On Sundays in Bogota, I think that people are in one of three places.
3. Bike-riding on the Ciclovia
I think many probably do all three.
First of all, the Ciclovia is a Sunday ritual here in Bogota. A few streets throughout the city (from the North where I live, all the way to the South downtown) are closed to vehicle traffic from about 8 in the morning until about 3 in the afternoon. It's been great for the people and for the city of Bogota as the turnout has been amazing. Most people ride bikes, but I have seen joggers, walkers, roller-bladers, and skateboarders. The Ciclovia itself is free, but many people sell food and drink along the way. I haven't tried it yet, but I would like to soon. And a note of warning, trying to cross the streets of the Ciclovia is even more difficult than crossing a street of cars, buses and taxis...that is close to impossible!
Anyways, this Sunday I spent my morning and afternoon downtown with a teacher friend of mine named Claudia. Although we had a few transportation issues (we took the wrong bus and had a crazy taxi driver - which now that I think of it, is not that unusual), we made it to the Museo del Oro (the Gold Museum) by about 10:30. The Gold Museum is very famous in Colombia and for good reason, the artifacts we saw were amazing and very well intact. And to our pleasant surprise, the museum is free on Sundays! The Museum is three floors of gold, copper, silver, stone and wood artifacts from the indigenous peoples of South America (mostly of Colombia). I learned that the amount of gold found in a person's tomb probably pointed to that person's hierarchy or class in the society (much like the tombs of Egyptian mummies). Also, the myth of El Dorado actually originates in Colombia. There was a chieftan of one tribe of indigenous peoples near Bogota who allegedly went to the middle of a lake called Guayavita and threw gold and emeralds to the bottom. Supposedly, the Spaniards heard of this gold lake and decided to see for themselves if there was a golden city at the bottom. They never did find any at the bottom of the lake, but the story is still legendary. As you can see by the following pictures, I enjoyed the jewelry of the chiefs the most.
After visiting Museo del Oro, Claudia and I walked towards Bogota's main plaza. Surrounded by government buildings like Congress and covered with pigeons and people, the plaza is an amazing site to see. Also, across from the Plaza is Bogota's most famous Cathedral built by the Spaniards. Besides that cathedral, we took a look inside three or four other Cathedrals. All were beautiful, ornate, and enormous, and were museums of silver and gold themselves. In a few, Mass was actually taking place, so I felt a little awkward touring a Cathedral while others were worshiping. In fact, in the most famous Cathedral, I believe people were being confirmed by the Bishop.
And another view:
The Famous Cathedral:
And some inside:
Some other Cathedrals:
Besides Congress and the government buildings of the plaza, we visited Colombia's version of the White House: The Presidential Palace. Although there were guards surrounding the palace, I was surprised by how close you could actually get to the mansion, as it is very difficult to get close the White House in Washington D.C. The presidential band was playing in the front of the house (possibly for Chavez's visit - the leader of Venezuela).
Me with a guard : )
Finally, as Claudia and I were both tired and hungry from walking all over downtown, we decided to stop for lunch at Bogota's famous hamburger chain El Corral Gourmet. The mall where the restaurant was located was built by a famous Colombian architect (I don't remember his name) who recently died. Claudia informed me that he was famous for mixing natural elements like water with brick and other building materials. The mall had an amazing view of the mountains and of Monserrate (Bogota's cathedral on top of the mountain).
Me in front of a fountain in the mall
And some views of the mountains:
Finally, some views of the colonial streets of La Candelaria (downtown Bogota):
Well, I must give you a congratulations if you made it this far. I know this was a long-winded and picture-filled post, but if you're reading this blog, you probably want to see more of my exciting experiences rather than my everyday school life, so I hope you enjoyed it! I know I did. : ) And after being a tourist all day, I'll need to get to bed early in order to get to work tomorrow!
Chao a todos!