This is the face that your friends and family might make when you tell them that you are visiting Colombia.
And then you might get questions like: “Are you sure?”, “Will you be safe?” This is what made me realize how out of touch with current events and reality we are truly capable of. We can be so closed minded, and not even be aware that we’re that way.
The truth of the matter is, you’ll never visit anywhere enriching with that type of attitude. So I’m here to give a little dose of perspective.
Colombia is one of the up and coming hot spots for tourism today. They’ve really turned their image around since the 1990s. Needless to say we had a very memorable experience, and were met by warm and welcoming people. It’s amazing how much there is to see and learn in the world, if you’re only open to it. In this space I’m honoring the most interesting things that I learned on my backpacking trip through Colombia . . . Part 1: The Capital City, Bogota.
1. Obviously, it’s beautiful.
Picture an urban sprawl surrounded by the Andes Mountains with an airy fog as the icing on the cake.
People, Europe is not the only place with interesting architecture and history. Places get discounted before people visit or even read about them. I recently had a conversation with someone (don’t remember who) who asked about somewhere that I’d been, then commented: “Yeah, but isn’t ________ really dirty?” Um,first off, have you been to the U.S.? It’s dirty AND there’s crime. Second off, the more covered in grime, the better. There’s more history to appreciate. Anybody can briefly look at a Microsoft screen saver of a pristine landscape and think that somewhere is “pretty”. It takes a more trained eye to see something beautiful and interesting under layers of flaky paint, and swarming flies. But I thought Bogota was pretty clean. Don’t confuse old with dirty . . . because they just ARN’T.THE.SAME.
2. Riding up to Montserrat on a cable car will make you realize how gigantic Bogota is.
Seriously, [again] at Montserrat all I could continue thinking about was how beautiful this part of the world is. Surprisingly, Bogota is the 9th largest metropolitan area in the Americas . . . sandwiched right between Chicago and DFW on the chart. No kidding, huh?
Colombia is a very religious country. So religious, that people used to walk up this mountain on their knees to pay penance. The cable car or “Telefarico” was built in the 1950s.
And the Montserrat had a very “Gorillas in the Mist” feel, No?
3. They eat lots and lots of MEAT (and eggs, red beans, & plantains).
And it’s all fantastic. My personal favorite is the Bandeja Paisa plate (beans and meat). Arepas (a corn snack) are also awesome.
4. Bogota has made “street art” legal.
Locals have begun to embrace the vandalism of the past in what is a progressive mindset of acceptance.
5. The indigenous Muisca people threw lots of precious stones and gold into a pond every year to honor their leader as he floated on a raft. The pond is outside of Bogota and the treasures have never been recovered. That being said, Colombia is still really famous for their Emeralds.
6. The Muisca people also used to chew and spit out maize into a community pot to ferment. It used to be a form of bonding and socialization. This was (and still is) called Chicha. But don’t worry, spit is no longer involved.
This is the street in town infamous for Chicha.
6. You can visit a Cathedral in a Salt Mine 220 yards underground.
Which when, like me, when you haven’t even been to a regular mine– going to a church– in a mine–underground–with crazy lights–is pretty much unlike anything else.
Then you can eat a meal with a dash of… you guessed it… salt from the mine (with more delicious meat).
7. Taking a loacal bus through the countryside is the way to go.
Because there is no systematic electronic screen with bus times in this country. The workers simply jump out at every stop and rapidly holler “Bogota, Bogota, Bogota” or wherever you’re going. It’s educational and quite amusing.