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Bogotá, Colombia: My First Impressions

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One year ago we spent the New Year night on board of a transatlantic plane, and I guess that has been my most unusual New Year celebration so far. The flight operated by Avianca was full. Close to the midnight in the European time the flight attendants offered us some small drinks to cheer to the coming year. After the imaginary countdown the crew turned on some Colombian New Year song. And so we were in the 2020! Since we were heading towards West, crossing multiple time zones, I guess it would be possible to celebrate the 2020 multiple times, however, shortly after the lights were dimmed. I tried to sleep, but unfortunately I lack the super power of sleeping on planes. 

Finally we landed in Bogota. I was tired and super excited at the same time! We took a taxi from the airport. It was still night in Bogota, and the streets were empty, so it didn’t take very long for us to get to Sergio’s parents’ home. His Mom and Dad were already waiting for us. Since it was late at night, everyone went straight to bed shortly after saying hello.

First morning of 2020

Next day we spent at home with family. For breakfast I got offered some amazing tropical fruits, the kind I’ve never tried before, and avocados from the backyard of Sergio’s grandmother. The grandmother lives in a different town, but Sergio’s parents went to visit her for Christmas and brought the avocados back with them. These avocados were the tastiest I’ve ever had, with perfect creamy texture and intense green color.

We waited for Sergio’s youngest brother Juan and his wife Stefy to come back from work, and then, with the whole big family, we went to have lunch at a chicken place not far from home. There I had a soup ajiaco and fell in love with it. 

Visiting a mall

We decided to take it slow on the first day and didn’t plan any touristy things. So, we went to a mall instead. I didn’t plan to do any shopping, but then I discovered some really cool local apparel brands and it was hard to resist buying. At the mall I also tried a soursop (guanabana) juice and it became my favourite. It’s funny, but in Colombia they call ‘juice’ what Europeans rather call ‘smoothie’. I love those!

Trying Pacific cuisine

Next day together with Sergio’s parents and both his brothers we went for lunch to a restaurant in the downtown to try some typical food of the Colombian Pacific. As you probably already have noticed, I tried so many new foods during that trip :) I ordered a cazuela de mariscos, a hearty creamy soup with lots of seafood. It was amazingly tasty and the portion was enormous (no, I didn’t manage to finish it). 

In the downtown

After the lunch Sergio and I stayed in the downtown, while the others went back home or to work. Sergio warned me that one has to be especially cautious in this area, since people get mugged there, and that I shouldn’t take out my huge camera too often.

To my surprised expression, he answered: ‘That’s why you probably haven’t seen that many pretty pictures of Bogota on the Internet’.

We went to explore La Candelaria, the historic neighbourhood with many interesting sights. There we saw some policemen with guns patrolling the area and Sergio said, that it should be safe to use the camera at least at that street. 

Museo de Bogotá

The first sight we saw was the Museum of Bogota (Museo de Bogotá). It’s a small museum with free admission located in the villa La Casa de los Siete Balcones. The permanent exposition demonstrates artefacts of the city history as well as daily objects which were used back in the day in Bogota. 

I also appreciated the old villa’s yard, which felt like a little green oasis in the chaotic downtown. It was also safe to use my camera there and I enjoyed taking photos of various plants in the villa’s yard.

Upon leaving the museum I told Sergio that I would like to try some good coffee — the Colombian product I appreciate the most. It’s funny, but for a long time coffee was considered a purely export product in Colombia, and back in the day it would be hard to find a coffee shop serving good coffee in Colombia. However, as we’ve learned from our friends, recently, coffee culture gained popularity on the local market as well, and specialty shops started appearing. Furthermore, even established commercial chains like Cafe Quindio started offering manual brewing methods like syphon or dripper in their shops.

So, I was determined to find some good coffee. When exiting the museum, we noticed a little cafeteria on the ground floor. Sergio said: ‘Look, here you go, a coffee place!’ I hesitated for a moment, having a sort of predisposition against coffee in museum cafeterias, but still decided to take a look. It appeared to be a specialty coffee shop! I ordered a V60 brew and it exceeded all my expectations. So, it definitely worth marking Café Ibáñez on your map if you are a coffee lover traveling to Bogota.

La Candelaria

After the pleasant coffee break we decided to walk in La Candelaria down the street towards the Bolivar Square, the main square of Bogota.

I kept taking photos with my camera until Sergio told me: 

— You look like a tourist.

— Oh, well, of course I do. I am tall and blond.

— No, I mean your big camera.

So, I hid my camera, which didn’t make me feel more comfortable, since the bag was still on me. Gosh, I regretted leaving my palm-size Ricoh camera at home in Germany! That was such a picture-worthy vibrant area, I wish I could shoot more of it on something better than my iPhone.

Monserrate

Closer to the evening we took a taxi and drove to the base of the mountain Monserrate. The plan was to meet up again with the girls and guys from Sergio’s family and to take a cable car to the mountaintop.

However, the Christmas illumination attracted too many visitors. Besides, many people were still enjoying their winter vacations and schools were closed for holidays. We spent an hour (or even longer) in line to the ticket shop before we heard that we would probably have to wait for another two hours to get to the top. We thought that it would probably be more reasonable to come back on some other week.

Photos taken in January 2020

About Author

Hi, I'm Katja! I'm a computer scientist, who loves photography and traveling. Welcome to the visual diary of my adventures!