As everyone says, Bogota is a huge, sprawling metropolis and you only really visit a small percentage of it. Not as everyone says, I really liked Bogota.
I admit, I got very lucky with an awesome host in Spencer, who has been living there for over 2 years, and a fun travel companion in Matt, who is probably the only person I know who would fly from New York to Bogota for less than 48 hours (it does help that Spence is his brother) – thanks both of you for making the weekend so great!
Most of my time in Bogota was spent walking around the city listening to history and culture lessons from Spence. I had no idea I would have such a knowledgeable tour guide. I have traveled very differently this trip already; I used to hit the main tourist attractions and museums, but now I find I’d rather walk around a city or hang out in a park. It’s a different way to get a feel for somewhere, and it’s been great so far. This is how I ended up liking Bogota.
On Friday as soon as we got in we had a late lunch at Crepes and Waffles, my new favorite place in Colombia – it has reasonable prices and delicious, healthier options – and then went straight to the main tourist attraction: Cerro de Monserrate. This ended up being a brilliant decision (again thanks to Spence). The sky was actually clear, apparently a rarity in Bogota, and since it was late in the afternoon it wasn’t very crowded. We took the cable car up to the top and the view was amazing. The city went on for miles beneath us, and you can’t even see the whole city. The sun was starting to set while we were up there, creating a beautiful scene. I can see why this is such an attraction; there is no other way to really see the expanse of the city. If you ever can go on a clear late afternoon, go. It was fantastic.
The next two days were mostly spent wandering. After a traditional breakfast of caldo (broth with meat and potatoes, served with an arepa, and hot chocolate – not sure why this is a big thing but it was alright… I also think this was the meal of choice due to all of our severe hangovers, but more on that in a bit…) and a coffee at the Hilton (delicious), we walked through Centro and La Candaleria, where we saw an eclectic mixture of architecture, including the last standing colonial buildings, and quaint colorful streets. We stopped in the Museo Botero, which was just the right amount of museum for just the right amount of money: it has a collection of local artist Botero’s work, in addition to modern masters like Picasso, in a moderately scaled building that is joy to stroll through; and it’s free. After exploring the city a bit further, we stopped for lunch at another location of Crepes and Waffles – seriously this place is great.
We dedicated our afternoon to finding somewhere to play tejo. This crazy national game of Colombia consists of hurling pieces of metal at targets filled with gunpowder secured in clay while consuming copious amounts of beer. Sounds awesome, right? We did find a great place, but there were so many people waiting before us that we never got to play. We did get to play two other games though that were throwing metal balls/rings at targets to get points, while consuming 50 cent beers. So it was still an entertaining afternoon. I am still hoping to play tejo though – maybe in Medellin.
Sunday we browsed through a market before Matt had to catch his flight home, then Spence and I continued walking on the Ciclovia; every Sunday they shut down many streets in Bogota so you can bike, walk, skateboard, rollerblade, or anything that isn’t a car. Again, an amazing way to get a feel for the city, wandering through different neighborhoods. We stopped for a beer in one location, moved on to somewhere else for lunch, and then a new neighborhood for another drink and some live music. Wandering aimlessly and stopping to consume food and alcohol may not sound like the way most people explore Bogota, but I loved it. .
So that was the calm part of Bogota. Then there was Andres.
Andres Carne de Res is an experience. First you take a bus, on which you drink heavily, about 45 minutes outside the city. Then you arrive at the most crazily decorated kitschy restaurant slash nightclub that spans probably a few blocks. It’s huge. We mostly avoided the restaurant part and just ordered some very strong and very large drinks and immediately hit the dancefloor. Hours here passed like minutes as the mixture of salsa and top 40’s kept everyone moving and the bottle of Aguardiente was passed around over and over again. Aguardiente is the local alcohol of choice that tastes like watered down sambuca or jaeger with a hint of tequila. It gets the night going for sure, and results in a really nasty hangover. When in Colombia, right? Anyway, so much fun, and we paid for it the next day, but so worth it.
And then there was stump. I had never heard of this before, but when Max and Lily explained it to us and the fact that they have a stump in their apartment where we could play, we couldn’t say no. And it was awesome. Stump is a game where everyone has a nail and you place it wherever you want in a stump so that it is standing up securely. Then you go in a circle and take turns: with one hand you throw the hammer, catch it, and in one motion try to hit someone else’s nail. The last nail standing wins. It may sound odd, but it’s hilarious and so randomly fun. Unfortunately though we only had enough nails for 2 rounds, and that required removing some nails from a piece of furniture. I have never tried to search so much for nails on a Saturday night, but they are impossible to find. We still got in a few good rounds though.
So there you have it, my weekend in Bogota. A random mixture of urban wandering, dancing and new games, it was a fantastic weekend and great introduction to Colombia.