First of all, we would like to thank you all for humoring us as we discover this amazing world that we live in. We are now home, but we would be remiss if we didn’t do our final entry on the very nice city of Bogota. Thanks again for all the nice comments, we always enjoy hearing from our friends as we travel.
Freddy, the manager at the hotel in Taganga was nice enough to give us a ride to the airport (it was a 45 minute drive) for our flight from Santa Marta to Bogotá. After Cynthia got her nail file ripped out of her clippers by a security guard (because, lord knows, she could file someone to death with that thing!), we boarded the Avianca flight to Bogotá. We got a taxi to our hostel and discovered that since they didn’t have a private room with bath available (what we reserved), they let us stay for three nights in an apartment for the same price (50,000 pesos ($20)/night). Aside from the super saggy beds and chairs, it was quite nice and spacious with a dining room, kitchen, large refrigerator, cable TV and wireless internet.
Bogota, the capital of Colombia, is a huge sprawling city of 8 million people. We spent the first day touring the city center and were very surprised at how modern and clean it was. The heart of the old town is called Plaza de Bolívar, where a mix of different architectural styles can be found. The city hall faces some of the most important buildings of the country, such as the presidential palace, the palace of justice, the old congress building and the magnificent cathedral. The city also shares the large number of shops that all major cities have, including flea markets and the makeshift shops that spring up on blankets all over the side walks. One funny thing we saw was a guy with several guinea pigs huddled at his feet and about 30 feet away were a number of small “houses” (plastic bowls turned upside down with a cut out door). Onlookers would bet on a house by placing money on it and if the guinea pig he released went into that one, you’d win a percentage of the bets. It was quite amusing to watch(VIDEO).
The next day we toured Bogota’s Museo del Oro (Gold Museum). It houses the finest collection of pre-Columbian gold in the world, boasting 33.000 individual pieces, from simple earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings and figurines to some of the most beautifully crafted breastplates and masks. The exhibit offers insight into the historical, geographical and social development of pre-Columbian cultures through stone, clay, bone, textiles and, of course, gold. It is a great place to see what the Spaniards missed in their frenzy to melt down all of South America’s treasures.
Well worth the 1 ½ hour local bus rides to the town of Zipaquirá (Zipa as it’s affectionately known) near Bogota is the Salt Mines and Cathedral de Sal. We went thinking the cathedral was a little alcove in the side of the salt mine, but it turned out to be a huge magnificent complex. The 14 stages of the cross are lined up en route to the deeper sections, each created by a different artist. In one area a cathedral was built into a cave-like area in the mine in 1954, however due to deterioration it was closed (too dangerous). A new cathedral opened in late 1995, 180 meters below the surface, and is simply gorgeous. The cathedral itself is quite austere with very high ceilings (we’d say almost 100ft.), huge carved pillars, and stunning acoustics. It resembles some sort of fairy tale cathedral. You could almost say it glows. Mass is held there each Sunday, as is the occasional concert. We actually took two tours: the mining tour which was a little cheesy – even for 5,000 pesos, you wore hard hats and got to try to knock a chunk of salt off the wall with a pick axe (Warren managed an impressive chunk) and the main cathedral tour (15,000 pesos). A posted sign indicated private tour guides were 30 U.S. dollars so we were a little apprehensive when employees at the entrance indicated an English tour would start in 20 minutes, then changed their minds and had a guy without a uniform take us through. In the end, it turned out he did work there but was not on duty that day. We probably over tipped him in our relief!
We returned and spent the last evening packing and having a nice cheap meal at our favorite little restaurant the Italian Wok. Yes, it was the name that drew us in, but we definitely recommend the Italian offerings and not what ia made in the Wok. We made it back uneventfully and even smuggled in two kilos of white powder, no not what you think, but laundry detergent that Cynthia liked. Check out some more great pictures in our gallery
So until our next adventure, thanks for sticking with us and we hope you also enjoyed our travels. Cao!!!