April 27 – May 4, 2019
Out of 5 countries we visited while in South America, we were most pleasantly surprised by Colombia.
I was amazed by how clean and orderly everything appeared, the streets were super clean, lawns manicured, parks were noticeably orderly, everyone we encountered was extraordinarily friendly and helpful, there was fresh and high quality food everywhere, easy access to all modern conveniences evident all around us.
We came across an extraordinary amount of different kinds of (new to us) fruits and we tried many of them (and loved them all).
Bogota is a city with perfect climate, sometimes referred to as the “city of eternal spring”. It’s easy to fall in love with Bogota and Columbia. I kept telling Pedja how great it would be to retire in Colombia (if we could retire any time soon). Dreaming is my hobby these days, even if the possibility of it becoming a reality is 20 years from now.
Our visit to Bogota was initially inspired by Karem, our dear friend who lived with us in Seattle for a year back in 2015/16. We didn’t expect much more from our visit to Bogota than to spend some time with Karem and rest a bit after 3 weeks of intensive travel. However, our week there turned out to be so much more than a quick rest stop.
Karem was an amazing host, driving us around everywhere, checking in on us, taking us to see places we probably wouldn’t have seen without her. She even took us on a road trip, an hour north of Bogota, to see one of Colombia’s most known wonders, the Salt Cathedral. Karem is studying engineering at the University in Bogota and has just stared an internship where she was working long hours but still managed to squeeze in some fun time with us every chance she got. Even Karem’s sister Liz was equally kind and accommodating to us, helping us with storing our luggage (thanks to her boyfriend) the last day of our stay in Bogota (our flight out was after 8pm). She then gifted us her whole Saturday, driving us around, spending time with us and the kids at the science museum. Their kindness and care added to our instant love of Bogota.
These are some of the things we did while in Bogota:
We went up to Monserrate to see the most amazing view of the city where Maki fell and cut his head so we then visited 2 hospitals where he got treated with 9 stitches in a hospital of equal (or better) care than what we would have received in Seattle (all for $210 total)
We explored our neighborhood, ate at local restaurants (with super friendly owners and patrons), shopped in local bakeries/stores, played basketball in a park after dark, Petra and Pedja worked out
We loved our apartment with a covered terrace (with hammocks) as its best feature
We saw Bogota on a Sunday when bicyclists and people on foot take over the city. Some main streets get closed and people use them for recreation, walking and biking.
Pedja and the kids went to see Avengers Endgame at the same time as it opened in theaters in the US (in a super fancy movie theater). They wanted to see it as soon as possible to avoid seeing any spoilers online.
We went up to the Cathedral del Sal and were astonished by the natural beauty of the country north of the city.
Kids and I went to Parqu Jaimie Duque, an hour north of Bogota. This was a perfectly manicured amusement park with no rides but with replicas of several major locations and buildings from around the world, all attractions immaculately done.
People were really kind, friendly and understanding of Nina. One example of this collective kindness was when we were looking for a flag of Colombia (but a specific flag he was after). We were in this big market with multiple merchants and Nina was making rounds from one to another trying to find the exact flag that he was after. He kept running from stall to stall asking, ‘Do you have la bandera de Colombia”? (half English/half Spanish) and after they would show him a flag with a seal on it, he would run off, with no explanation, looking for a flag without a seal. I kept going after him, explaining to folks what he was after, apologizing form him moving on without an explanation. When we finally came across the flag he wanted, the whole place, all the merchants he previously visited, clapped and cheered for him.
We had a great dinner with Karem, Liz and their mom Ana and had so much fun that we completely forgot to take any photos of that evening.
We did all the typical touristy stuff, seeing museums, squares, churches.
Maki discovered drawing instructional videos on YouTube and drew a collection of Fortnite characters that accompanied his letters to friends back home.
We felt safe in Bogota at all times!
Driving in Bogota was crazy and probably the least safe activity we have done. The traffic is super heavy, and drivers are fairly aggressive, even worse than in Serbia. Taxi and Uber rides were quite affordable but wild and memorable. Karem and Liz were great drivers and we were lucky to have them take us around the city as much as they did. They even offered us their car to drive on our own but neither Pedja nor I felt comfortable enough to drive there. That’s probably the only minus I’ve observed in Bogota.
I’m serious when I say that I believe that Colombia is one of the best places to travel right now. If we could retire soon, we would seriously consider Colombia as our base for at least part of the year. I am certain we’ll be back there again, next time to see the rest of the country, including mountains and beaches to the north.