Wednesday, February 3, 2016

At La Candelaria, Bogota

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

That first night in Bogota, I was terrified to step out of the hostel.  Who wouldn’t be if a poker-faced hostel staff gives you instructions like “Please do not carry your passport or debit/credit cards on you. Carry a copy of your passport with Colombia visa! Please do not receive food or drinks from strangers. Do not leave your drink unattended! Please do not carry jewelry, expensive cameras, electronic devices, etc. with you! Carry only as much cash as you need. Please do not use your phone or any other expensive objects on public streets or public buses! Inform yourself about the security; to know where you’re going, ask at the Reception or the Police! Only visit Monserrate on peak hours and come back before 3 pm! In emergency cases, you will hear a whistle. You must follow the instructions of the hostel’s staff.”? The many stay-away-this-place-is-dangerous horror stories I read from travel websites and guide books about La Candelaria in Bogota didn’t frighten me but the sheer number of exclamation points in those directions did.

Along Carrera 7 in La Candelaria Centro, Bogota, Colombia

Propelled by an excitement stronger than fear, we did go out that first night, yet nothing untoward disrupted our walk.  The faint streetlamps illuminating the pavements below where people nonchalantly sauntered past made us feel anything but unsafe. And it was the nippy December air, not muggers, which assaulted us, leaving us shivering with exhilaration. We walked on several blocks away from the hostel until we found a small cafe, which later became a favorite of ours. In that tiny piece of heaven, I can't help but wonder, "are we, indeed, in one of the “world’s most dangerous cities?"

We continued to explore the area on foot: southwest from the hostel toward the Botero Museum that houses Fernando Botero’s paintings and sculptures; then northwest to the library and art gallery in the Centro Cultural Gabriel Garcia Marquez and straight to the magnificent Plaza de Bolivar; then northeast to the supermarket Exito along the pedestrian zone Carrera 7 lined with shops, offices, restaurants, and street performers; onward to the university district teeming with students and  cafes;  then back to the hostel, passing 300-year old homes and buildings along narrow cobblestoned streets.  Like devotees going on a pilgrimage, we followed the same route several times each day for the next several days.

La Candelaria, Bogotá's historic center, became our base as we traveled across the country. It was the place we called home in Colombia.


Loree said...

It doesn't look very dangerous but, I suppose, you should always stay safe when you're travelling.

Kayni said...

I think it's always a rule of thumb to stay safe anywhere you travel. Fear defeats the purpose of travel and exploration sometimes. Just my thought.

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