Bogotá, known as “the Athens of South America” is a striking city elevated at 2,600 meters above sea level, it is wonderfully placed in the eastern mountain range of the Colombian Andes.
This city full of controversies, richness and diversity that lives day by day in a frenetic and vibrant rhythm, that is the city where I was blessed to be born. A territory where since the beginning of times has been home of an abundance of species, where a few million years ago, mastodons walked freely trampling the history and geography to come with their giant steps.
A land that has also seen the passage of a rich, wise, and exquisitely pagan culture, where the land and all its blessings were worshiped: The Muisca culture, where those who ruled were the Zipa and the Zaque, the ancestral chiefs of an indigenous powerful world. I hope that whoever is reading, find an idea of what is the spirit of this city that is as chaotic as it is wonderful, overflowing with contrasts which increasingly captivates both locals and foreigners.
This writing is inspired by my homeland and all its protagonists, particularly by those who have been part of my own history. I have taken as references for these series, my own day to day experiences, my walks, my excursions, the teachings of Diana Uribe and the long conversations with my brother Beto “solving the world conflicts”, I think there are few people who manage to understand the complex duality of my personality, and he’s one of them.
I also used a guide book, a present from my friend Tito and I found it superb! The book is called Bogotá Turística, developed by the District Institute of Tourism. I highly recommend it! It is indeed an accurate guide that describes clearly and in a pleasant and graphic way the details of this modern, diverse and above all full of culture city.
Bogota is colloquially nicknamed “the fridge” because it is located exactly 2,640 meters above sea level, sitting there mystically on a green rich plateau, to the southeast of the Andes Mountains, in a region known as El Altiplano Cundiboyacense.
The city borders to the east with the eastern hills, which run from south to north and form the mountains of Monserrate and Guadalupe in the centre. The western limit of the city is the Bogotá River, the southern limit is the Sumapaz Páramo and to the north Bogotá extends to the towns of Chía and Sopó.
Thanks to the eastern hills, in Bogotá it is easy to get your surroundings, so if you do get lost for any reason while mesmerising the hectic rhythm of the city, simply remember that the Calles run parallel to the hills and the Carreras run perpendicular, so if you get confused looking for an address, just stop for a moment, look at the horizon, check out the hills and matter resolved.
Because of its altitude, many people perceive Bogota as freezing city, hence its nickname of “the fridge”, and do find it a bit chilly, but after living the winter in London, where my cheeks become blocks of ice but reddish, similar to Heidi, Girl of the Alps. Well now I feel Bogotá as a city with a pleasant mixed climate. You can easily experience a bright sunny morning with clear and very blue skies, followed by a grey afternoon of torrential rain, and sometimes accompanied by loud thunderstorms that make you remember that you are indeed in Bogota.
So, be prepared for such weather variations and bring along sunscreen, sunglasses, jacket and an umbrella! Because these changes can happen in any week / month of the year! Because remember that in Colombia the climate is determined by its geography unlike in Europe where climate are highly marked by the quarterly seasons of the year.
I recommend visitors arriving by air, particularly if they have never been to Bogotá before, to reserve a window seat with your airline or travel provider (if that is me, I will ensure of it!), because that way you will be able to witness the fascinating sight of this stunning plateau caught in a landscape of the hills.
GEOGRAPHY OF BOGOTA: THE FOUNDATIONAL KEY
It is worth imagining when the Spanish came to this land and realised of its topographical blessings, like the one I am going to mention now. Do you know how they choose this strategic point to implement its central city axis? Do you know how they came up with this idea? Well, I tell you now, it all started thanks to the Rio San Francisco, a river that used to be called “Vicacha”, and which means “glow of the night.”
This river naturally drew a line in the city with its riverbed, delineating the north from the south. The river is born in the Paramo Cruz Verde, then continues its journey towards Monserrate hill and from there to the city thought its several pipes that were built over the years, hence supplying water to the city.
Nowadays this area is part of the environmental axis, Eje Ambiental of Bogotá on Calle 13 with Jiménez Avenue, where it converges with the invisible, San Agustín river, below the city. I find exciting to understand that these two rivers, the San Francisco and San Agustín, undoubtedly dictated the location of the city foundation, and therefore appreciate their importance as historical and social axes, where I am sure that the Spaniards of the conquest, were delighted to establish their central office for viceroyalty affairs while at the same time enjoying the benefits of the region geography.
It should be noted that in Bogotá before the arrival of the Spaniards, there was an immense ancestral knowledge, where the Bogotá river also had great importance, since its waters were considered a gift from the gods by the indigenous inhabitants who made offerings and rites of gratitude or purification. They called him “Funza”, a Chibcha word that symbolizes “powerful man”. Its importance also lay in the fact that the Rio Bogotá empties into the Rio Magdalena, the main river in Colombia, which flows north for about 1,500 kilometres. Then its importance was enormous both for the ancestral world and for the colonial world, because all communications with the outside world used to be fluvial.
Thus then, as in the various colonisations around the world, we now understand that Bogotá settled here, on the marvellous axis of geography and natural benefits, which determined its historical development.
The historical founding date of the city of Bogota is considered August 6, 1538 by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada.
Today almost five centuries later, in Bogotá you can still breathe that unique indigenous-colonial mix, where both visitors and locals can delight in experiencing the history of this cosmopolitan city rich in culture, diversity and art, where possibilities are endless.
Thank you very much for reading my blog, and I will continue part 2 soon.
“Because talking about Bogota means talking about an intriguing culture rooted in its ancestors but that dances to the rhythm of the incredible modernity of its happy people.” Jr
Jenny from JR Bespoke Travel