Sorry I haven`t written about Bogotá sooner - everything is fine here and I´ve no problems in this supposedly very dangerous capital of Colombia. To calm the fears of mi familia, I should say that this city feels on par with Toronto in many ways (the most obvious difference being the ubiquitous presence of military personel with automatic weapons here): I´ve quickly re-adopted my Toronto attitude when walking down the street as a precaution, but I think as long as I keep my eyes open and stick to populated streets I will continue to be ok. My hostel is actually in quite a good location for walking home at night - the road takes me through all the important government buildings, so it´s well lit and there are always police and military guarding the way. I haven`t felt unsafe here like I did sometimes in Quito.
That said, I gotta say: man, I love this city. Bogotá is so full of character. I´ve only explored a few of its districts so far (even just the downtown section is huge), but from what I`ve seen it´s a city full of passion, rich with culture, diverse, and inspiring. The Candelaria area, the old historic centre where most tourists head for budget hostels, is colourful and quircky and full of beautiful old buildings just waiting to be explored. The central plaza, around which are all the important government buildings and the cathedral, is beautiful in a grander, fine way. The plaza itself is open with nothing in it but the monument of Simón Bolívar in the centre, but surrounding it is a wealth of architectural styles: at the south end is the Greek-style government palace; opposite is the more modern Palacio de Justicia; on the west side is the French-style governor´s office; and on the east is the Neoclassical cathedral and the smaller Colonial capilla. Walking north up Carrera 7 from the plaza, you walk through the commercial area with its fancy shops and cafes and a Dunkin´ Donuts every few blocks. This area, too, is wonderful to explore cuz there are so many people and things going on. Today I`m heading even further north to see another part of town.
In the past couple days I´ve stepped into a lot of churches to admire the decor and marvel at how deeply religous people are here. I forgot about Ash Wednesday until this morning: every second person I pass has an ash cross on their forehead. I´ve also been to a couple museums, the most impressive of which is the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum), apparently the most important gold museum in South America. Some of the pieces in there are absolutely stunning, priceless for their brilliant handiwork. The arts, particularly theatre, seem to be thriving here as well - there are so many little theatre companies and posters for shows all over the place.
Yesterday evening I went to see a film, Blood Diamond, spur of the moment. It was in English with Spanish subtitles and takes place in Africa, dealing with the illegal diamond trade and the bloodshed it has caused over the years. As far as I remember, Leonardo DiCaprio is nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards this year so I wanted to check it out. It`s an excellent film and I can see why DiCaprio´s name is in the box; he has matured a lot as an actor.
Time a-ticking as it is, I think tomorrow I will move on to Villa de Leyva, a little town further north. I wish I could stay in Bogotá longer.