So the main point of my trip to Colombia was to make it to Medellín to document and participate in the first environmental film festival of Colombia. I decided that if I was going to go to Colombia I wanted to make sure to see the capital as well. Since I only teach one day a week and early March happened to be my students spring break I had almost a solid 2 weeks for my trip. I decided to fly into Bogota, stay for 4 days and then make it to Medellín for the rest of the trip.
I flew out of LGA, had a layover in Miami and then arrived to Bogota at 9pm at night. I immediately felt like an ass at immigrations when the officer didn't speak any English except the word "Hotel." However, I managed to make it through passport control and customs without any problem and found my way to the Taxi stand. In Colombia (and Mexico was the same way) you can get a price quote for your taxi ride in advance at the airport. The Taxi office gives you a slip with a pre set amount and then assigns you a cab. I like this system because it makes nighttime cab rides a bit less sketchy and harder for the cab driver to rip you off. I arrived at my friend Manual's apartment, a journalist based in Bogota. Unfortunately he was out of town on an assignment but his roommate let me in and set me up for the night. I was beat from traveling all day so I just got some food and went to sleep.
The next day I woke up at sunrise to very very intense sun shining through the window. In Colombia altitude determines temperature. Bogota sits at somewhere around 8,000 ft above sea level so despite the fact its pretty freakin close to the equator the average temperature year round is 65 to 70 degrees. With warm sun and a moderate temperature, Bogota may have the best weather I have ever experienced (keep in mind I like very mild weather).
My friend Manuel lives in the Chapinero neighborhood of Bogota. Chapinero is located between the city center and the very affluent neighborhoods of the north. Bogota's lay out is extremely easy to navigate (the streets are laid out on a grid system and are numbered like in NYC). For example, the old colonial part of the city is around the 10th to 19th. The city center is located near the 19th through the 30th. Manuals apartment is near 60th and the affluent area is around 80th to the 100th. This entire area is bordered by a mountain range to the east and for the most part between 10th and 120th east of 7th ave is relatively safe. Keep in mind this is only a small percentage of the city. Bogota is huge, with a population of nearly 8 million.
Bogota does not have a subway system, instead they have a very elaborate bus system. Part of this system is called the TransMilenio, which runs on bus only lanes. There are also countless smaller buses that run to the neighborhoods. I was a bit intimidated at first, but by the end of the first day I got the hang of it (not to say i didn’t get lost a bit).
I spent the first day just walking around La Candelaria (the colonial part of Bogota) and the city center. There are tons of museums in Bogota. The only one I checked out was Museo Botero. As you probably guessed, it houses mostly work by the famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero.
After a full morning I met up with my friend Carlos and had an amazing lunch at a great vegetarian restaurant (somewhere near the corner of 60th and 10th, on the 2nd floor). After an insightful lunch discussion, Carlos had to get back to work (he is currently editing a feature for a well known Colombian filmmaker). I decided to head back downtown to shoot photos at dusk. After hanging out in Plaza de Bolívar (Bogota’s most famous square) until sunset I started walking up Carrera Séptima (7th Ave). On Friday nights the 7th is shut down, creating a unique public space for street performers, vendors, artist, etc. I walked half way back to Manuel’s and then caught a bus the rest of the way. Manuel was still out on assignment so I decided to just call it a night and catch up on sleep.
Bogotá - Plaza de Bolívar
You could pretty much buy anything you want on the streets of Bogota.
Coke (soda) in glass bottles
Museo Botero is free and amazing.
Bogotá had lots of cool little side streets and alleyways.
Maybe someday this could be my "foto" studio.
Another view of Plaza de Bolívar, looking southwest.
There was a protest against those who have gone missing in the conflicts.
Each brick had a missing or killed persons name printed on it.
National Police watch guard over the "Justice Palace."
Another view of Plaza de Bolívar.
TransMilenio bus at 19th and 7th ave.
Street vendors set up on Carrera Séptima
Police patrolling Carrera Séptima.
This was my first trip abroad since Obama has taken office and the change in attitudes is very very noticeable (in the best way possible).
I actually would say the Coffee in Colombia wasn't amazing. However, you could get it everywhere and it was super cheap, which makes it awesome.