The big B – Bogota and around

First some fun facts about Bogota, a city of roughly 8.5 million. Admittedly beforehand, I had no idea that Bogota sits at 2,625 meters (8,612 ft) above sea level. This high elevation clearly translates into cooler temperatures (avg 14.5 Celsius).

Anyone who listens to National Public Radio (NPR) in the states for long enough, has probably heard of Bogota and it’s failed license plate traffic scheme.  Bogota limits the days you can drive by the last digit of your license plate.  To side step this annoying limitation, many locals have purchased second cars leaving them free to drive when they like.

On our first encounter with Bogota’s notorious traffic, we found that driver’s in the city were more respectful than in the smaller towns (they didn’t honk continuously and there were some engaged blinkers, oh my). On subsequent visits however, it was a whole different ball game and so the flow of Bulgarian curses commenced.

We stayed at Charlies Place Hotel which included free breakfast, parking and wonderful service.  The hotel is in walking distance of both the Brazilian and Bolivian embassies.  For the next 3 days, we laid down a lot of shoe leather (or I guess rubber since we were in our sneaks), walking more than 200 city blocks.  But, the end result is visas and a several days in and around Bogota.

We spent Colombian independence day exploring El Museo del Oro (the Museum of Gold) and surrounding neighborhoods.


Bogota is not a beautiful city, but you can feel the undercurrent of art, music and politics as you walk the streets. The people were nothing but welcoming and helpful to us.  At the very least, El Museo del Oro demands a visit. It’s a beautifully planned gallery that gives you an idea of the tradition of metalwork in Colombia.


While waiting for our visas, we also paid a visit to Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá (the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá).


Cartagena, a crown jewel

I’ve done my fare share of raving about some other colonial cities, but Cartagena really stands alone.  Why you ask?  Start with the fact that it’s gorgeous and well preserved.  Add in the fact that it still feels like a Colombian city.  Sure, there are plenty of tourists about, but Cartagena hasn’t (yet) been bought up by foreigners.  Finally, throw in a cultural focus on the arts and you end up with something amazing.

In between the port runs, we managed to check out the city.  We stayed in the Getsemani neighborhood.  A slightly less gentrified and more affordable version of the walled old town neighborhood.  Both offer plenty of eye candy.

My favorite moment in the city is chancing upon an art walk.  A run down street had been transformed by local artists until such time when the properties would be developed.  This was an organized effort.  A local man even stopped to explain the art and make a point about the countries focus on the arts.