I started my morning thinking I was going to go to the museum of gold and then participate in La Ciclovía (La Ciclovía ended up being postponed a day). La Ciclovía is a weekly event when 300 km of roads are shut down to traffic for use by cyclists and pedestrians. The government started the program in 1974 and has expanded it periodically throughout the years. Now it is the world's largest biking network. La Ciclovía takes place every Sunday and holiday, and it is highly utilized.
I wandered on my way to the museo, and even passed the street walking twice as far as I should have because I was paying attention to everything but street signs.
I found la iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Las Nieves, originally consecrated in 1585, although it has been rebuilt due to an earthquake in 1917.
El museo del oro was really fascinating. It covers the world's history of metal use in general (beginning over 10,000 years ago), the process of extracting metals, metallurgy, and 3 stories of indigenous people's artifacts, showing how they have perfected metal manipulation over time. It is crazy to think of the uses of metal (from tools, to art, to status symbols, to war, to technology), along the fighting and corruption that has resulted in the exploitation of these natural resources.
I did not realize when making my plans that the museo is free to the public on Sundays. Had I known I may have saved it for a different day. It was packed and hard to see some of the exhibits. It would have been fine if people were cognizant or concerned with others in the museum (I do not like being bumped into). The museum only costs 3,000 pesos (about 1.50$) so it is not as though I saved a lot of money by going on the free day.
This gold conch was made over 2,000 years ago. A goldsmith wrapped a shell in thin sheets of gold. The shell has since deteriorated.
The original way to repair gold was to sew it.
This is a shaman, practicing a ritual of waving palm fronds. To me it looks like shamans may have invented jumping rope and didn't want to share the game with others.
I am going to spread a rumor that shamans are selfish.
During ceremonies twinkling ornaments helped shamans communicate with gods.
After the museum I walked to the Bogotravel Tours only to find out that the bike tour was canceled because I was the only one signed up. I quickly changed my plans, deciding to go to Zipaquirá. I had to walk back to my hotel to pick up some more cash, enjoying La Calendaria where my hotel is located. This neighborhood is so cute.
Bogota is incredible.
La iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria.
Zipaquirá is a small town about 45km from Bogota. It is famous for the salt cathedral but it also has a cute zócalo (public square). It is a bit of a trek to get there. First I had to figure out how to use the Transmilenio (a rapid bus system that has its own lane on the street). It is kind of like a subway system but less efficient, and multiple buses arrive at one stop. You have to pay attention and ask for help...
After a short walk, two Transmilenio transfers, a brief moment of panic and return to the original station only to realize that I was on the right bus, a city bus, and a cab ride I made it to Zipaquirá. It took me two hours but only cost a total of about 6$ (or 12,000 Colombian pesos).
The main attraction in Zipaquirá is the salt cathedral which was built within a halite mountain that has been mined for salt by the indigenous Muisca since pre-Colombian time. The salt deposit was formed 70 million years ago when this area of the Andes was covered by a sea.
There are 14 small chapels depicting different points in Jesus' life (that is Hey-zus, not Jeez-us). The entire cathedral can hold 10,000 people at one time.
The salt cathedral was started by miners in the 1950's but since this part of the mine was active there were safety concerns. In the 1990's the current cathedral was inaugurated 200 feet under the old one, 590 feet below ground (mining continues in a different part of the mountain). 250,000 tons of rock salt had to be extracted from the largest deposit of rock salt in the world.
Many of the statues are carved directly into the halite.
I paid a few dollars more and did la ruta minero, which is a 30 minute glimpse into the life of a miner.
I did not know this is where salt comes from. Its pretty.
In order to purify the salt it must be mixed with water, making a brine which is later evaporated.
After la mina de sal I walked down the hill and caught an insanely packed bus to the Transmilenio. It was after 8pm when I returned back to my hotel (breaking my 'don't stay out alone after dark rule' but I made it without any issues, with the assistance of countless Colombians. Everyone is so nice.
I think that anyone nervous about traveling in Latin America should make Colombia their first trip. It is incredible here.
You have to be aggressive when its busy on the Transmilenio, bus doors open only briefly.