I didn’t know that Bogota was pronounced BO-gaw-taw until only 3 months ago. I pronounced it ba-GO-tah (similar to Pagoda). Good thing the travel agent corrected us, otherwise we would have travelled through the whole of Colombia mispronouncing their capital city.
We spent a total of 6 days in Bogota, but I have to admit: our first impression was a little mixed. The beautiful historic area we stayed in, called La Candelaria, was pretty charming. Beautiful, colourful Colonial-style buildings covered every block and the streets were teeming with people. Bogota has managed to pull off this cosmopolitan-big-city-meets-old-world-charm kinda vibe.
On the flipside, Bogota is covered in graffiti and garbage. Next to many beautiful colonial structures are decrepit, run-down buildings. Our guidebook also warned us about very dodgy (and even dangerous) areas that we should avoid, which has made us a little nervous of just wandering and discovering the city. Our hostel had signs posted all over, warning us to keep all credit/debit cards in the hostel and to only bring with us enough money for the time we were out. But honestly, how much is “enough money”? What if I’m in a dire emergency and need to purchase a new hat? OK,all joking aside, we were always a little skittish when walking around at night.
Almost everyone we’ve encountered didn’t speak English, so we’ve resorted to impromptu games of Charades and a lot of hand gestures (aided by a few broken Spanish phrases) with the locals. So for the majority of the first few days here in Colombia, we had no idea what we were ordering to eat (Good thing we’re both adventurous eaters!)
One of our first authentic meals here (in a restaurant that was hidden in an alleyway off the main Avenue Jiminez) had us ordering a platter full of meat, rice and avocado & onion salad. It was delicious! We started with a thick stew or soup that had plantains, potatoes, and fish in it. You add in a splash of lime and enjoyed the hearty soup like a meal.
A little while later, we stumbled across a stall that had a whole suckling pig in the window. They serve it in a mixture of yellow pea puree and corn, with a side of rice arepa (which is a type of bread). It’s a traditional dish called Lechona and it was delicious!
Freshly stuffed with pork, corn, and soup, we wandered outside of the historic area of La Candelaria and saw a crowd of people on one of the main pedestrian streets. We poked our heads in and saw this highly entertaining sight of a guy racing guinea pigs. Yes, guinea pigs!
They were so well-trained! That’s coming from someone who used to own a guinea pig – so I know how “untrainable” they are. They lined up side-by-side, completely still, by the start line. At the finish line were about 20 colourful bowls placed upside down, with little openings cut into each one. All the bowls are numbered and people place bets by setting down a couple of coins on top of the bowl they think the guinea pig will run into. Once all bets are taken, the announcer gave one guinea pig a little pat to get him running down the track! It was really quite amazing…we watched them for a good half hour. We even came close to winning one race, but the little bugger scooted into the next bowl at the last second!
After the exhilarating races, we decided to call it a night. Our new hostel had a giant medieval kitchen that Jason wanted to use, so we picked up some groceries on the way back for some delicious tomato & sardines pasta. Yum! Jason can whip up a good meal anywhere!