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Southamerica

My days in Colombia are counted, so it is kind of difficult to decide where to go and what more I actually have to visit. Time and money limits as always. I’m still studying and since the university is like school, I don’t have too many possibilities to travel far distances in Colombia. I just wait until the end of my semester.

On a Sunday I had the chance to go with a good friend of mine to Tobia. My friend is a guide of adventure trips and so the plan was to do some canoeing and rafting there in Tobia.

We went to Tobia by bus, which took around 2 hours or a bit more. It is amazing how fast the landscape is changing in Colombia. You only drive out Bogota and then you find another climate and landscape. So we actually ended up in Tobia in a smooth…

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The two faces of Bogota

Bogota the big city, many times it is really difficult to leave all the air pollution, the noise and the busy lifestyle behind you. But there are ways! The only diffiuclty is to find them and to know about it.

But yes I heard about such an emergency exit. I asked some friends about it, they as well heard about it, but couldn’t help me further. Only this year in 2012 I found finally someone who actually went with me. This was good because finding the entrance to the emergency exit out of the big city isn’t that easy.

We needed to cross a funny and interesting subsurface way until we could finally enter into the natural “park”.

This “park” is not a park, it is “only” the mountain which is the borderline of Bogota. These mountains actually constrain that Bogota would grew more to this side. Anyway we went to a small door and we found ourselve in another world. We started to walk up the mountains, which actually was a really good workout and up the mountains we obtained a great view of the city and of course we gained a lot of fresh air.

 

That morning we only started really late our walk. Around 7.30am…so when we finished this little adventure trip we couldn’t leave the mountains through the same door because this door will be locked for security reasons at 10am. So we needed to cross a stream and climb over a fence and then we were back to city life. This was a great experience and the right thing to leave the city behind for half a day. Thanks to my friend 🙂 !

 

 

As well have a look at this article:

http://www.colombia.travel/de/official-bloggers/entry/christina-zimmermann/bogota–eine-der-gefahrlichsten-stadte-der-welt

 

Special Days in Bogotá –Stories out of context

Daily life in Bogotá doesn’t really exist, I would say. But of course I’m going regularly to my university and this is a kind of routine, so a bit of the daily life I have.

        

But nevertheless in Colombia there is not a daily order like in other countries. Every day is different and special. Especially the climate (four seasons during one day), the timetable of the busses and Transmilenios (TM) doesn’t work either and well, being late here in Colombia is kind of normal with this crazy infrastructure. But you always got to your objective somehow or somewhat. If you go by bus, sometimes someone is entering in the bus to earn some small money, so you can pass your time by listing to poems, self-written songs or life stories. But the busses don’t have their own lane on the streets, so with in the rush-hour-times it takes a long time to get to your place. For that reasons I’m taking most of my time the TM.

With this public transport you are normally on the safe side, but as well there are events which change the timetable and working hours of the Transmilenio. For example at the beginning of this month there was a strike in the public transport. So some streets were closed by the protests, so all the TMs took one way as you can the in the photo. As well you could find many police men in the station, who were there to prevent the worst.

The public frustration with the TM is increasing because the busses and the stations are always crowed and sometimes you even have problems to get out of the bus. As well the original TM plans anticipated 170km of lanes. But instead Bogotá only have 84 km of completed lanes. All this leaded to the strike…but the public transport system always is difficult to solve in such a big city. But surprisingly you get used of all this and in the end you are fine when you actually get to point A to B.

Funny and completely out of context is the story with the names. Here in Colombia almost everyone has four names (two names and two surnames). Well when they heard my name, they asked me “That’s all!?” or “Isn’t that a bit boring!?” or something like that “What do you do, if you have a double ganger, a person with the same name”…Well in fact I do have a third name and many persons of my nationality too, nowadays we have the trend of double names after a marriage moreover, but the names here seems to be without end. I always have the problems how to call the persons. So in the worst case I call a male person: Juan or Camilo and for the females I would guess: Ana, Angela or Maria…Well it stays difficult. But back to my third name….my third name is Anita. Whenever some of my German friends heard that name..he/she was singing “Anita,Anita” (Costa Cordalis) or just laughing over this name. But here in Colombia “Anita” actually doesn’t exist. Anita is a diminution form of Ana. So everyone was delighted over my other name and liked it very much. This was a completely different experience.

Some photos from my “daily” life in Bogotá:

Laguna de Guatavita

On a Sunday I went with two friends of mine to the Lake Guatavita, which is located around 40 km north of Bogotá. I always wanted to go there because I saw many fascinating pictures in the internet and furthermore the Lake Guatavita offers as well an interesting history.

The Lake Guatavita was one time honored by the Muisca, indigenes like the Incas. It is said that there the legend “El dorado” took place. In short words – the legend “El dorado” says that the king of the Muisca was ritually covered with gold dust at a religious festival held in the Lake Guatavita.

For that reason there were many attempts made to find gold in the Lake Guatavita. But none of the results were really successfully. Nowadays you can visit the Lake Guatavita as a tourist attraction. So you have to pay an entrance fee and then you can walk a small piece at the side of the lake. But before it became such a tourist place you could actually walk around the whole lake and spend the weekend there. It is a bit of a shame that you only have a small bit to walk next to the lake nowadays.

   

We started our tour from the “Portal de Norte” to the village of Guatavita. From there you can catch a van which brings you up to the entrance of the Laguna.

There you follow a solid and visible way to the exit. The walking way takes around 45min. It is indeed really short, but the view on the lake is great indeed.

         

From the exit you can as well take a van, which brings you back, or you just walk, what we just did because the climate this day was really great.

The village Guatavita is really worth visiting as well. The tourist center is really cute with all the white and nice houses.

        

The old village of Guatavita was submerged in the waters of the Tominé Reservoir and was rebuilt on higher ground again. The Tominé Reservoir, a big lake, is an important water supply and it is used as well for water sports and other water-related events. Moreove the people of the village or of other place nearby go there to relax and to spend the day at the Reservoir. It is a nice recreation from the city of Bogotá.

         

Official Blogger – Vitrina Turistica de Anato 2012

In the context of the new project “Official Blogger” we were invited to visit the event “Vitirina Turistica de Anato 2012”.

Every year this event takes place in Bogota in the “Corferias”, which is the center international for negotiations and expositions.

There at the exposition you can inform yourself about the tourist attractions in almost every Department of Colombia.

        

        

Furthermore many companies present their offers to the public, hotels, ecotourism, adventure tours or cultural and culinary details. As well you can inform yourself about other countries of South America or just enjoy the artists.

      

          

But as we are Official Bloggers for Colombia we were mainly collecting information about this awesome country. Well it is indeed amazing that Colombia is the first country that established this kind of project. So I really hope we can promote Colombia more to foreigners because Colombia is just great. And we Bloggers, we all fell in love with this amazing country.

      

So back to the “Vitrina Turistica de Anato 2012”: We were shown around and had of course plenty enough time to walk around and look at these things which we are interested in. In the morning time we had a little lunch break – delicious juices and empanadas.

           

Later on, Proexport offered us more of good food. We had pig, rice, salad and platano with nice fresh lemonade. This really was delicious. And for dessert we had a kind of Tiramisu which was tasting good too. All in all it was a really interesting day. Thanks very much for this opportunity.

     

Which I forget to mention…Last but not Least: We got a great black vest to start our day at the Vitrina Turistica. On the back of this nice vest stays “Official Blogger – www.colombia.travel”. Really great idea!

I’m confused…winter in Bogotá!?

On Sunday I went out to visit a friend of mines. I took first the Transmilenio and then I walked to the place where we wanted to meet up. And you should know that in Bogotá all the streets have a special number depending on their location. This order is kind of a raster, so it isn’t that difficult to find places, at least you always know, if you are on the right track or not.

Anyhow, I was walking from the bus station to this place and found myself in a quarter which was closed this day for cars. So many people cycled or walked in the middle of the street. In Bogotá every Sunday a different quarter is closed for activities like this. So yes, I enjoyed walking this street. In the end I was half an hour before the actual meeting time. So I sat and watched the people. Then suddenly it began to rain out of nowhere. Luckly my friend came and we sat down in a café and had both café late with milk which did not have lactose in it. Yes this as well exists in Bogotá – milk without milk sugar.

During this time inside, the sun came out again and it seemed to be a nice day. But short time before we actually left to buy some stuff in the supermarket. It started to hail. Only a bit, but when we arrived in the supermarket the hail was really heavy. The cars which parked in front, started to make annoying noise. Of course their alarm went on, because they were hit really hard by that hail. As well the roof in the supermarket couldn’t stand the hail. So water came in but nothing more happened.

 

Well it looked like it snowed on the street and felt like the world is going down. But these kinds of climate changes are normal for Bogotá. As I said, Colombia doesn’t have seasons like summer or winter but many seasons during one day…sun, hail, rain, wind…almost everything.

 

San Andrés

San Andrés is an Island of Colombia, although its geographical position doesn’t give a hint of this belonging. San Andres is situated 770km from the coastline of Colombia but only 190km from the coastline of Nicaragua. As well the Island is very small, but as usually little things have a great value. This happened to me with the Island San Andres. I could never imagine living in such a small place surrounded by only water…but this Island and its people have their charm. I fall in love.

        

The climate during my stay in San Andrés was really great. It felt like 30 degrees in the shadow, so that I really was happy about the wind. Not only to keep me a bit cool, as well I started to do windsurf and so it was my friend and enemy at the same time. The wind gave me the possibilities to navigate and to obtain velocity, but at the same time the wind changed its direction and its forces. So I landed a lot of times in the water.

         

Santa Marta and Cartagena were my first places at the Caribbean. I had a great time but there is no possibility to compare these places. San Andrés is so different to Colombia. I wasn’t really feeling that I’m still in this country. As well many people on the Island speak a mix of Spanish and English which is called creole. This has an historical background. The people on the Island are a mix of African, English and Spanish people. I heard that the people from San Andrés don’t like to speak Spanish because they want to distinguish themselves to the Colombians. Well I realized that the people from the Island talk to each other in their language, but with me they talked Spanish. And all of them were really nice to us Tourists. It is really great to live nearby to the people of San Andrés and not to be separate like in other places of the Caribbean.  But well as I said San Andrés is very special to me.

      

      

During the night time you can go to the city center, walking there or dancing in one of its discotheques. Or you can chill out in one of the reggae bars which are situated around the Island. During day and night time there are mostly motorbikes on the road. Motorbikes with up to 5 persons! It looks dangerous but for them it is normal. They grew up with this kind of transportation. One child is sitting in front of his father and behind him there are his three girls, but all are looking really happy and not anxious with their situation.  As well these people have an inborn talent. They can dance, sing and make music. It is just amazing. Their instruments are simple but they can play it so impressively good. One member of a band used an animal skull to play music; the other one had a self-made trammel. You just have to see it with your own eyes.

       

      

Although during my stay not everything went right and leaded to some moments of stress, all in all I enjoyed my time there to the upmost and my mind is still there on the Island.

        

Aswell I really want to thank my mum&dad for the great trip and the nice fotos we took together.

And last but no least:

Celebrating Christmas in Cali

 

It isn’t my first time to be out of Germany for Christmas time. But it is the first time outside of Europe for the Christmas period. And of course I’m suffering a bit of Nostalgia. I’m missing my family, my dog and my friends, but as well, you won’t believe it, I’m missing the wintertime. Without the cold, the short days, the uncomfortable weather I don’t really get emotional in front of Christmas Eve. One aspect is similar, in Germany and in Colombia you can already buy Christmas things in November.  After Halloween the shops fill their space with Christmas stuff. Loads of it!

All the houses and apartments are decorated in the beginning of December for the Christmas period. The decoration is colorful. The illumination changes its light velocity and it’s colours. The Christmas tree as well has this kind of illumination. So sometimes I rather felt like in a disco than in the Christmas period. This kind of decoration I saw in Bogotá, Medellín and in Cali. So I think it’s similar in whole Colombia.

But Cali is special. You have such a warm climate there, that I only thought about summer holidays and not about buying Christmas presents. Another big thing in Cali is the “Feria” where are many street processions, parties and loads of Salsa. Well this starts at the 25th of December. So there is not much time to being in a German Christmas mood. There you are just dancing, celebrating and talking all the time. Well it feels like summertime!

The day of Christmas Eve we started really calmly. We watched some TV and in the evening we had a light dinner. So on the Christmas Eve we didn’t have to prepare anything because already the whole apartment was decorated and since the Colombians don’t have real trees the tree was already decorated and inside. Loads of free time, but I realized that you need this time to relax during daytime because in Cali life is during nighttime. You will see what I mean.

There is one special traditional which I almost forgot to mention. This tradition is a preparation for the Christmas Eve and it’s called “Novenas”. It is a catholic custom in Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. The last 9 days from the 16th to the 24th of December they pray together in their circle of neighbourhood, family or friends. The prayers are about Maria and Joseph, the time before the birth of Jesus. After the prayers, every person reads a paragraph, they sing together. I as well was part of the reunion. Every one of the family was invited. After the “Novenas” we were siting, drinking and eating together. It was a nice reunion of the family. But this all happened in the night time, around 10pm. For them it was early and after midnight we danced a bit of salsa in the apartment. This was really nice but really different to that what I’m used to do in the Christmas period.  But still I enjoyed it big time to be part of this other culture.

But now back to the Christmas Eve. As I said we prepared I light dinner, what means sausage and potato salad, accompanied with Champaign. Well some of you would think now, sausage and potato salad sound a bit more German than Colombian. No this kind of meal was different. But well I ate it. After the meal we left the house around 22pm to visit the rest of the family which means aunts and grandma. There we got another meal, and guess what it was the same sausage with salad and rice. And it wouldn’t be the last one. As the tradition in Colombia says the presents will be handed out at 12pm. So the kids in the family were really excited half an hour before the big event. Normally the Colombians don’t really put importance to the time, but at the Christmas Eve the presents were handed out at point 12pm. We would be really happy with this punctuality.

After this great familiar meeting (Thanks again!) we went to the other part of family. There we got as well some present and guess what else!? Yes the Christmas meal. And of course it was the same. But it was a great night. We had drinks, talked and danced Salsa. So only at 3am the first guest went home to get some sleep before the „Feria“will start. We did the same and went home „early“. At 4am I was in my bed. It was a pleasure to celebrate Christmas with this nice and friendly family from Cali. Thanks so much!

The next day we didn’t bother to go to „Feria“. The reason for that decision was some changes which were made. They changed the route of the street procession and for some shows you need to buy a ticket. This was new, so we decided to watch the important things of the “Feria” in the TV and spend the rest of the day outside at the river “Pansa”.

For me it was a great decision because the dad of my friend Ale and I went by bike, the rest in car. I was delighted that the family was so great to organize a bike for me. After so much food the day before I was pleased to get some workout. The river is a popular place to spend the day with your family. This kind of things is really in common here. Sunday or Saturday you will go out with your family to eat in the park. The women cook beforehand in the house and then they take all with them.  As well they had really big barbeques in the streets besides the cars. Well I was a bit shocked but they just will say: Keep cool. Nothing will happen.  Anyway we went up hill with the bikes and it was good fun. Unfortunately I didn’t have so much time to take photos. But the natural park near Cali is beautiful.

       

         

The „Feria de Cali” started with the traditional horse riders, which is called “Cabalgata” the following day. Normally it should have started by 1pm, but as usually it has delayed. So we got to see the first ones two hours later. In the mean time we enjoyed the crowed and some drinks. Some impressions of the “horse show”:

      

      

     

       

This procession wasn’t structured at all, at least for me it wasn’t. Some Colombians said later one that the structure and organization of this “Feria” was a lot of better than the years before. But who knows…and of course the male people were very attracted to the female riders.

        

 

But not enough I also had a sightseeing tour in the city center. And I visit my first Zoo in Colombia. I wasn’t really overwhelmed by the city center of Cali but the Zoo was really impressive. The animals are really fascinating. And as well the butterfly garden was great. Many visitors had butterfly on their hands or clothes. So it was easy to take some nearby photos from these nice creatures.

         

              

          The city center offers  as well nice places to visit and there in the older part I really find some great artwork. What I liked most in Cali is the way of living, the salsa, the feria and its crazy and friendly inhabitants. But here my impressions of the city:

              

                               

         

         

      

 

Medellín

Medellín is a popular City in Colombia. It is „famous” as the drug-capital of the world, as well it is known for other negative news like guerrillas and bomb attacks.

But this has changed. Nowadays Medellín is one of the most modern cities in Colombia. But the life in the department of Antioquia is very different to the life which I got to know in other parts of Colombia. The life there is more modern, structured and from my point of view the city seems to be European.

The first white people who came to this region were mainly interested in the goldmines there. After the big boom of Gold, in the end of the 17th century, the region was used for agriculture and Medellin was founded.

          

The People of Antioquia are called “Paisa” and are very different to the “normal” Colombians. They have a really white skin with black hair. This is because the “Paisa” didn’t intersperse with the Indians and the blacks.

In the mid of December I arrived after travelling 10 hours in the bus in Medellín.  From the bus terminal there I took the metro. This is one thing of Medellín which is really modern. They actually do have a metro system. I was impressed. I went south to Itagüí. From there I got into another bus which took me straight to “Caldas” where I found my sleeping place during my stay in Antioquia. Caldas is a really sweet “Pueblito”, which is surrounded by mountains in every possible direction.

   

         

The climate in Medellín is great. You feel like in springtime. For that reason Medellín is as well called the city of the everlasting springtime. Caldas were I slept and spend my evening times is not well known, but some outsiders do know that you can buy the best tasting obleas with homemade Arequipe there. Ohh it is delicious indeed!

Medellín I visited in the evening time, so I could see the amazing illuminating which they usually have in the time for Christmas.  The botanic garden of Medellín is amazing and unique with its illumination.

   

   

There you find other typical Christmas decorations. For examples they like to use butterflies and flowers, all the things which are present during the Christmas period in Colombia. But for me it was really weird because in Germany we have other decoration traditions and of course another climate. Wintertime not the everlasting springtime.

         

As well the way through the park “Berrio” with its statues of the famous artist “Botero” is impressive.

         Then I passed the park “de las Luces”, the park “pies descalsos” and then I walked beside the river of Medellín. Over the river there were many figures which were illuminated. It was fantastic.

  

But it was weekend time, so everywhere, especially the way beside the river, it was really crowed. Not all the time I could enjoy the impressive illumination because I was worried about my stuff.

At the next day we went to the park “Arvi“ in Santa Elena. The park is situated at an altitude of around 2.500 m. So we had to “climb up” almost 1.000 m. But this we did in the bus. The climate in the park is colder than in the city but this is obvious because you are around 1.000 m more up in the air.  It reminded me a bit of the climate in Bogotá but of course the air in the park “Arvi” is much better.

         

         

You can reach the park in bus or with the cables. Up we got in bus and the way back we went in the Metro cables.

From these metro cables you can have a good look at the quarter there. The quarter belongs to the poorer people region of Medellín. There are living mainly black people.

After this trip we went to the famous cemetery, which is called “Cementerio de San Pedro”. It is a cemetery which is very different to a German one. A description is difficult to make, but my pictures should be enough to get a good impression. But the atmosphere of a cemetery is still the same, no matter in which country you are.

  

The last day I got introduced to the child author „Rafael Pombo“ in the „Casa barrientos“ which is a library for children.

  

Afterwards we went to the modern art museum. Before we went inside we had a look at the park nearby where you can find a skate park, playing ground and a climbing wall for the kids and teenagers. This quarter really seems modern and I like the idea of offering activities to the youth during their free time. As well in this quarter you could find a lot of amazing graffiti.

   

                

The art exhibition of Beatriz González in the modern art museum was impressive and moving at the same time. The artist assimilated her experience of the time of guerilla, abduction and politics in her pictures and handwork.

   

The evening we spent at the station. This sport place is really huge and every kind of sport has its one sport hall. It is really modern and new. The roofs of the sports hall are built in a mountain shape, so it fits into the natural surroundings of Medellín. The city applied for the Olympic games of the youth in 2018. I think it would be great if they receive that honor because they seem to be well prepared.

    

Some other impression of the city…..