I am having a great time in Columbia, it is really a much more exciting country than most would think. Things are pretty safe in terms of going out and doing touristy things, although a governor from one of the Columbian departments (read: states) was kidnapped and assassinated while we’ve been here. It’s hard to feel shaken by it since he was in a department far away from where we are and one that is closer to the FARC-controlled areas. Clearly FARC is only bothering with bigwigs and not tourists like us, although it’s a shame there’s still some drug-related problems here.
Bogota was a lot of fun to be in. I mentioned on Twitter a particular restaurant outside the city called Andres Carnes de Res. It is like Disneyland if Disneyland was about eating, drinking and partying (read: dancing.) It seats over 3000, which boggles the mind in terms of logistics, but they have it organized well enough that the food is still fantastic and the service is not too bad either.
Also in Bogota is a fantastic Gold Museum (Museo de Oro in Spanish) that shows how the pre-columbian (meaning before the times of the conquistadores if you are confused) people worked, revered and wore their gold. In contrast to Peru and the Incan and Pre-Incan cultures I am used to, it was a lot different. The actual gold-working techniques came from Peru, but the pre-columbians in Columbia made amazingly detailed small objects while the Peruvian cultures went for bigger more dramatic pieces embedded with precious stones. Still, the Museo de Oro in Bogota was fascinating. My mother and I expected to go for an hour and wound up spending three whole hours there. We aren’t really museum people, so that is saying a lot.
Another museum in Bogota I would like to mention is the Botero museum. Obviously, Botero is one of the Columbia’s most famous figures after Shakira, Juanes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His art style is absolutely fascinating and the famously fat figures he paints are not just his default style, but a commentary on various social figures, events and institutions. One of my favorite paintings is one of a blonde archangel done in the style of Cusqueña art (which is a religious art style based in Cuzco, Peru that supplied all of Latin America with religious art in the colonial times. The Peruvian side of my family used to have a large collection of Cusqueña art, so I became very interested in it via interest in my family’s history.) My mother’s favorite was the fat Mona Lisa. Also housed in the museum is a collection of other surrealist paintings and sculptures by other famous artists, which Botero owned. There were paintings and sculptures by Picasso, Chagall, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas Dali and many many others, which was a lovely addition to the extensive catalog of Botero’s works.
Now we are in Cartagena and have had a wonderful time so far. We went to a private island hotel in the Caribbean sea and went swimming and snorkeling all day. It was a lot of fun, even though I’m not a beach person at all! The snorkeling was just fantastic. The old city of Cartagena de los Indios is also very beautiful and it reminds me of Havana, Cuba if Havana had been allowed to keep all it’s old architectural glory instead of falling to ruins under Castro’s rule. (Yes, I’ve been to Cuba! It has been awhile though.) There are lots of little side streets and places to explore, it’s like a very exciting labyrinth. The old city is actually a walled city because of Sir Francis Drake, who I’m sure you all remember in your elementary school history books as being one of the great “explorers” of the New World. Well, here he’s regarded as a dirty pirate! Since this used to be a Spanish colony, when Sir Francis Drake, under Spain’s worst enemy, England, attacked the city, looted it and almost burnt it down. Let’s just say history books here probably don’t regard Sir Francis too kindly.
Other than that, I’ve been fighting off stomach problems (yogurt helps if you ever have stomach problems in foreign countries by the way) and a sore throat (somehow, magically, in constant 85 degree weather and 40% humidity of Cartagena, I got a sore throat/cold.)
I’ve also determined that Columbia does have something of a comic book subculture, but that it is something of a rich city kid’s thing. Other than that, the country is in a state where Dragonball and other such anime programs are airing on TV, which has fueled a small interest in the related toys and card games. Beyond that, I don’t think most of the country is aware of anime or manga at all.
We have a few more days in Cartagena and then we move onto Medellin for New Year’s Eve. I am kind of looking forward to the cooler weather and whatnot. Medellin is also Botero’s hometown so I’m sure we will get to see more of his fabulous artwork. Then it will be time to come home! I’ve had a lot of fun, but I would definitely like to go home soonish and be able to share all my great photos with you.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas (btw, Columbian Christmas decorations are way better than the ones in the U.S. They have seriously outclassed us in that aspect.) and will have a happy New Year as well.