Bienvenido a Colombia!
Colombia, a country known mainly for its drug cartels and Pablo Escobar, is finally experiencing the mass tourist crowd the rest of South America has had for years. From the moment I entered the country, I felt unbelievably welcome. The woman from the tourist stand in the Bogota airport was extremely helpful with directions to my hostel and money changing; then she offered to come with me to town as her shift was ending in a few minutes. She came with me, giving me a mini tour of the city, then walked me around the neighbourhood for nearly an hour introducing me to business owners and workers in the area. Obviously not everyone in Colombia has been this friendly, but everyone I’ve met has been welcoming and kind.
Bogota is an interesting city, although a bit run down in some areas. There are some fantastic art museums, as well as the interesting Police Museum which contains many of Pablo Escobar’s guns, bikes, and all kinds of police photos from police raids and drug busts. Entrance to the Police Museum was free, and we had an english speaking guide who showed us around and told us all the usual stories–but best of all, you get a free Colombian Police Magazine and 2010 desk calendar at the end of it! Colombia really is superb.
While I was in Bogota, the annual Theatre Festival was taking place. We went to the massive opening parade–the streets were blocked off all day and people were lined up hours before the actual parade. It was an interesting, not like our parades back home, lots of fire blowing with gasoline, body paint, nudity, and stilts. Very interesting. But after the parade, the central square in town filled with people around a huge stage set up in the middle. There was salsa dancing and a couple of bands. I was shocked at the talent, and the music was unreal–I loved it.
The hostel in Bogota was decent and the food in Colombia is pretty mainstream–chicken, beef, rice and all that. I love the colonial architecture and the cobblestone streets. But its definitely the people that have made my stay in Colombia so different thus far.