Tuesday, April 11, 2017
"You are going to love the place. It is as if Germans were running South America."
So said a blogger friend who has visited Colombia several times. I was going to ask if Germans running South America was a good thing -- considering the reputation of both following the second world war. But I decided that would have been a bit churlish. Not to mention predictable.
It turns out she is absolutely correct.
On the taxi ride in today from the airport, I did not pay close attention to the buildings we passed. All I knew is that we were heading for an apartment in La Candaleria neighborhood.
If I had been watching, I would have noticed that our apartment is in the heart of colonial Bogota. This is where the original city was founded.
My first task was to find a store where I could buy a SIM card for my telephone. I was not going to re-learn the expensive lesson I experienced in Australia.
The doorman pointed me down the street and around the corner. So, off I trudged.
The first major building I encountered was a cathedral. That threw me off. What was an archbishop's church doing in a small neighborhood of Bogota?
You already know the answer. I was not in a small neighborhood; I was in Bogota's colonial center.
The cathedral sits on the corner of Bogota's central square, Bolivar Plaza. Yup, the same Bolivar whose image has been stolen and sullied by the gang that cannot rule straight in Venezuela. He is also the national hero of Colombia.
The buildings around the plaza (the cathedral, the congress building, and the Lievano Palace) all look somewhat germanic in style. But I would modify my fellow blogger's analogy. It does not feel so much German as Austrian to me. As if the Von Trapps are going to jump out from behind Bolivar's statue and assault us with Edelweissian choruses.
And why not? The Habsburgs ruled not only Spain, but Austria, as well.
The problem with that theory is that the slightly baroque cathedral and the neoclassical palace and congress building were all built after the Colombians sent the Spanish king packing -- or, in the case of the cathedral, he was well on his way out. Construction on each started in 1807, 1905, and 1876 respectively.
But who is going to let a few dates get in the way of a good narrative? The buildings may have not been built while the Habsburgs ruled Bogota, but they do have an Austrian patina.
I had been warned about carrying my camera around town. So, all of my shots came from my telephone. But, it is just as well. Today's light would get a low phopographer rating.
It is Bogota's rainy season. And even though it merely threatened rain most of the day, it carried out the threat a few times.
I was successful in finding a shop that sells SIM cards and a 15-day plan that meets my needs perfectly. I have bought SIM cards in The States, Mexico, Denmark, Britain, France, and Spain.
What is universal with each purchase is the clever young things who manage to set up the telephone with the most arcane information that passes screen after screen. If I had to do it, I would be just like Lenny Bruce: "I will end up like a schmuck with a dixie cup on a thread."
So, I am a happy tourist. I get to make irrational architectural references while shooting my camera that now works as a telephone.
And I get to walk. The central area of Bogota is a walker's paradise. With one small pebble in the shoe. Combining its hills with its 8600 feet altitude is a bit taxing on this sea-level walker.
But, two weeks of adventure lie ahead. By 9 tonight, Mexpatriate and whatever Dan was going to call his blog will join forces to give you our interpretation of Vienna in the mountains.