hostels, student bars, and some seriously impressive graffiti art — all of which made for a vibrant, high-energy vibe.
Bogotá has a famous (and free!) graffiti tour that several people recommended to us. Though we didn’t end up doing the tour, we observed some pretty incredible street art over the course of our visit. Apparently graffiti isn’t illegal in Bogota, so local artists can really take their time executing their work.
Our airbnb itself was pretty awesome (and again, a steal for around $40/night). After a couple of weeks relying on cafes/restaurants/food carts, it was delightful to (once again) enjoy the luxury of cooking in our own kitchen. Which isn’t to say that we didn’t indulge a few times — we had notably good meals at De Una Travel Bar and Quinua y Amaranto (both in La Candelaria).
On our first full day, Jeff and I took the cable car up to Cerro de Monserrate, a mountain on the eastern side of Bogota with commanding views of the city. It was kind of freaky taking the nearly-vertical cable car to the ~10,000 foot summit; if you’re wary of heights, I wouldn’t recommend it! But the views were well worth it; Monserrate is fantastic. After taking all the requisite photos at the summit, Jeff and I popped in to the Monserrate Monastery to observe a few minutes of the service that happened to be underway. We had a little picnic lunch and read our books before making the — equally nail-biting — trip down.
For most of our four day stay in Bogotá, the weather was “Seattle-y” — 80% cool and misty, 20% sunshine [I’m sure this comment will provoke endless refute from our PNW family and friends, but I’m running with it!]. At any rate, we didn’t feel bad spending a couple full days checking out Bogotá’s museum scene, including its famed Museo del Oro (gold museum). I was really excited to see “one of the most visited touristic highlights of Colombia”– per Wikipedia — but I have to say I found it disappointing. While there are thousands of ancient Colombian artifacts, the exhibits lacked sufficient context (at least for me to fully appreciate what I was looking at). Frankly, it just seemed poorly curated.
We also checked out the Museo Militar, a small but thorough historic tribute to Colombia’s armed forces. Besides old weapons, uniforms and other military paraphernalia, we were most surprised by what we didn’t see — there wasn’t a single reference to Colombia’s war on drugs. Timeline displays skipped over major chunks of the 1980s and early 1990s, a period during which cartel activity thrived and Pablo Escobar reigned supreme. We have learned that many Colombians have ambivalent feelings about their country’s past as it relates to the drug trade; many (understandably) resent that their nation’s rich culture and history is often overshadowed by a relatively short chapter of chaos and violence.