Day 2 In Bogotá Colombia Continued: Monserrate

After learning to play Tejo and enjoying a local lunch, it was time for us to continue our tour with a visit to Monserrate. Monserrate is a mountain located in the center of Bogotá, which is more than 10,000 feet above sea level. In order to get to the top of the mountain, one can walk, take a funicular train, or a cable car. We took the cable car, since it was the fastest and easiest means of transportation.
Upon arriving to the top of the mountain, we came across a type of plant called the angel trumpet bird which hummingbirds are attracted to, and which are unfortunately used by many to make date rape drugs.
At the top of Monserrate, there is a church which contains the Lady of Monserrat (Matron Saint of Monserrat), a replica of what can be found in Catalunya, near Barcelona. This replica has been around since 1630, and was fixed over in the eighteenth century. The mountain was named Monserrate due to this famous image being held here. This was supposed to be the main focal point to see (besides the view of course) here on Monserrate, but now, it is most famous for its statue of Jesus Christ being taken off the cross named “El Señor Caído,” (fallen Lord).
In 1656, the statue of Jesus, which is pictured below was brought to Monserrate. The hair on the statue is actual human hair, and if you’re wondering whose hair it is, I had the same question, but was not able to get a definitive answer.
The rest of the church was completed in 1925 and is a beautiful place of worship, not only for the incredible artifacts inside, but for the breathtaking view outside as well. As we walked around Monserrate, we spent a few minutes adjusting to the high altitude level by drinking coca tea. As a snack, hormigas culonas were passed around for us to sample, which translates to “Big ass ants.” Hormigas culonas have their name because the rear end of the ants are much larger in size. Only the queen ants are eaten, since the others are not considered edible. Often times, the wings and legs are removed, as the ants are soaked in salty water and roasted as a delicacy. I couldn’t bring myself to indulge in the ant eating, but both my brother and sister did, and watching them eat it was still quite the experience.

Day 2 In Bogotá, Colombia Continued: Museo del Oro

After passing through the Museo Botero, we walked through the city and came across an obleas cart. Obleas are thin wafers that can be filled with jam, fruits, cheese, condensed milk, dulce de leche, or arequipe. I remember buying packages of this years ago in Guatemala, so naturally I ordered one to try it out here in Colombia. I ordered this one with condensed milk and jam, and it was delicious to say the least.

After taking a quick snack break, our tour continued at the Museo del Oro, Bogotá’s Gold Museum. Upon entering the museum, we were told that it contains somewhere around 53,000-55,000 pieces including metals and artifacts, with 32,000 of the pieces being pre-historic gold artifacts. This museum is also said to be the largest in South America, or at least that’s what our tour guide told us. The way that some of the artifacts have been displayed on shadows represents the ways in which various tribes once wore the golden pieces. Additionally, pictured below, you can see large emeralds, which are known to be very valuable in Colombia. Something I found very interesting was that the room containing these emeralds was secured in a vault and guarded by security, whereas all of the other rooms in the museum did not have such strict security.

Also found below is the Muisca Raft, also called the El Dorado Raft. In a certain ritual, the Muisca chief jumped into the lake along with gold and emeralds as offerings. This golden raft with people on it is a replica of what is believed to have been the raft with the Muisca chief and others before the offering. Since the offering, countless people have tried to dive into Lake Guativita to find the golden pieces, but since the lake is so deep, no one has had such luck. The last exhibit we came across in the museum displayed 3,200 pieces that had been found upon digging up old tombs.

An interesting fact about the city of Bogotá is that the founder of Bogotá came searching for El Dorado, the city of gold, but he instead found the city of Bogotá. Ironically, the gold museum is located next to where his house originally was.

As we drove off to our next stop, we were told that Justin Bieber visited Colombia a few years ago, and decided to graffiti some of the walls here in Bogotá. Surprisingly, he had a police escort surrounding him, and was allowed to graffiti the walls. Local graffiti artists ended up complaining to the government in protest of not being allowed to graffiti the walls, and the government ended up changing the rules. Since then, local graffiti artists are now allowed to graffiti throughout the city only with permission of buildings if the graffiti consists of approved art.

Our next stop included a lesson in one of Bogotá’s local sports, Tejo, which I’ll be posting about a little later on.