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.

Day 2 In Bogotá, Colombia Continued: Museo Botero

Fernando Botero is one of Colombia’s most famous artists. Fortunately, we were able to take some time on our tour to explore his museum in Bogotá—Museo Botero.
Botero is known to paint individuals in a larger manner. He has explained that he paints voluminous people, not fat people. Specifically, he zooms in on their skin and not their facial features. He also doesn’t use models which is why so many of the people in his paintings look similar. One such painting that shows this is his version of the Mona Lisa, which is bigger in size and situated in front of the Andes.
One of the paintings pictured below shows a group of men, with only one of the men sleeping comfortably. This is because he is wearing a watch and to Botero, being in control of time represents power. If you notice, watches can be found in many of his paintings.
Fernando Botero donated much of his artwork to this museum, but had three conditions for doing so. The museum had to be free for everyone to enjoy, he wanted to display the artwork in the museum himself and place everything according to his personal preference, and the last condition was that the paintings could never leave this museum. With the conditions having been met, Botero donated 123 of his own paintings and other paintings that he possessed including many of Picasso’s pieces. In fact, Botero first started by painting artists whom he admired such as Picasso. Shortly thereafter, when Botero began painting other pieces, he painted a person with a guitar that had a smaller sized hole, but instead of calling this a mistake, he decided this would later become his style.
In the late 1970’s, Botero was driving with his son and second wife in Spain when they were involved in a terrible car accident. Botero’s son, Pedro, who was only a child, died in the accident. As a resulting injury of the accident, part of Botero’s finger was cut off. He later traveled to Italy and paid close attention to the sculptures throughout the country. Botero began sculpting because not only was it difficult to paint for some time after his accident, but because he was passionate about volume and knew that sculpting was a great way to give volume to his work. In addition to some of the various sculptures pictured below, you will notice a sculpture of a large hand, which is actually a sculpture of Botero’s hand.
Fernano Botero is the only living artist to sell a painting for over a million dollars, and his work is both enjoyed and celebrated throughout the world.

Day 2 In Bogotá, Colombia

After eating breakfast in the morning, we hopped onto the tour bus and drove to La Candelaria, a historic neighborhood in downtown Bogotá. It is said that Colombia is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, with 1,887 species of birds alone in the country. Besides for its bio-diversity, our tour guide explained that Colombia is also known for four major features— coffee, emeralds, flowers, beautiful women, and cocaine. The size of Bogotá, specifically, can be compared to that of New York or London, and is the one of the three largest cities in South America.

It rains in Bogotá 250 days of the year, so rainy season is practically year-long. During the 19th century in the 1800s, the British arrived in Bogotá to build railroads and neighborhoods, so the fact that so much architecture in the city is based around red brick is due to the English influence. Something interesting about the city is that it is divided by numbers, with each number representing the class of individuals who live there—1 being the lowest socioeconomic level of status and 6 being the highest. The city’s minimum wage comes out to $280 per month, and for apartments in the level 3 district for middle class citizens, apartments cost $290 per month.

The first site that we came across was Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, a beautiful church in the city that has become a staple, followed by a church from the 1600’s that survived the Civil War nearly 60 years ago. From there, we walked to Palacio de Nariño, or Nariño’s Palace—the official home and workplace of the President of Colombia. Antonio Nariño was the first person to translate human rights from French to Spanish. He had these rights printed on pamphlets and began passing them out, but was soon imprisoned for doing so. The palace sits on the same location where Nariño was born, and the President lives on third floor, while the rest of the palace contains important artifacts from the country’s history.

Outside the palace stood various military guards, and upon inquiring more information, we learned that one year of military training is mandatory for everyone upon graduating high school unless you have money to get yourself out of the requirement or unless you go directly to college.

As we continued walking, we came across balconies from hundreds of years ago that were influenced by the Arabians. The balconies were designed for the women of the house with the purpose being that the women could look outside, but no one could see inside.

We then saw the first observatory in all of South America that was built in the 1800s. It was meant to be taller than the Catholic Church but the architect was told if he followed through with his plan, he would have his head cut off.

The next sight was a cloister where firstborn girls were sent to spend the rest of the their lives. Their bodies would be painted when they died to preserve them. The second girl in the family would be married off to a wealthy lord, and the third daughter, or the youngest in the family would have to stay with their parents until they died, which some say is a different type of imprisonment as opposed to being sent to the cloister.

Following the cloister, we came across Plaza de Bolívar, named after President Simón Bolívar. The Plaza is home to the National Capital, the Palace of Justice, and the Cathedral of Bogotá.

As we continued walking, we spotted a building where President Simón Bolívar lived. He had a close female friend who often hosted parties and purposely invited various guests—some of whom were known to like the President, and others who openly voiced their dislike towards him. After getting the guests drunk, she approached them and asked what they thought of him. It was in this way that she found out about an attempt to kill him. She told Bolívar about this plan to kill him right before it happened, and he jumped out the window (pictured below) to escape and run while the people who planned to kill him were entering his house.

Across from this building is a theater built in 1793 but completed in 1800 which is very similar to the one in France, with the only difference being that this one is a little smaller. Shortly after seeing the theater, we came across a house where the Colombian version of Dr. Seuss was born, as well as the Red Cross building in Bogotá. From here, we took a tour of Fernando Botero’s museum, but that will be discussed separately in an upcoming post.

Day 1 In Bogota, Colombia

Last month, my mother took my brother, sister, and me to Colombia where we spent two days in Bogota and two days in Cartagena. Throughout the next few days, I’ll be writing about our travels and experiences.

We flew out of Miami on the afternoon of Friday, August 7th, and arrived in Bogota later that evening. August 7th happens to be a national holiday in Colombia, as it celebrates the Battle of Boyacá. The Battle of Boyacá resulted in Colombia’s independence from the Spanish monarchy and is celebrated as a national holiday every year on the seventh of August. Every four years on this particular day, the elected President of Colombia is announced in the Casa de Nariño—the official home and workplace of the President of Colombia.

There are roughly nine million people living in Bogota, but there is no subway to transport everyone who lives there. Instead, the official means of transportation is public busses. There are designated lanes on the highways solely for the busses called TransMilenio. However, since the busses are always crowded, the name is commonly called TransMilleno as a joke by the locals. (Lleno in Spanish translates to full).

Upon arriving to our hotel, we were given a few minutes to drop our bags off in our rooms before being served dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. As we sat down in the restaurant, we were each given a delicious hot drink consisting of Aguardiente—a Colombian alcohol also known as “fire water”, in addition to cinnamon, sugar, and panela—unrefined whole cane sugar, common in both Central and  Latin America. We were then brought a creamy chicken soup with carrots to begin, followed by chicken, potatoes, and vegetables.

Since it was already dark outside by the time we arrived, there wasn’t much we could take pictures of besides for the food (hence the pictures of food below). Shortly after dinner, we went to sleep for the night before officially commencing our trip in the morning with a tour of the city.