Salt Cathedral and Mines of Zipaquirá – Syncretismo, Salvation and Claustrophobia

IMG_4028250 million years ago, an inland sea covered the area of the high Andean plain – the Altiplano Cundiboyacense – on which the old colonial town of Zipaquirá stands. As the eastern cordillera of the Andes formed, the sea dried up leaving huge salt deposits which the pre-Colombian Muisca civilisation mined and traded from the 5th century BC, helping to make them one of the most prosperous peoples in pre-Colombian America. The town derives its name from the Muisca chiefs, or zipas, who once ruled the area.

Within the mines, they built shrines dedicated to the Lady of the Cave for protection during their difficult and dangerous work.

Mining continued after the Spanish conquest and later contributed to financing the war for independence in the early 1800s. In 1932 miners carved a sanctuary in the mine and dedicated it to La Virgen del Rosario de Guasá, an act of syncretismo conglomerating Christianity and the Muisca Lady of the Cave (Guasá meaning ‘cave’ in the Muisca Chibchan language).

IMG_3889The first salt cathedral was completed in 1954 but closed in 1990 for structural reasons. I visited this earlier cathedral in 1986. My memory is of an impressive structure, though smaller than today’s.

The present salt cathedral opened in 1995 and was declared ‘Colombia’s First Wonder’ in 2007. It’s 180 metres deep and 250,000 tonnes of rock salt were extracted to build it. There are a number of different attractions including a museum, a miner’s route and a climbing wall, as well as the cathedral itself.

We descended through an illuminated tunnel into the calm, dark interior and sulphuric smell of the salt mountain’s crystalline walls. It was not long before my ill health prevented me from keeping up with the guide and the rest of his party, but no guide – no problem: although you must enter the museum with a guide, there’s no obligation to stick with him once inside.

IMG_3902A series of chambers cut into the rock salt house minimalist scenes of the viacrusis. Monolithic crosses illuminated by colour-changing lights create a peaceful ambiance that can be appreciated whilst standing or from one of the kneeling stations demarked by small slabs.

The cross at the eighth station occupies negative space: it’s carved into the rock to symbolise the transformation of the physical into the spiritual, while the cross of light at the ninth station represents the resurrection.

IMG_3927From a balcony, a trumpeting Gabriel heralds a first glimpse of the 75m long central nave with its 16m high cross glowing at the far end; and the earthly and heavenly conjoin under a celestial blue dome.

In the Chamber of Life in the central nave, the huge illuminated cross looms over a circular marble floor sculpture of Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Man’.

To one side, the Chamber of Birth contains a carved nativity and a salt water font – salt water must be used as fresh water dissolves rock salt – in front of a foaming halite waterfall.

IMG_3951To the other side, a tomb-like cavern houses the Chamber of Death.

Further on, a small display depicting a group of ancient Muisca people marks the indigenous heritage of the area. There’s also an audiovisual cinema that shows a film of the history of salt mining in the area and an underground café that serves delicious and reasonably priced palos de queso (cheese sticks), as well as a gift shop.

IMG_3967 A pool with perfectly still water only visible with the agitation of a breath evokes the underworld. By reflecting the cave ceiling, it appears much deeper than it is – but, like the negative space crosses, it’s another optical illusion.

We continued to the miner’s route, which is more of a mining experience. Not for the claustrophobic, a guide leads a group through cramped and low-ceilinged mining tunnels in pitch darkness. Though no problem for me – my pre-illness SCUBA diving involved many ventures into shipwrecks; my normally feisty and courageous elder daughter whimpered and clung to my arm as we groped our way along the walls. We all have our foibles and hers is claustrophobia.

IMG_3983In a strange way this was a levelling experience – I’m not claustrophobic in the usual sense so the cramped underground blackness didn’t bother me and it forced everyone to slow down to my pace. The kind of claustrophobia that frightens me is being entombed at home or in bed by illness.

The children loved hacking at the rock salt with pickaxes, and we got to keep a few nuggets as souvenirs.

IMG_4000Our guide built expectation before the simulated explosion. I don’t know what I was expecting – of course they weren’t going to set real charges underground! It was just a recording. I’ve laid explosives myself (on an underwater explosives course, not for any illegitimate purpose, you understand) so I can imagine how terrifying and dangerous the real thing must’ve been for the miners, and why they needed shrines.

Outside, the children enjoyed the ceiba-tree-shaped climbing wall.

The trip took me many hours more than a healthy person; we barely fitted it into a day. But by adjusting expectations – accepting the pain and slow pace my illness imposes – I was able to enjoy the ethereal serenity of the salt cathedral.

Click here:

Salt cathedral, Zipaquirá, Colombia

to see more of my photos of the Salt Cathedral and Mines of Zipaquirá and here:

to see my video.

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Bogotá to Zipaquirá, How Colombians Treat Foreigners and an Unexpected Refuge

Though illness deprived me of a good night’s sleep, I was pleased to have made it to Colombia and been able to see some of Bogotá. I hoped I’d be well enough to travel to Zipaquirá to see the salt cathedral.

Dawn broke.

Some hours later, the rest of the family began to stir and I creaked towards the shower in pain and silence. The warm water eased my discomfort enough for me to shuffle to breakfast feeling a little better.

Transmilenio bus

Transmilenio bus

We took the Transmilenio to the north of Bogotá. The above-ground stations of the city’s rapid transport system were far easier for me than the steps and tunnels of the London Underground, which I’ve been unable to tackle since my illness began. Though it feels like a metro, the Transmilenio runs at street level using bendy buses in dedicated bus lanes. A Transmilenio station can be seen in the video below. 

A brief pause at the barrier instigated a flood of assistance from people showing us how to get through – very similar to the London Underground Oyster card system. In a few paces we were aboard and heading north.

At the Terminal del Norte, we had only to cross the platform to reach the Zipaquirá bus.

Here’s a short videocito to give a flavour of the journey:

As we approached Zipaquirá, a woman sitting near us asked if we were going to the salt cathedral. When I confirmed that we were, she asked the bus driver to stop the bus.

Approaching Zipaquirá

Approaching Zipaquirá

She led us through the streets, slowing to my pace, instinctively understanding that I could not walk quickly. A left turn here, a right turn there, over a railway track through a supermarket and out the other side, past the meat grill restaurants to the entrance to the salt cathedral. She shook our hands and wished us well, her smile beaming beneath rosy cheeks framed by dark, curly hair.

After she’d gone, we looked at each other hardly believing the kindness and helpfulness she’d shown us. I’m ashamed to say I doubt foreigners would be shown such consideration in my native UK.

Zipaquirá’s picturesque town square reveals its colonial heritage

Zipaquirá’s picturesque town square reveals its colonial heritage

The walk took its toll – by the time we stood at the ticket booth the various permutations of entrance tickets swam before my eyes. If it was simply a matter of asking for the different activities and classifications for each person – child, adult, with/without climbing wall, cathedral, salt mine, museum – I might have managed. But my headache was too intense to successfully convert the information to package A3, A5 etc. as was displayed on the board. I ended up ordering the wrong combinations.

My knight in shining armour was a lady in the queue. Assuming I was having language difficulties, she intervened on my behalf and sorted out the problem. It then occurred to me that I could hide behind a second language when in reality I was struggling through illness. It seems more acceptable to flounder because of language than illness. You feel less odd, less different. Many people struggle in a foreign language – that is acceptable, but being ill is not comfortable in societies where health and fitness are not just valued, but idolised. Illness is not talked about. Even the dying are praised for sparing the living from their suffering: ‘s/he never complained’, ‘you wouldn’t know s/he was ill’. There are strict unspoken guidelines on how illness is handled – the more invisibly the better.

I sat on a low wall to rest and recover for a while before entering the cathedral. I thought of how helpful Colombians are to foreigners – the people showing us how to use our Transmilenio tickets, the lady on the bus and the lady in the queue. Their kindness and compassion stayed with me and inspired me. We Europeans have much to learn.

I thought also of my new-found refuge in the Spanish language – an unexpected but welcome bonus, and one that I would continue to shamelessly exploit for the rest of the trip.

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Justin Bieber’s Bogotá Graffiti Provokes Urban Art Revolution in Colombia

Bogotá grafitti

Graffiti in Bogotá

Like most cities, Bogotá has its share of graffiti. Hurried scrawls – ‘tombos no tienen alma’ (‘cops have no conscience’), ‘duele la ironía del Estado’ (’the State’s irony hurts’) – express political discontent, while huge murals bursting with colour brighten the city. There is even an organised tour of Bogotá’s extensive urban art, such are its merits as a tourist attraction.

Colombian graffiti artists take great risks to create their art. Many wear masks to hide their identity. Confiscation of spray cans, hassle from the police and arrest go with the territory. But on 19 August 2011 police killed unarmed sixteen-year-old grafitero Diego Felipe Becerra while he was spraying graffiti on a wall on the Avenida de Boyacá. Post mortem examination revealed he was shot in the back at close range. Whether you view graffiti as vandalism or legitimate art form, few would consider it warranted summary execution.

So when Canadian tween sensation Justin Bieber went on an aerosol spree in Bogotá earlier this month, was he taking a huge risk? Not at all – Bogotá police provided him with an escort, even closing off part of the road on Calle 26 so he would not be disturbed while he painted a wall on the edge of an underpass.

Bieber’s police protection for the very same act for which Becerra was executed provoked outrage and indignation among Colombian grafiteros. Last weekend, Bogotá graffiti artists took part in a spontaneous twenty-four hour graffiti-thon protest creating more than seven hundred new works around the city.

Similar protests spread to Medellín and Cali and more are planned for other parts of the country. Bieber unwittingly provoked a ‘graffiti revolution’ – Colombian newspaper El Espectador likened his actions to the breaking of the Llorente vase that sparked the revolution for independence from Spanish rule in 1810.

Bogotá graffiti

Bogotá graffiti commemorating the the thousands of trade unionists and members of the Unión Patriotica (a political party annihilated by political genocide) assassinated with almost total impunity

The graffiti protests raise several questions. They seek to change the way society views graffiti, demanding it be recognised as a true and valid art form. The protesters argue that because most graffiti artists are disillusioned youths, their work is generally dismissed as vandalism.

Initiatives aimed at urban youths are often organised around sports. But not everyone likes sport or considers it a form of self-expression. And when the same demographic groups at whom sports initiatives are aimed express themselves through graffiti, their art is criminalised. While sports initiatives are lauded, graffiti is damned.

We accept the constant presence of advertisement hoardings, creating desires we never knew we had, urging us to consume more and keeping our attention focused on the shallow, yet graffiti that is often beautiful and/or carries a deeper message is outlawed. For society in general and the world around us, which is truly more damaging?

Bogotá police - graffiti

Raging inequality: a Bogotá police officer executed graffiti artist Diego Felipe Becerra but the same police force protected Justin Bieber during his sortie with a spray can

Becerra’s execution is an example of the Colombian police’s use of an outrageous level of disproportionate force. A culture of impunity breeds extreme aggression among the state security forces; but, after initial attempts at a cover-up, international pressure eventually prompted an investigation into the execution.

The Bieber incident raises issues of gross inequality. The contrast in the treatment metered out to a wealthy foreign celebrity and home-grown urban youth is as stark as it gets.

How much thought do we give to our privileged position as foreigners when travelling? What are our responsibilities to speak out about issues and atrocities abroad, especially where the repercussions for local journalists can be severe? To what extent do we see the world as our playground without thought to human rights and environmental abuses in places we visit?

Click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/105153060@N03/sets/72157638115642773/ to see more of my Bogotá graffiti photos.

Link to article in El Espectador (in Spanish): http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/bogota/justin-bieber-quebro-el-florero-de-llorente-articulo-456578

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Lake Guatavita – Thwarted Quest for El Dorado

Gold and emerald votives, Gold Museum, Bogotá

Gold and emerald votive offerings, Gold Museum, Bogotá

Our itinerary, planned mostly from my bed back in Europe, included hiring a taxi from Bogotá to Lake Guatavita. But the evening before we were due to go, I was too ill to organise the taxi, too ill even to get to the reception desk of our hostel and ask them to organise it. Maybe Dr M was right – this trip was a crazy idea for someone in my state of health. Reluctantly, I had to accept defeat – I was too ill to go to Lake Guatavita

My disappointment at not being able to see the lake was a test of my acceptance of my illness. Our natural inclination is to push ourselves in our ‘can do’ culture. Acceptance is alien and difficult to master. I have partially accepted the bodily pain and physical illness that constantly accompany me and I try to get the maximum from life despite these unwanted companions that have denied me so much. But I struggled to accept that having travelled all this way and being so close to Lake Guatavita, I would not see it.

As I lay in bed feeling despondent, I thought of the advice in Toni Bernhard’s excellent book about coping with chronic illness – How to be Sick. Physical pain was unavoidable but I realised I did not have to add mental suffering to it in the form of disappointment. Although pain deprived me of a good night’s sleep, I began to let go of my disappointment. I lay in bed thinking about the wonderful things we had done so far and that were yet to come on this trip and was at least able to rest.

So why is Lake Guatavita so special? On the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, fifty kilometres northeast of Bogotá, this almost circular lake lies in a crater that forms a natural amphitheatre. Forested hills edge its circumference and guapucha fish swim in its emerald waters. But it is its history that makes it unique.

Lake Guatavita was the birthplace of the legend of El Dorado, ‘The Gilded One’. The legend refers not to a golden city but to a golden man.

‘He went about all covered with powdered gold, as casually as if it were powdered salt,’ wrote Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo in the sixteenth century.

Muisca Raft, Gold Museum, Bogotá

Muisca Raft, Gold Museum, Bogotá

At the time of the conquest the area was inhabited by the indigenous Muisca people. In 1638 Juan Rodríguez Freyle chronicled the Muisca ceremony for appointing a new chief, or zipa. Naked but for a covering of gold dust, the new zipa embarked upon a great raft made of reeds. Gold and emeralds were piled at his feet and four chieftains adorned with feathers and gold accompanied him as oarsmen rowed him from the shores of the sacred lake to its centre.

As plumes of incense rose from braziers on the raft, the crowds gathered on the shores lit fires whose smoke obscured daylight. When the raft reached the centre of the lake, a chieftain raised a banner to signal silence and the zipa threw the gold and emeralds into the lake as his offering to the gods. After the chieftains made their own offerings, they lowered the banner to mark the end of the ceremony.

Detail of Muisca Raft, Gold Museum, Bogotá

Detail of Muisca Raft, Gold Museum, Bogotá

As the raft moved towards the shore, the crowds shouted their allegiance to the new zipa and began the celebrations with flutes, pipes and dancing.

The conquistadors spread stories of the ceremony throughout Spanish America and Europe until the golden man became a golden city that many sought in vain. While Europeans lusted after the promise of gold for its monetary value, the Muisca valued it for its spiritual properties: it reflected the sun’s light and colour and its worth lay in its efficacy as an offering made to renew life.

Just as El Dorado evaded the conquistadors who sought its gold and the various expeditions subsequently mounted to drain the lake for its treasures, now it evaded me.

I would have to imagine the ceremony as I later gazed upon a gold replica of the Muisca Raft at the Bogotá Gold Museum and count myself fortunate indeed to be able to do that.

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Quinta de Bolívar – Salad Days in Bogotá

Quinta de Bolívar

Quinta de Bolívar

Nestling at the foot of the Cerro de Monserrate and now on the outskirts of Bogotá, the Quinta de Bolívar was once a country estate set apart from the city.

In 1820, the Colombian people gave the Quinta to Simón Bolívar as a gesture of gratitude for liberating the nation from Spanish rule, and the property was honoured by his presence intermittently during the last ten years of his life.

Simón Bolívar

Simón Bolívar

Here, as President of Gran Colombia, he advanced plans for his ambitious project of Latin American unification. But, in the latter years of disillusionment, the Quinta was his refuge from political struggle and betrayal. It was also his shelter in times of ill health caused by tuberculosis, which was ultimately to kill him. Being chronically ill myself, I could imagine how the Liberator found rest and convalescence in this peaceful oasis.

European influence is evident from the French architectural details of the dining room, to the Italianate mirador and outdoor bathing area.

Dining room

Dining room

The rooms are furnished as they would have been at the end of the colonial era, reflecting the baroque and rococo tastes of the aristocracy.

Some of the Liberator’s personal possessions are also to be found here. The desk at which he might have read Rousseau and Voltaire, fermented revolutionary theories and analysed triumphs and defeats stands in a living room at the front of the house. A clock he picked up on his European travels, portraits, crockery and chamber pots evoke the period atmosphere.

The Liberator's swords

The Liberator’s swords

For me, the most significant object was his sword, or rather two of his swords that are placed on a chest at the foot of his bed.

One is a replica of a solid gold sabre encrusted with diamonds and rubies that the municipality of Lima presented to Bolívar in 1825 following the liberation army’s victory at the battle of Ayacucho the year before.

The other is a more utilitarian weapon that was captured by the M-19 guerrilla group in 1974 and not returned until 1991.

These swords inspired the quest in my work-in-progress novel The Sword of the Naked Liberator.

Gardens

Gardens

Gardens

Gardens

The tranquillity of the gardens defies its urban setting to provide a welcome respite from the city. Hummingbirds dart around pink begonias and crimson bell-flowered raques. 

Walnut trees rise from the Andean woodland floor, challenging the colonial viceroy’s orders to fell them in this area in an attempt to stamp out the indigenous Muisca population’s veneration of them. Wax palms, Colombia’s national tree, surround the ‘American fraternity tree’, one of many cedars growing in the grounds. Some of the ornamental trees are said to have been planted by Bolívar himself.

The Plaza de Banderas, a patio lined with the flags of the six nations Bolívar liberated, statuary and a modern glass cube housing an exhibition of his military campaigns punctuate the gardens.

Kitchen

Kitchen

Vegetables grown here supplied the estate’s kitchens which are now furnished to give a sense of how they might have looked in Bolívar’s day. Perhaps here José Palacios, Bolívar’s faithful servant, prepared curative potions for the Liberator using herbs and medicinal plants grown in these gardens.

Bolívar personally prepared salads for his guests using lettuce, cabbage, chards, potatoes and corn grown in the kitchen garden. To the recipes he learned from French ladies, he added indigenous ingredients such as cubios and arracachas.

Kitchen garden

Kitchen garden

Whether celebrating military victories or enjoying more intimate meals with his devoted lover Manuela Sáenz, it is tempting to imagine the Liberator appearing at the main door of his elegant dining room bearing a bowl of Bolivarian salad and that faint, wry smile sometimes captured in his portraits.

The Quinta de Bolívar’s rural surroundings and attention to period detail nurture the soul and allow the imagination to slip back two hundred years. A retreat from the city and from the twenty-first century, it is one of Bogotá’s most relaxing spaces.

Click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/105153060@N03/sets/72157637191715166/  to see more of my photos of the Quinta de Bolívar and here:   http://youtu.be/C4xZZCIyK9Y to see my video.

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Cerro de Monserrate – Breathless in Bogotá

Cerro de Monserrate, Bogotá

Cerro de Monserrate, Bogotá

Visible from most of Bogotá, the high Andean peak of the Cerro de Monserrate towers over the city. The steep rise of this mountain wall curtails expansion to the East and brings the city to an abrupt stop.

Adrenalin pushed me through my intensifying headache and struggle for breath – symptoms of my illness worsened by Bogotá’s high altitude – to get to the funicular station at the bottom of the Cerro de Monserrate.

The summit has attracted religious pilgrims since 1620 when the Brotherhood of Vera Cruz began using it as a place of worship. A chapel dedicated to the Virgen Morena de Monserrat, and a monastery that would later house the statue of El Señor Caído (The Fallen Christ) were completed by 1657.

Funicular, Cerro de Monserrate

Funicular

Pilgrims traditionally walk up the hill – penitence indeed – but we ascended in the funicular that was officially opened in 1929. Even on an 80% incline, views of the lower Andean woodland flooded through the glass roof panels and panoramas of Bogotá opened up as we climbed towards the clouds.

At 3152 metres, breathing and walking were difficult but I steadied my balance with my stick (aka ‘adventurer’s trekking pole’). A very slow pace and plenty of rest stops were key to getting as much as possible from the experience. Using my camera as an external memory drive, I was able to save what I saw for later, when I was well enough to appreciate it more fully.

Shining sunbeam hummingbird, Cerro de Monserrate

Shining sunbeam hummingbird

The walk from the top of the funicular to the church passes through high Andean woodland. Hummingbirds dart amongst red-hot poker flowers and red and yellow flower-trumpets drip from burgmansia trees. In only seven-and-a-half minutes, we’d been transported from deep metropolis to rural oasis. The disparity between these natural surroundings and the city made me realise that, having been a city person all my life, I now craved the quiet, slow ambivalence of nature.

Viacrucis

Viacrucis

 

 

 

A viacrucis – statues of Christ’s journey to his crucifixion – punctuate the woodland walk.

Bogotá from the Cerro de Monserrate

Bogotá from the Cerro de Monserrate

 

 

Vistas across the neighbouring peak of Guadalupe and the city below reward the visitor’s efforts.

The current church at the top of the Cerro de Monserrate was built in 1917 after an earthquake destroyed the original chapel.

 

Craft market

Craft market

Church at the top of the Cerro de Monserrate

Church at the top of the Cerro de Monserrate

Restaurants, food stalls and a craft market provide sustenance and souvenirs for tourists and pilgrims. Unable to browse the craft market, I contented myself with photographing it from where I sat.

Teleférico

Teleférico

By the time we reached the teleférico (cable-car) I was ready to descend to the city for some partial relief from the altitude.   

Descending to Bogotá

Descending to Bogotá

Although the excursion was mediated by illness, it was possible to enjoy it, even if not in the same way as a healthy person. Accepting the restrictions of the illness meant I could, to some extent, separate it from the experience.

 

As long as little was demanded of me, I managed to shuffle round slowly and take in some of what I saw. The gaps would be filled by photographs later.

 

 

 

Click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/105153060@N03/sets/72157636476467474/  to see more of my photos of the Cerro de Monserrate and here: http://youtu.be/fiYiCc2oZRM   to see my video.

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Bogotá: 2600 Metres Closer to the Stars

Bogotá

Bogotá

Set against the spectacular backdrop of the Eastern cordillera, ‘The Athens of South America’ stands at 2625 metres on a high Andean plateau – the Altiplano Cundiboyacense.

Plaza del Chorro de Quevedo - believed to be the sight of the original settlement of Bogotá

Plaza del Chorro de Quevedo – believed to be the sight of the original settlement of Bogotá

 

 

 

Now one of the largest cities in South America, Bogotá began life as a few huts and a chapel. Spanish Conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada founded Santa Fe de Bogotá (now Bogotá) in 1538 near the indigenous Muisca capital of Bacatá.

Entrance to the Colón Theatre

Entrance to the Colón Theatre

 

 

 

The city offers cultural, retail and culinary opportunities to rival any. Parks provide open spaces and the Ciclovía is the world’s largest cycle network.

 

Universities, libraries and theatres abound and the Transmilenio rapid transport system, though crowded at times, provides relatively quick travel across the city.

Inequality

'A better world is posible.'

‘A better world is possible. Where there is so much inequality and so much contempt for the people there cannot be peace.’

 

In Bogotá, perhaps more than anywhere else in Colombia, inequality is glaring.

Swanky upmarket districts like Zona Rosa contrast harshly with the poorer areas to the south of the city.

Middle-class professionals enjoy the affluent lifestyle that the country’s economic success has brought, whilst the poorest pick through rubbish bags for discarded takeaways.

 

 

 

But there is much that is worthy of the visitor’s attention. Here are just a few examples:

La Candelaria

Church

Nuestra Señora del Carmen church

The old district of La Candelaria is a delight. Brightly painted three-hundred-year-old Spanish colonial houses line the streets and a bountiful scattering of churches and museums beckon.

La Candelaria

La Candelaria

Botero Museum

'The Dancers' by Fernando Botero

‘The Dancers’ by Fernando Botero

 

 

In the Botero museum, chubby dancers, politicians and campesinos clamber, swirl and recline in the paintings and sculptures of Colombia’s most famous artist, Fernando Botero.

Gold Museum

Muisca Raft, Gold Museum

Muisca Raft, Gold Museum

The gold museum houses an impressive collection of pre-Colombian gold from all over the country.

Exhibits include shamans transmuted into condors and humming birds, figures used for votive offerings and the museum’s centrepiece – the Muisca raft.

The raft depicts the Muisca ceremony surrounding the appointment of a new chief. Clad only in gold dust, he sailed onto Lake Guatavita with his entourage before diving into the sacred waters.

When early Spanish settlers witnessed this ceremony, the legend of El Dorado was born.

 

Plaza de Bolívar

Plaza de Bolívar

Plaza de Bolívar

Bustling with people, llamas and pigeons, the Plaza de Bolívar is Bogotá’s epicentre.

The Primary Cathedral, Palace of Justice, Congress building and Mayoral offices surround the square and its bronze statue of Simón Bolívar, liberator of six South American nations.

 

 

Cerro de Monserrate

IMG_3756 jasc'd and clarified

Cerro de Monserrate

Over 3000 metres above sea level, the Cerro de Monserrate can be seen from most of Bogotá. Atop the mountain sits a sanctuary that houses the statue of El Señor Caído (The Fallen Christ).

A funicular and a cable car carry pilgrims and tourists up and down the mountain, though it is also possible to walk.

Breathtaking views of the city, beautiful natural surroundings and a variety of restaurants contribute to the mix of faith, nature and gastronomy.

 

Quinta de Bolívar

Dining room, Quinta de Bolívar

Dining room, Quinta de Bolívar

Nestled at the foot of the Cerro de Monserrate, the Quinta de Bolívar was given to Simón Bolívar for liberating the nation from Spanish rule.

Lush gardens surround the house that now hosts a museum featuring period furniture and some of the Liberator’s possessions.

 

 

One of Bogotá's many missing drain covers - an underfoot hazard

One of Bogotá’s many missing drain covers – an underfoot hazard

From fine art to street art, culture to nightlife, architecture to street life, Bogotá is a photographer’s paradise and a fantastic travel destination.

There is plenty to see and do, just be careful to avoid the ubiquitous uncovered drain holes.

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