Monday, April 24, 2017

a tale of two cities

While Dan and I were walking around Bogota today, he stopped and watched a group of men on the corner of one of the city's busy streets.

"Have you noticed something interesting about the streets in Bogiota? Here we are in a city with a population almost the same as New York City, but everyone is so calm. No one is in a hurry. Look at those men standing over there. They are enjoying their day in conversaion."

He was correct. Almost everywhere we traveled during the past two weeks in Colombia could be characterized as calm. That is doubly ironic when you think of the reputation Colombia has throughout much of the world. A reputation it does not deserve.

Bogota is tranquil, but it is also a big city. A big city with a lot of similarities to New York City, but far more differences.

All big cities have their own version of street art. Bogota is no exception. Many of the buildings near our apartment are adorned with graffiti art.

This one is not the best, but it is representative of the genre. I know some of you consider this form of art to be vandalism. I don't. As long as the property owner has acquiesced.

But that is not Bogota's only claim to art. The city is filled with first-class art collections in its museums. We re-visited the Botero Museum again today.

It contains a large collection of the works of Fernando Botero, probably Colombia's most famous artist. Certainly, the most popular.

 A second wing houses a portion of his personal art collection. From the impressionists to modern art. Such as this Chagall.

I will write at least one more essay about the museum. It deserves treatment of its own. Suffice it to say, Bogota holds its own with art.

There are a couple of areas in town with skyscrapers. But this building is special. It is the BD Bacata. And, when completed, it will be the second tallest building in Latin America.

New York may have Tiffany's. Bogota has emeralds. Lots of emeralds. And lots of shops selling unset and set emeralds.

I had a front seat in emerald buying today. Patty is an old hand. She has bought unset gems and then sold them to other buyers. On this trip, she was looking for emerald earrings.

While I was waiting, I looked in some of the stores. We are not talking about shoddy stones. Most of the stores featured major pieces -- usually, necklaces.

This was my favorite. It was created by a Japanese artist -- all of whose works bore the same balance of luxury and simplicity. Before you bother: if you have to ask the price, you do not have enough Colombian pesos in your pocket. I didn't ask.

Bogota is in the process of upgrading its mass transit system. Where New York may have its subways, Bogota has dedicated streets for its articulated buses.

It is possible other cities have these three-car articulated buses. If they do, I have never noticed them.

While Dan and I were standing in front of a grocery store, seven of these mammoths drove by in just a few minutes. All of them almost filled to capacity.

But Bogota has sights you could not possibly see in New York. Well, unless you visited Anthony Weiner's apartment.

This man and his burro had collected left-over food from local restaurants. They toted their treasure to this spot to feed a flock of pigeons feverishly waiting for the feast to begin. Feed the birds, tuppence a bag, indeed.

Trying to compare places is a fool's game. One inevitably ends up with the silly question of which place is best.

They both are -- in their own ways.

But I found the tranquility of Bogota to be one of its most charming qualities. That, and its pigeon-feeding donkeys. And that is good enough for me.

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