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|My first visit to Colombia|
Date: May 23-29th, 2011
In May 2011 I travelled to Colombia for the first time, to meet, also for the very first time, my future family in law. I wasn't really sure what to expect, since as most know, Colombia has had a pretty rough reputation in the past. But all worries aside, Colombia is a great and beautiful country! We had a great time (although I wish I could speak at least some Spanish). In all, we spent few days in Bogota, visiting various relatives, and then Sandra and I went on a trip by ourselves to Cartagena on the Caribbean coast. We both very much loved that city and decided it would be a wonderful location for our future wedding.
One thing that really surprised me about Bogota, or perhaps Colombia in general, is how mountaineous the country is. It seems that most of the cities are located in the highlands, with Bogota sitting at 8,660 ft above sea level. This makes for a around-the-year pleasant weather, around 70F with typically sunny skies. Bogota is also a huge city - it has a population of over 7 million, which, in my city, is more people that live in all of Slovakia combined! This comes with some drawbacks, namely the traffic. Traffic in Bogota is quite awful, and only seems to be getting worse. Trying to alleviate the congestion, the city has instituted a system known as pico y placa. Under the system, the last number of your car's license plate determines which days that car be driven. However, for the many who can afford it, this system means you every family own at least two cars, with the complementary plates.
The other thing that I found quite interesting is the prevalence of maids. Sandra grew up with a maid and this seems to be the case with pretty much every Colombian I have met since then. Being a maid is a regular full time job, with Sandra's maid coming in the morning, staying all day, and even receiving holidays and sick pay from Sandra's dad. I wouldn't even be surprised if some of the maids working with upper class families had their own maids to take care of their house while they were working. Sandra's aunt's family even had multiple maids. The apartment of the aunt was also quite amazing to me, since each unit had it's own elevator from the parking garage. You basically park the car, take an elevator that takes you straight to their apartment, where you are greeted by the maid. From what I have gathered, this sort of luxury that is quite unheard of in the United States (unless you are in the top 10 or 5 percent) is quite commonplace in Colombia.
Below are few pictures from our excursion to Cartagena, the place where we got married a year later. Cartagena is quite different from Bogota. First, since it's at sea level, it's much hotter. It also has a much larger historical center. Bogota is a great place for business, shopping, or sampling dishes at some of the world's best restaurants. It however does not have all that much to offer in terms of sightseeing. Cartagena is quite different. The old walled city is a maze of little cute streets full of street vendors and cafes, where you can spend an entire day just walking around without getting bored. Near by is the modern Bocagrande, and if you so desire, can make excursions to the Rosario islands for snorkeling and sunbathing, or even go float in mud in the Totumo volcano.
Comments or questions? Message me or Tweet to @iamlubos