Bogota First Impressions

Follow along on my whirlwind tour through Colombia where the tourism slogan is “Colombia — The only risk is you won’t want to leave!”

It is a beautifully rich country full of lush green mountain vistas, gorgeous white beaches, a proud and friendly culture, and plenty of creole-Caribbean style cuisine with lots of fresh seafood and tropical fruits.

First Stop:  Bogota

At 60 degrees, foggy and a bit rainy, it is much colder in Bogota than I had anticipated due to the high elevation.  I packed mostly for the tropics, which meant mostly summer clothes, so I spent the entire 3 days in the same warmer clothes from the plane ride.

Plaza de Bolivar, Bogota

Colombia is known for its gold museum with 55,000 gold artifacts all beautifully displayed in a modern building with very educational exhibits and guess what — all with English subtitles! I always think about the close-minded xenophobes who say “either speak our language or leave the country,” and I am so grateful that other countries do not feel the same way about us, as I sure did enjoy the museum!

From “Museo del Oro” in Bogota

Nearby was Museo Botero, displaying the works of Ferdando Botero, Colombia’s most famous artist, painter, and sculptor.  Botero has a penchant for “proportionately exaggerated” images, or as he refers to them, “fat figures.”

My first dinner in Bogota was at the quaint little restaurant, Sanalejo, near my hotel. There were only about 6 tables, and all by candlelight, with a wood burning fireplace. It was so cozy!! I had steak with delicious flavored olive oil with garlic and peppers, with French fries, 2 Club Colombia beers, and a cappuccino for under twenty bucks! It was yummy.

Colonial Church of Zipaquira

The Salt Cathedral is one of the highlights of a Bogota visit, so I took a day trip to nearby Zipaquira, a little town about 40 miles north of Bogota.  I couldn’t find a local tour, so with my limited Spanish, I decided to brave the local transportation — six buses in all to get there and get back! They have something called the Transmillennio, which is like a subway, only it runs above ground. This required a change of buses to get to the north station, then I took a small 20-seater for another hour and a half to get to Zipaquira. Let me tell you, it was an adventure!  But I met so many nice people along the way who were so kind to help me figure out the transportation. It took about 2 and half hours each way, but it was worth it, as much for the adorable little village of Zipaquira as for the Salt Cathedral. You know when you hit on a little village that just has a good feel .. everything is laid out well, people are strolling about, lots of nice shops and cafes, and a beautiful square.

City tour train of Zipaquira

A Brazilian couple I met along the way talked me into hopping on this funny red and yellow tourist train for a city tour that would loop up the 20 minute hill to the Parque de Sal, or Salt park.

The salt mine tours were only in Spanish, but the guide who spoke English took pity on me, so he would stop with the group and talk as fast as he could, then while we were walking down the path to the next station, he would catch me up in English. Needless to say, I have him a nice propina for his kindness! The salt mine is VAST HUGE MASSIVE underground, with all these tunnels, some small, some 4 or 5 stories high. Along the way, they have carved crosses out for the 14 stations of the cross, with one gigantic cross in the main cathedral at the bottom. There is a 3D movie about salt mining, followed by a ¨miners tour where I had to wear a hard hat and miners light. Unfortunately, this was all Spanish so I was a bit — in the dark — LOL! Every pun intended! But it was still interesting.

Catedral de Sal

One of many outdoor Asadero restaurants

Along the walk back to town I passed this street of outdoor restaurants, all roasting beef and pork on a spit over open fire. A mixed plate of beef, pork, ribs, yucca, plantain, baked potato, guacamole and pico de gallo, and a beer for about $10 — “eyes roll back in the head” good!  And yes, in case you are wondering, yes, I did ask for a doggie bag!

It was a long ride home in the Sunday traffic as everyone coming back into the city. My hotel, the Platypus Hostel is a bit cold, dark and damp.  Believe it or not, it was Lonely Planet´s budget featured “OUR PIC!” category, but they must have phoned this one in!

Single room at Platypus Hostel, Bogota

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