a.k.a. "Bless you!"
15.10.2008 16 °C
Before you start, just wanted to let you know how to actually access the pics, I didn´t realize you needed a log in to do anything. When you click a link to the pics and it asks for username and password, use 'mzigler' for both. Let me know if this still doesn't work-Enjoy!
In Colombia, instead of saying “bless you” after someone sneezes one says “salud” or “to your health”. However, the well-wishing upon people doesn’t stop there. For the perpetual sneezer, who can string together impressive chains of sneezes, you are especially lucky. Your second sneeze earns you a “dinero,” literally “money” as in a wish for money in your direction, and the third “amor” or “love” a hope for love in your life (I don’t know what happens to you if you manage to get out a 4th or 5th). As you can see, Colombians have their hearts in a good place, and such are the lessons learned on long weekends and mini road trips.
Our weekend actually started Thursday when the YMCA had arranged for us to be tourists in Bogotá. We spent the better part of the morning at Monserrate, the cathedral and pilgrimage site atop one of the eastern mountains bordering Bogotá. You can check out the views of the entire city (!) in the picture gallery. From the elevation of nearly 9,000’ looking over Bogotá is like staring out at the ocean; its impossible to see the end of it, even at the horizon. The cathedral is small and it has become a tourist site playing host to vendors and restaurants but getting a chance to see some of the gorgeous flora and best views is well worth the trek.
We spend the rest of the afternoon checking out the local museum dedicated to Simon Bolivar, the liberator of Colombia and 5 other South American countries from Spain. The museum is his former residence and boasts well preserved artifacts from his 19th century tenure there as well as gorgeous gardens. Perhaps the most impressive part about “Quinta de Bolivar” (the name given to his house) is that his gorgeous botanical gardens (see jungle tree in picture gallery) is that it is only separated from the hustle and bustle of downtown Bogotá by a high wall but is surprising tranquil. The last visit for the afternoon was to an exhibit of Francisco de Goya’s work on the disasters of war, followed by a serenade of Porro music by local Gaiteros (dudes that play the Gaita- the long wooden wind instrument in the picture) in the museum's courtyard.
Friday and Saturday were fairly low key- wandered around the Zona Rosa- a very tourist friendly area that is mostly nice to look at and not for touching, tried out some Sancocho- a Colombian soup made with3 kinds of potatoes, yucca, thickened chicken broth and accompanied by avocado, rice, chicken, and more potatoes, and of course “jugo” (juice). Lunch is their big meal here. And they like potatoes. We spent the evening with David, Pamela his girlfriend and a couple of their friends at the local bar and then again on Saturday to watch Colombia lose a big soccer game to Paraguay.
On Sunday, in need of some quality Americanism, we headed to the most American place in town to catch some football; TGIFriday’s. I’m not proud of my Friday’s patronage, but pat myself on the back for our ability to prioritize; football over, well, anything else Sunday afternoon. Being able to watch the NFL Network in Colombia is pretty satisfying and we could rest easy the rest of the day having had our fill of America’s 2nd favorite pastime.
Monday (a holiday here) we were in for a whole other adventure. Some execs from the Candian YMCA were in town and David- social planner extraordinaire- had our day all planned out; (1) get out of Bogotá, (2) stop in Chia, (3) Cathedral in the Salt Mines, (4) delicious lunch of smoked meats- Colombian style, and (5) check out the view of the city at night from the La Calera (a road that winds down the mountain side overlooking the city).
To be honest, the pictures are going to tell the story much better than I about the actual sites. I will say that the pictures of the Salt Cathedral which is actually 300’ underground in an active salt mine do not begin to do it justice. The place is incredible in its entirety. Chapels have been carved at each of the 14 stations of the cross leading up to the entry of the cathedral and every single one is carved entirely out of salt and stone. You are advised not to take pictures as the salt will actually drain your camera batteries (Chemists? Engineers? Any thoughts on this?? I have yet to determine if this is truth or Colombian myth to keep tourists from constantly blinding the tour guides with their flashes). Anyway, here is a website that shows what we saw, just click the photos to enlarge or hold and drag to see the 360º view.
Chia was a quick little stop on the way with a cute town square and church. The smoked meat for lunch was amazing and you can smell it from 200 yards away. After having seeing the city from Montserrate, the view from La Calera wasn’t as surprising but was still impressive.
It was great to get out of the city and do a little sightseeing along the way, spend time with some Canadians, and get to hang out with David and Pamela soaking up what we could of the language and the countryside. Marty and I have decided sanity resides outside the city so a trip to reclaim some every couple of weeks will be just the ticket to a great experience here.