#1 Colombia, Jan. 7, 2014

Getting to Bogota was routine, except I had a new Airbus 312, which had the seats so close together it was breathtaking. They didn’t recline at all, so when I slept, I fell forward in my seat. Cheap fare, though!

At the airport in Bogota, I got info from a tourist bureau lady, about getting a bus (two, actually) into town. When I got on the bus, two young women in turn, wanted me to take their seat. When the second one got up, I sat down. The tourist lady had written out instructions on taking the buses to my hostal, and the lady who got up was reading it over my shoulder. When I got off the bus, she took me under her wing, and showed me exactly where to go to get the bus. She asked me (in Spanish) if I had a card. I said that I didn’t and would have to buy one. (I had gotten money at the ATM at the airport) She indicated that she would use her card to pay for me, too! I protested but to no avail. So after I cleared the paying thing, I offered her a bill that was about $5 (the bus cost a little less than $1) but she wouldn’t take it. How nice! Then when I got off the bus and walked toward my hostal, another woman asked me what hostal I was looking for (in Spanish.) I told her and she walked me there, about one block away. Amazing! The night before I left, I was watching Anthony Bourdain on CNN, about Colombia. He said that the people were the friendliest he had encountered. I thought this pure fluff, but now, I don’t think so!

DSC09920I got situated in the Hostal Sue Candalaria and then had dinner. I was directed to a backpacker neighborhood of cheap eateries—not so much to my liking, but the food I had was good. AND I had a pretty good Margarita beforehand. My food was a —–(can’t remember the name) which was described in English as a big plantain with chicken and cheese. The ‘plantain’ was a DSC09918plate sized crispy cracker thing with strips of chicken and grated cheese on it. It was very good!

The next morning I got up early, as usual, as then I can take my time in the bathroom before anybody else is up. When I came out into the lounge to do my email, a hostal worker brought me a cup of coffee, worried DSC09919that she hadn’t brought any sugar (that’s fine), introduced herself as Patricia, and said she was the night worker here. Talk about service! A little later, she brought me my breakfast, which was a glass of juice, a glass of café con leche, an omelet and a roll. In this hostal, also, they don’t want you to do the dishes or make up your bed, as they do in some hostals.

DSC09925Sunday I walked to the Plaza de Bolivar, which had a sit-in, or really a sleep-in going on. I couldn’t read the Spanish well enough to understand the issue. Still, the plaza was filled with Sunday families and lots of pigeons.

I augmented my breakfast with a big juice DSC09930with fruit and proceeded on my way to the Santa Clara Church, now a museum. This church was built in 1629, and had beautiful DSC09944gold floral medallions on the ceiling as well as 98 pieces of sculpture and paintings all over the walls. Some of the sculptures reminded me of those in the Santiago de Compostela Church in Spain.DSC09946

I rounded out my Sunday with a few more churches—beautiful gilded altar (San Francisco), burial place for many heroes of independence struggles (Vera Cruz), and one with beautiful wood carved altars and ceiling (La Tercera).

DSC09957Since that had all made me hungry, I had ‘linner’ at La Puerta Falsa, recommended and pictured by no less than Anthony Bourdain. I agree with him, it was great! I sat at a table facing a mirror and ordered a tamale (in a banana leaf with chicken) and a hot chocolate that came with buns and cheese. The lady sitting next to me said that years ago, everybody had hot chocolate with these accoutrements for breakfast. You are supposed to dip the cheese in the hot chocolate.

But then!! It started to rain, and it rained pitchforks. I waited at the restaurant for a bit, but finally bought an umbrella from a vendor and set out for the hostal, seven long blocks. By the time I reached it my bottom half was soaked. I had to cross many streets and they were all rivers, at least four inches deep. And this is the first time I have traveled with only one pair of shoes, as I was trying to keep my pack light. So it goes.

The next morning my shoes were still damp, but not soaked. I brought my umbrella to DSC09981keep the rain away, which it did, as I visited a web of museums sponsored by a big bank, starting with DSC09982the Museo Botero. Fernando Botero is from Medellin, Colombia and is their foremost artist alive today. (He’s 81) His style is odd but interesting—his paintings and sculpture make you smile. Funny thing was that there were two visitors in the museum that, I swear, could have been his models. The museum also had a nice DSC09969DSC09978collection of all the Impressionists and other modern works. There were other collections to visit in the same network of museums, which I did. I saw some more dead nuns (Garden of Flowers) that I had seen at the Santa Clara Church/Museum. Then there was their famous 17th C. religious painter, Gregorio Vasquez de Arco y Caballos and 17th C. church monstrances with hundreds of precious gems—diamonds, emeralds, pearls, amethysts, all in gold, of course. There was so much to see that it wore me out!

Back at the hostal some of the folks were playing ping pong. I hadn’t played in 40 years, but I took a try at it, and managed to hold up my end. Maybe it’s like riding a bike, you never forget how!DSC00049

DSC00093Now for my much anticipated viewing of the Museo del Oro (Museum of Gold). I had been wanting for see this for many years and my expectations were very high. The museum far surpassed my DSC00085expectations—it DSC00065was magnificent! 55,000 gold (and other) objects—room after room of beautiful pieces. Middle America and northern South America had a unique and exquisite way of expressing themselves in gold. The pieces dated from about 200 BC to 1600 AD.

However, I got a nasty surprise with my ATM card. I got money at the airport, but when I attempted to get more from banks in town, it wouldn’t accept my card—Spanish saying “chip” was needed. A German man at the hostal explained to me that Europe now had a system of including an additional security chip in their cards, and apparently Colombia had the same. After much calling my bank in Minneapolis (who pretty much blew me off) and hunting on the internet (a young Frenchman helped me) it seemed that I might be able to use HSBC Bank. I found one, but my card didn’t work. After waiting for an hour, I finally was able to consult with a bank person (in Spanish!) and she said something about a Sipabank (?) and called on a funny phone, but didn’t talk, then indicated to a bank guard that I could go. He directed me to the same ATM that hadn’t worked. Well, I tried it again, and it worked! I’m not sure what happened, but when I tried it a second time for more money, it didn’t work. I think the woman fixed it to work for me to the top level of how much this bank would let me withdraw. Maybe if I find that same woman and try it again tomorrow, I can get more. I hope so! When I said to the young man in Spanish, “It didn’t work for me when I tried it earlier,” he said, “Well that’s Colombia!” At least I think that’s what I said, and what he said!

Still, I’m really liking Bogota and this hostal. I’d better send this off—-Carol

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2 Responses to #1 Colombia, Jan. 7, 2014

  1. Sandy Behrens says:

    We visited Bogota and Cartagena a couple of years ago . . . everyone knew we would be kidnapped or killed by the drug cartels. We found this the nicest and friendliest place we’ve ever been. So happy you are finding the same. Can’t wait to return and explore Cali, Medellin, and Cartagena again!

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