Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bogota…Not What I Expected

A typical street of Candelaria, Bogotá (Colombia)

Image via Wikipedia

If I had a list of things I’d probably never do, “Tour of Historic Bogota” would probably be one of them.

Well, as if you needed further proof that life takes unexpected turns, that item is now off the list.

Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about Bogota.

I’d heard the horror stories of kidnappings, pickpockets, robbery, etc.

I also had the standard, I think, American perception of the country as Pablo Escobar-land of lawlessness.

My driver, Domingo, quickly began to dispel those notions.

He also dispelled the notion that my Spanish is poor as I was able to essentially carry on a conversation with him en Espanol for over an hour, but I digress.

Sure, there are unsafe parts of the city and you do need to be careful, but in the last 10 years, the country has, according to him, undergone a renaissance.image

Security is way up. Corruption is way down. Inflation is under control and people feel confident.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Bogota is a beautiful city, but I was certainly impressed by how clean and well-maintained some parts of it were.

Parque Simon Bolivar, for example, is massive and immaculate. The downtown historic area, known as “La Candelaria” isn’t spotless, but for an area of town that is close to 500 years old…it’s looking pretty good.

The central square, Plaza de Bolivar needs a bit of love (Bolivar’s big here—in fact there’s a house he stayed in and apparently jumped through its window, but I didn’t get that whole story. Also, his mistress was here, I think)

The city is 2625 meters high and lies on a plain (kind of like Denver) below some towering mountains. Given the altitude, I was looking forward to working out!

I took a cable car up to the Church of Monserrate to take it all in. That was certainly worth it…as you can see.

I didn’t have my camera, so I found an American to take a pic w/his iPhone and email it to me.

Domingo kept pointing out the Universities all around town (a lot of them) and I subsequently read that it’s called the “Athens of Latin America.”

There’s poverty, dirt, and grime. No question.

But, there’s also a big investment in infrastructure.

I was standing in the middle of Plaza de Bolivar on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, watching the Colombians do their thing and while I had a hand on my pocket, I also realized that it was one of those moments when I realized I had simply feared the unknown.

It was actually uplifting to hear the positive attitude of Domingo (echoed by the hotel staff as well) of the direction that this country, notorious for its narco-terrorist past is taking. 

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