How cool is this city?! A mixer between cultured modernization and bad-boy roughness, Bogota is a really fascinating place to start my second South American vacation. I arrived at one in the afternoon after a hellacious layover in Florida. My flight was on Spirit airlines or as Mom calls it, the chicken plane. Sadly, there were no chickens in sight, but we did have a little problem with two of the seats on the plane, which almost canceled the flight entirely. But the young people sitting in the seats kindly offered to take a flight the following day so we took off with a minor delay and two broken chairs with “Do Not Use” plastered on them.
I called my first Colombian Uber and it was just our luck that we were stopped by the police going out of the airport. I didn’t really understand what was happening. At first I thought the guy was getting into trouble because he Uber-picked up at the airport. I didn’t know if that was Kosher of not. But then it seemed like there was something about his plates being out of date. Regardless, he took out some cash, walked the officer away from the car and paid him off. Then we were on our way. He kept saying plata to me, which I assume means cash because the literal translation is silver. I think he was telling me cash would get me anything. After seeing that little exchange, I realized really quickly that I am not in Uruguay anymore.
This city has really cool modern architecture. The buildings are tall and colorful and made up of some really cool exterior materials. I wish my brother was here to see it. My hostel is in the old city. It was explained to me that this part is the origin of Bogota so all of the official buildings and museums are over here. The hostel, Arche Noah Botique Hostel, is super cool. It’s quaint and sort of rustic looking. There are slanted wooden beams leading to the shared dorm, exposed brick in the common rooms and the cutest little spiral staircase that leads to a rooftop porch swing. The owner, Michael, is from the Netherlands. He worked in finance and then said NOPE to that world, traveled around South America, fell in love with Colombia and bought the hostel three months ago. I told him my dream of owning one eventually and he said, “why not!” I like him immensely and highly recommend this place. Several Brits are mourning the England game over some beers, while the French are celebrating with some cigarettes and cards. People congregate in the common areas and actual talk. So my kind of hostel.
I headed out to explore and search for some much needed food and company in the late afternoon. I got some really great recommendations from Michael and headed down the street in search of the Travel Bar. Bogota is picturesque in this part. The mountains create a looming green backdrop. Clouds cover the tops adding a sense of ominous mystery. The streets are really narrow steep. The system is fairly easy to figure out since it is simply ordered numbers; however, some of the numbers like to repeat so you find yourself on 12 A, B, C, D, E, and F. De Una Travel Bar is a pretty cool little spot.
The food is delicious and the cocktails are so-so depending on what you get. I recommend sitting at the bar ordering a fresh juice and watching. You will be wildly entertained by the singing bartender/server. I met a girl who was traveling from Germany. She was lovely and immediately got an invite to Uruguay. She has been traveling alone for a week and then her Peruvian boyfriend will meet her tomorrow. Food is really cheap here, especially anything that is homemade. And apparently rice is a big staple of their diet because they have a whole aisle in the supermarket. I also had to go into the bookstore connected to the Gabriel Garcia Marquez cultural building. There was a talk about Nelson Mandela and the apartheid. I understood some of it, but some was really complicated, so I ducked out early and looked at tall of the Spanish books. I thought it was really interesting that most of them were plastic wrapped. Made reading the first few pages a little difficult. From the roof of the Marquez center is a stunning view of the big cathedral on one side and the mountains on the other. I took loads of pictures as the sun was setting.
I headed down to Plaza de Bolivar to take in the final rays of sunshine and see the plaza in full action. It was full of tourist feeding pigeons (it reminded me of Venice’s Saint Mark’s Square), people playing Jianzi, and venders selling street food. A super nice fruit cart man let me taste all of the different fruits and the Jianzi players let me join. Colombians are super super nice. The atmosphere was magical as the Colombian flag waved on one building, the sun illuminated the Cathedral as it set behind the palace. And everywhere there were street performers playing music, singing songs, and dancing. People are all over the street selling cheap jewelry and winter gear. Although it is close to the equator, it does get a bit nippy at night in Bogota. Thankfully, my hostel has some super cute ponchos for use. I’m digging the poncho culture here. Super cute stuff.
All-in-all my first day was really nice. I like Colombians a lot. They are a fun group of people and have a lot of that spark that I saw in the Brazilians. They are a little more edgy, though. There is definitely still a sense of the crime-laden country from a few years ago. The police presence is heavy and there is that “look-over-your-shoulder” mentality. That being said, I felt way more insecure and watchful in Rio. Tomorrow I will participate in a bike ride around the city before heading to Medellin.