This Is The Colombia Most People Don’t Realize Exists
March 4 — This morning I headed to the most popular (at least on TripAdvisor) museum in Bogota, the Botero. I wanted to walk but we were told it’s not a good idea because locals don’t walk and you don’t want to stand out as a tourist. It’s about 12 miles away so I thought I would get an Uber there and see how far I could walk back on my own.
No chance. We go through hills and what could be similar to a freeway. There aren’t sidewalks but there are horses and donkeys on the side of the road casually hanging out. Funny, the one thing I notice that seems out of place is construction workers are working on a Saturday. Haven’t seen anything like it in South America until now.
The winding roads and the way the driver is taking them as if we’re in a race is making me oddly ill. Maybe it’s the altitude as well. Looking down on the big city it doesn’t seem like there is an end. I can’t even remotely place where I might live down there.
When we arrive in the area it is something so beautiful and rustic it’s as if it is a created Hollywood scene and lot. The architecture and colors are amazing. It’s hard to drive through because people are lined along the streets with vendors.
He lets me out on the main corner and I realize I’m surrounded by not one but several museums. For a moment I think I might deviate from my plan, but that’s just not my style.
Walking the Botero is free. No charge to see some of the world’s most amazing collections of art. Except I’ve never seen or heard of Botero until now. His art makes me smile. Typing this now puts a smile on my face.
I’ve been thinking of my dad a lot and today is no exception. My dad’s favorite cartoon was Porky Pig and Botero’s paintings are like he’s drawing people as plump pigs. They are all of large people and large objects. A painting of a horse’s legs remind me of marshmallows. The stills are all puffy and chubby. This is the first time I’ve seen art that makes me smile and laugh out loud.
Then I realize the reviews were right. The collection is amazing. Some of the most profound names in art are here, Matisse, Renoir, Picasso, Klimt. I know this because I’m no art student but even I know these names. Here I am. Standing right in front of them. Close enough to touch though I don’t dare. Unreal.
I’m introduced to several new artists and paintings I have not known before. The first, Lucien Freud, Head and shoulders of a woman. I’m intrigued because it’s as if she could have been anybody. The girl next door, the woman at the grocery store, your teacher. She was distant as if she didn’t care or notice she was being drawn. A particularly moving piece.
Upon a little more research I found that Lucien was the grandson of Sigmund Freud. Also, I’m more proud of myself because I was onto something in my observations. His models were always portrayed within everyday spaces. They were everyday people.
The next painting I see has a very New Mexico or Mexico feel to it. Turns out it is by Picasso. The painting, Goat Skull. I’ve been to the Picasso museum in France and did not care for most of his work. I don’t really understand it. I can’t say I totally understand this piece. It is simply unlike anything I have seen of his.
I do love Gustav Klimt. Again, nothing I’ve seen before. It is a sketch. There is no detail. No color. No pattern. It is hard to believe the artist I love so much, the artist who painted The Kiss is the same artist who sketched this. It was made for her wedding. Sadly, what I can find on the subject concentrates more on her family and married names than her as a person.
Just a few portraits down I see a drawing by Balthus, Bust Of A Young Woman. It is so beautiful and lifelike. I can’t stop staring at it. She is so pure and innocent. It makes me long for the days of being young, having flawless skin, and a fresh glow. The painting isn’t in color, yet all these things shine through. As a woman I can look back and know exactly how old I would be in the painting, 15.
Moving through a couple of sculpture rooms I come to another painting like nothing I’ve seen before, by a painter I’ve never heard of, Paul Delvaux. The painting is of a cold, dark night. I imagine it’s cold because there are no leaves on the tree. What is strange to me is the women are walking naked through the city at night, Women of Gallant Life. One of the women I see has very big, dark eyes. It’s as if she doesn’t care because she has no feeling. She appears numb to her surroundings.
Again, upon further research I am proud to learn I was onto something. The painting is of a cold night and distant women. They are not symbolic of women of desire. While I didn’t pick up on the other nuances I feel good for not having any formal training.
On the outside wall of one of the main rooms is a carved painting by Raymond Mason simply called Paris. It is very beautiful and I can’t help admire the craftsmanship. The colors are pastels and bring a sense of calm and peace. I’ve never been to Paris. It’s not even on my list of places to visit. Paris is and always will be a place for lovers. For a split second I realize I’m alone. Quickly I walk away and try to forget I saw this. It was the last piece I admired before leaving.
Walking down the streets is like walking through a museum. They are ruggedly beautiful. I am most certainly a tourist, but I don’t know how else I would even try to fit in. I don’t know where I’m going so I simply follow the crowd which all appears to be headed in the same direction. Then I find myself in the most amazing place, with my jaw dropped and mouth wide open.
It is Bolivar Square and I’m surrounded by some of the most beautiful buildings and architecture you’ve ever seen. Easily the best I’ve ever seen. Of course, my fear is always that my photos won’t do justice. How can you capture when you feel like you’ve been transported back in time? What do I write to tell you that I became part of history? Does that translate into something you can feel?
Even the birds knew there was something special. As the pigeons crowded the space and shared it with humans like me they could sense it. In a majestic call they would fly about and then land again. It was as if they were performing for us. Normally, I think pigeons are like rodents of the sky. Not now. Not here.
Completely overwhelmed I just kept spinning and looking at the buildings over and over again. I can’t believe I’m here. This is really happening. I need to sit but there is nowhere to sit. I’m not particularly hungry but I decide it might not be a bad idea.
On the drive in we passed this little restaurant that for some reason seemed very appealing. Maybe it was because it was so distant from the others. I walked in and found it to be picturesque. You can’t make this stuff up.
In a kitchen big enough for two there were four ladies working. One at the cash register, one cooking and preparing the plates, one washing the dishes, and the other picking up plates for service. Everything made from scratch. One oven, four burners, one counter, one huge pot of soup, and one huge pot of pasta. No menus. What you see is what you get. It’s like you’re in your aunt’s home.
The place is packed and I have to wait for a place to sit. It wasn’t too long and I found myself sitting at a large table with complete strangers. Not a huge stretch for me. The odd thing is I didn’t feel like reading or talking. Quite an awkward lunch for me considering here lunch is served in courses.
Our, the table’s, first course was quinoa soup. I’ve never had quinoa soup before. It was really good. This is the third time I’ve had corn in South America and something is wrong with it. I can’t recommend eating it although you’ll see it’s sold everywhere. It’s chewy and dense.
The second course was homemade pesto pasta with a side salad. Very nice. Third course was some kind of orange possibly mango drink with a crushed ice texture. It was really refreshing. Our fourth course was a little saucer of what tasted like cranberry sauce. With that came the bill…..$5 US. I feel like I’m stealing!
While the meal was extraordinary I can’t wait to get out. Some exchange students from abroad were sitting right next to our table and chatting very loudly. Not a huge deal. However, they’re that age when they think they know everything. It is very hard to listen and impossible not to overhear. I could’ve sat upstairs and still heard them.
I don’t want to leave this area and yet I know it’s time. I went into another museum and it is simply too much to take in. I’ll have to come back another day.
Walking down side streets (I probably wouldn’t have walked those same streets at night) was relaxing and I walked until I hit a park. It’s funny, it doesn’t matter what country you’re in, you’re never far from an Irish Pub. I also found an Israeli restaurant. I’m not sure if it is safe to eat in this area at night.
Even though I know I don’t look like I belong here, walking down the streets makes me feel at home. Bogota feels like home and it is a nice change for me. I’m already planning when I’ll come back to this area.
My end of day gratitude:
- Being in the presence of amazing art.
- Being in the presence of amazing architecture.
- Having an amazing opportunity to be here and on this year long journey.