The most dangerous place in Bogota

Botero museum in La Candelaria.

Botero museum in La Candelaria.

North of the equator for the first time in over five months. I’ve always wanted to go to Colombia – or at least since the country stopped leading the worlds-highest-rate-of-kidnappings list! (..that title now belongs to Iraq). In Bogota we stayed in the La Candelaria old part of town, very charming with lots of old houses, wooden balconies, courtyards and narrow streets running up and down the hills. The area feels safe, and there’s military or police on every second street corner to make sure it stays that way – Colombia is working hard on improving it’s tourism image recently and by avoiding a few jungle/border areas the ad-slogan “the only risk is wanting to stay” could well be true.

El Dorado raft in the Bogota gold museum.

El Dorado raft in the Bogota gold museum.

One of the main sights in Bogota is the Gold Museum – probably the biggest collection of conquistador-surviving artefacts anywhere. The museum is very modern and well put together, expert lightning and use of ambient music to build atmosphere. One room you enter completely in the dark before more and more ancient gold pieces are lit up all around you on the walls, and also below your feet in the floor together with water sounds to simulate El Dorado lake offerings. Afterwards we went to the Botero modern art museum which I must say impressed a bit less…Botero’s work is a fairly repetitive collection of paintings of the over-fed, all with expression-less faces. His horses are funny though! They also had some paintings by other artists including an incredibly disturbing early Picasso that was probably put there to make Botero look good.

The next day we went to the most dangerous place in Bogota – which is of course the science museum! In the Maloka museum they put us inside a big steel-cage and sent 600,000 volts through it! I missed most of the explanation (including the general point of the experiment) as it was in Spanish but it was anyway very important to hold your ears and to avoid touching the cage…which was difficult with way too many people inside. At one point everyone else in the cage laughed and looked at me – the “experiment supervisor” had just explained that in case anyone gets electrocuted it’s usually the tallest person! After surviving this they also put us through the standard charge-someone-until-the-hair-stands-on-end trick, and the hold-hands-in-a-big-circle-so-everyone-gets-an-electric-shock. To relax after this adventure we went to the omnimax movie theater…something about an alien invasion in an amusement park.

The Zipaquira salt cathedral.

The Zipaquira salt cathedral.

The Zipaquira salt cathedral was our destination for the next day. In the village Zipaquira 50 kilometers north of Bogota salt has been mined since pre-Columbian days, and some of the old mining tunnels inside the mountain have been turned into a giant cathedral (two cathedrals actually – but the first one didn’t please the lord so he made the roof cave in, in his mercy). We got a local bus to Zipaquira then a taxi up to the salt mine – the taxi driver was very friendly and chatty and was driving around with his whole family in the front seats for the day. The cathedral is a strange place, long dark tunnels and big caverns, a bit of religious imagery over there, some tacky coloured lighting over there. They even had a 3D cinema fitted down there, showing the history of the mine. We had just been fitted out for the hardhat-and-headlamp part of the ticket when all the lights went out everywhere down in the mine – everyone had to be led out to the surface by one of the guides.

The last day in Bogota before moving on to Cartagena we took a cablecar up to the Cerro de Monserrate hill 500m above town, for panoramic views over a city of 8 million.

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