Friday, July 24, 2009
The final leg of my Colombian odyssey was Bogota. Reaching an altitude of 2640 meters (8300 ft), the city is the third highest capital city in the world. As such, getting off the plane from Cartagena is quite a shock. After only one hour of traveling, the thin, chilly air in Bogota is a world away from the turgid heat on the coast.
We landed in Bogota and wrapped ourselves in our warmest clothes, then headed off to explore the old town. We strolled by the Capitolio Nacional and the Palacio de Nariño, past the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, and back towards the more modern Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango admiring the mix of old and new in the historic city center.
That evening we met up with some people who would be at our friend’s wedding that weekend. We had a great dinner at Club Colombia, where one of the locals recommended ajiaco, Bogota’s specialty of chicken and potato soup. Delicious.
After dinner we headed to the home of a friend of the bride’s for a surprise serenata, or serenade. A Colombian wedding tradition, the serenata involves surprising the bride-to-be with singing. This serenata included both a guitar duo and a full-fledged mariachi band, and the groom sang a lot of the songs. Aguardiente, the national anise-flavored liquor, flowed freely throughout the evening, giving those not used to the altitude quite a rough morning the following day.
Thankfully my boyfriend and I kept our aguardiente drinking in check, and woke up early the next morning to visit the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira. Carved out of an old salt mine, the cathedral featured a whole bunch of stations of the cross (I was under the impression that there were only twelve, but apparently you can add more), beautiful carvings, and a reflecting pool.
After the cathedral visit my boyfriend met up with a former coworker from the days when he worked in Bogota. I was left to my own devices at the local mall. After two hours of primary research, I concluded that malls are the most soul-sucking places on earth, no matter where on earth one is. I was glad to get out of there and head to dinner.
Dinner was at Colombia’s most famous restaurant, Andres Carne de Res. There is really no way to do justice to the insanity of this restaurant, other than to say that it is big enough that one can get lost in the quirky labyrinth of its rooms, dance floors, bars, and halls. Its low ceilings and long walls are so packed with kitsch that they make Buck’s of Woodside look like an austere tribute to Modernism. The music was loud, the menu came in a box with a jack-in-the-box handle to wind it, and the dancing started early and went late. The food was mainly steak, and the caipirinhas were strong. It was a good night.
The next day was our friend’s wedding. We boarded a bus at noon that drove us up over the mountains and out of Bogota. The wedding was at a villa on a farm, complete with sheep, donkeys, and mules dressed in festive flowers for the occasion.
The ceremony was short and sweet, and afterwards the guests gathered for drinks and dinner followed by hours of dancing. My boyfriend and I stayed as long as our jet lag permitted, then headed back to Bogota so that we could wake up early for our flight back to London.
The wedding was the perfect way to finish off our trip to Colombia, but we still weren’t ready to be back in London quite yet. Our five hour layover in Miami was useful in that respect, as we spent most of it sipping drinks by a beach bar in an effort to prolong paradise. Then it was back to London and back to work, leaving us with nothing but a desire to return to Colombia at our earliest possible convenience.