Tuesday, October 24, 2017

No Sleep in El Capital - Bogota

La Candelaria 


I arrived in Bogota after a long red eye flight from LA. I arrived at at my hostel The Cranky Croc exhausted ready for a nap, but before I knew it I was hiking up the hilly streets of La Candelaria and drinking chicha from a gourd. Let's rewind ...


When do I ever choose sleep over adventure? If you know me ... it's never. The first day should have been a warning of how dangerous Colombia was going to be for my sleep. I started off my first day on the Free Walking Tour of La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia. We walked the narrow cobble stoned streets of the colorful and historic district of La Candelaria. On the way we tried various Colombian drinks and street food. 


The first stop was in a small restaurant to share a gourd of chicha. What is chicha? Its fermented maiz drink, originally produced after chewing and spitting a portion of the maiz juice and allowing it to ferment. It tastes a bit like Kombucha but much stronger.  

We then headed deeper into La Candalaria to see the graffiti and street art. In Colombia Graffiti is currently legal, artists are even paid to create works of art on the streets of Bogota and Medellin. It's absolutely beautiful and only adds to the already colorful Candalaria streets. 


Bells rung around the city at each change in hour. Over 90% of Colombians identify as Christian, therefore churches in Colombia are almost as common as coffee shops. We stopped by the famous Iglesia Nuestra Senora Del Carmen to view its elaborate architecture and interior design. From the church we headed to Chorro de Quevedo, a small plaza lined with cafes and groups of people. One of our tour guides Fredy bought us coca tea to combat the altitude. 


Next stop was the Palacio de Nari├▒o where we had a photoshoot with the guards. After which we wandered down the streets trying almost every street food in sight, including: 
  • Obleas which is queso fresco, arequipe (dulce de leche) and jam
  • Bunuelos, which are balls of fried dough, 
  • Yuca Rellena - stuffed yuca with beef and veggie

After we were completely stuffed we walked to Plaza Bolivar. to one side of the plaza is Capitolio Nacional which houses the congress, Palacio Justicia (the justice building) which has a long tumultuous history and Cathedral de Colombia, which was began in 1802 by the Spanish and completed after Colombia's independence from Spain.


From La Candelaria we wandered into the heart of downtown. Food traffic picked up and the quiet streets of La Candelaria transformed into the hustle and bustle of downtown Bogota. We passed by the museo de Oro, the famous gold museum.
We ended our tour at Distrito Chocolate and Cafe Magola Buendia, where we tried an assortment of chocolate and the famous chocolate con queso (which is exactly as it sounds cubes of fresh cheese dropped into a cup of piping hot chocolate. We ended the tour with a round of Tejo a famous bar game. This game is similar to cornhole, but instead of holes you aim heavy weights at small paper packages containing gun powder. The goal is to hit the small paper packages which creates a loud popping noise. It was much harder than I thought.


If you are interested in this free tour you can find them by searching: The True Colombian Experience - ask for Fredy he is great!


Monsarrate 

Overlooking downtown and La Candalaria is Santuario Monsarrate, a large white traditional spanish style church perched at the top of a mountain overlooking Bogota. Its one of the most popular and famous tourist attractions. To get here you must first get to Funicular and Cable-Car station. Depending on the time of arrival and tourist season be prepared to wait in line. We got there mid-day during low season and still waited approximately 1 hour before we boarded the Funicular.


There are two ways to get up the mountain: the funicular and the cable-car (check time tables as they operate at different hours of the day). I suggest you try both. On the way up my friend and I rode the Funicular which is a train that is pulled up the side of the mountain on a ground level track by a rope. It is very steep and at one point dives into a tunnel before arriving to the top of the mountain. The cable car on the other hand is a gondola which is suspended in the air several tens of feet off the ground. 


When we arrived at the top we spent several minutes in awe of the view. If you haven't realized how big Bogota was yet, this view will give you a great perspective. with over 10 million people, Bogota is the largest and most populated city in Colombia. Even on a clear day it's nearly impossible to see where Bogota ends. The large downtown skyscrapers seem like toys as you look down from Monsarrate.


If the altitude and height as not incapacitated you yet, continue up the stairs to the small white church. Unlike Iglesia Nuestra Senora Del Carmen, Santuario Monserrate is very simple, with its white washed walls, simple paintings and lack of stained glass windows, though its peacefulness gives space to pray, think or meditate. 


If you dare to continue further up the hill, the small street is shrouded on each side by souvenir venders and food places who will not let you pass until they ask you 3-4 times to buy something. Overall it's a great tourist destination, if only for the view and the ride up/down!




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