A Slice of Culture

Wednesday September 18, 2013

9.18.13

It was kind of nice having a forced hiatus from backpacking for just a few days. A little time away from the past few weeks of sightseeing, activities, and even the drinking. But after 48 hours of watching reruns of Friends and The Big Bang Theory (those were the only shows offered in English), we realized we needed to get out. The unsavory tablets were working well enough on Matt’s stomach that we thought we might be able to get him out of the hostel for just a few hours. The destination for the day? The historic center of Bogota.

Armed with our over-sized map once more, we stepped onto a collectivo that we were sure would take us at least close to the area we wanted to go this time, with plans to abort if necessary. ‘Ok, we need to stay on Calle 7 until we get to Carrera 13. If the bus diverts past Calle 10, we get off.’ The good thing about the streets here is they are all ascending numbers of Calles and Carreras, so you’re always relatively sure of how far away you are from something. When we did incidentally have to get off at Calle 10, we knew it was only three blocks down back to where we wanted to be on 7. No Martin Luther King Blvds to get lost on here.

My main goal for the day was soley to see the church in the large city square, but as we got off the bus the sky became overcast and a light drizzle fell on us and I didn’t know how long we’d want to be outside for. We have not had one sunny day in Bogota yet and even though we are surrounded by all the modern buildings that both of us had been slightly yearning for since we left the states, I was momentarily left yearning for the sunny beaches and good friends we left in Mancora. But ever since the salad there made Matt sick, the place gets a big black X in his book. He should have listened to me when I told him to get the ceviche…

Upon entering the square we were greeted with about a hundred rickshaws that seemed to be having some kind of protest or rally. Again, because of the language barrier, they could have been there to celebrate Larry’s 50th birthday and I would have had no way of knowing. We tried wandering around the square for a bit while appreciating the architecture, but the rickshaw drivers also had horns they would not stop blowing. Apparently they were very excited about Larry’s 50th. After close to 15 minutes of this we left for quieter side streets.

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Even though we had the luxury of sitting around for the past two days with constant internet access, I had not done much research on the area and so we just walked up and down each street unsure of what we would find. The rain was continuing on and off, and during one rainy session we ducked into an art museum. The art here was focusing mostly on a Colombian artist, Botero, who I had not been familiar with but whom Matt told me was very famous. I guess he had a thing for drawing and painting very voluptuous people. Room after room there were paintings and sketches in this style, and a large focus was on nude women at the beach or in bed, or sometimes, even in the kitchen. I think Sir Mix-a-Lot would have been very impressed.

There were prints from other famous artists as well, and some of our time was also spent enjoying the works of Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, and Chagall. Which are always nice to admire because, as Julia Robert’s character says in Notting Hill, “Happiness isn’t happiness without a violin playing goat”.

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 We tried our hands at one more museum as well, one on the history of Colombia and Bogota, but everything was in Spanish. Most of it was more than my basic knowledge could piece together and soon it just became annoying trying to figure out what each item meant. I think a grand total of 15 minutes was spent in that museum. The staff may have thought that we’d gotten ourselves lost since we wandered back by the entrance so quickly, trying to point us back to where the exhibits, and us trying to motion that, no, we wanted to leave. At least I got a few cool postcards with the entrance fee. You can expect to get it in about three months Huong!

Having completed a giant circle of the area, we ended up back in the main square where most of the rickshaw drivers had finally departed. And I was hoping to get back there in time for cake….

Taking one more turn down a side street that would point us in the direction of our hostel, even though there was no way we would be walking the 60 blocks back, we knew it was our last day in Bogota and wanted to see as much as we could. The rain had other plans for us though. At this point we were wet, we were cold, and we were hungry. That is exactly when we saw the golden arches of McDonald’s shine down on us like a beacon. And I was finally able to get my Mc Whopper. I mean, Big Mac.

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 They have llamas!!

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