Thursday, July 30, 2009

All that glitters is actually gold.

Okay, okay, so I admit it. I was scared by Bogota. And even though the sun was shining this morning and everyone at the hostel was still nice, I still couldn’t shake all those tales I’d heard on the road. Neither could Adrian so we left all our belonging in the hostel, taking out the old crappy camera, some cash and the guide book and began our walking tour. At least my cold was on the outs and that was something positive.

We tentatively stepped out of the hostel and began walking. The neighbourhood was completely different in the day. The sinister streets now revealed pretty colonial buildings. The drunken university students had been replaced by sober school kids as well as lots of people in business suits. The hostel was only a handful of blocks away from the main square where the government buildings were but before we headed there we hit up the big museum complex (photo above), oh I should add, the big FREE museum complex. My favourite kind.

Our first stop was the Botero gallery in the museum. Botero is Colombia’s much revered artist and his style is instantly recognizable anywhere. His subjects are rotund – not just people but the animals, buildings and plants are fat too. Adrian particularly liked his take on the Mona Lisa but I liked his darker ones. The great thing about the museum was that only did the artist donate many of his paintings but he’d also donated much of his own collection of art too. They were housed over in the Colombian art collection with others. We reached the museum through a modern addition. It was a beautiful museum and the art wasn’t bad either. There was even a room full of priceless religious artifacts. There was one gold cross that was so ridiculously jewel-encrusted that I had to take a picture. The first one was a little fuzzy in the low light so I shot another one. Immediately a security guard accosted me. Apparently, taking pictures of the priceless art in the rest of the museum was okay but not the stuff in this room. He demanded I erase the photo and even watched me while I did. So the good one got erased. But I still had the fuzzy one he didn’t know about. Teehee. We finished up at the gallery and skipping the money museum headed back outside to find the entrance to the Andy Warhol exhibit. It was around the corner in the next block. Unlike the rest of the museum (minus the gold vault) no pictures were allowed, copyright and all that crap. The exhibit was a lot like the one that traveled to Toronto a few years ago. We’d seen all the work before but it was still fun to check out. And once again it was all free so why not.

After the museum complex we headed over to Plaza Bolivar. It was the main square and home to the cathedral, city hall, supreme court and congress. Each building was from a different era so it was a visual mishmash and with plenty of steps to hang out on it was a great place to rest our feet after walking around the huge museum. And just in case the guards from the museum were chasing after me for my forbidden photo of the jeweled cross, it was also a good place to hide out. There were lots of people to blend in with although they appeared to be outnumbered by pigeons and people selling mobile phone minutes (a fixture on every corner in Colombia). But most interesting in the middle of the square were hundreds of white bricks. When we finally got closer we realized that they were tombstones each bearing the name of a person, and their cause of death. A man approached us and in pretty good English explained that they were put up every two weeks to remind people of the ongoing fighting as well as the indigenous people caught in the middle of the fight between the government and the rebels. Of course after he explained all this he asked us for a tip. I told him we didn’t bring any money out with us and today that was the truth.

We turned away from the square and walked up Calle 7, which appeared to be the main street of downtown Bogota. It was lined with shops and heaving with people but there wasn’t much to see. However, there were plenty of cheap places to eat so we popped into one for some empanadas, my new favourite food, and tried out some of the dozens of dipping sauces they had to go with them. Then it was time to check out the famous gold museum. It wasn’t free but it was huge. Actually it was too big. There was too much info on the different tribes and their gold techniques and too many gold trinkets throughout the three floors. After an hour we threw in the towel and continued up Calle 7 to the Museum of Modern Art. It was more like a gallery. There were only two artist on display so it was a quick tour. But I thought of all my designer friends when I saw from Omar Rayo on display. Unlike his op-art, they were a bunch of super cool intaglios from the 1970s but impossible to photograph – I’ll let you guys look them up. Our plan was to walk to the Colpatria Tower observation deck for a bird’s eye view of the city, but our feet were tired and the neighbourhood at this end of the Calle 7 was beginning to feel bit sketchier so we decided to head back to the hostel.

We headed back a slightly different way, turning down Avenida Jimenez rather than walk through the plaza again. The street was full of buses and lots of art deco type buildings that separated downtown from the old colonial area of Candeleria. We also discovered a bunch of restaurants including an Argentine parrilla that we would hit up for dinner. However, when we got back up the hill to the hostel, a bbq was going on. So we decided to have an early (and cheaper) dinner instead. According to some Brits who had gone to the parrilla the night before it was also a lot better than the food there too. That left the evening free for me to upload photos and for Adrian to watch some movies in the lounge but both of us to rest our feet. I was beginning to take a shine to Bogota and it wasn’t just all the gold we’d seen.

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