Life in the freezer
January 26, 2010 1 Comment
By Rob Packer
What is it I like so much about Bogotá? Compared to what I’ve got used to on Colombia’s coast, Bogotá’s altitude makes its nights cold at 8°C—this is admittedly not much to complain about when you’ve lived in Bishkek in nights of -20°C and no heating—but if you’ve come to Colombia with no jacket, this is pretty cold. And apart from the colonial era area of La Candelaria, it’s a modern city of non-descript buildings and highways. But there’s something about its urban intensity and human energy that sneaks up on you as you’re driving in a car along the rollercoaster-like Carrera 5 and sucks you in.
One of the things that strikes me about Bogotá is its on-the-streets civic culture. When I first told people that I was applying to come to Colombia, the country’s notoriety for guns, cocaine and danger made a lot of friends ask me if I was sure what I was doing. This sits strangely with a capital city that closes 120km of its main streets for seven hours every Sunday so that Bogotanos can go cycling, running or rollerblading: an innovative civic initiative that’s been in existence since 1975. If the crowds gathering around the street theatre on the Parque de Santander are anything to go by, the ciclovía initiative does encourage people to come out onto the streets on a Sunday morning for exercise.
Like so much of Colombia, though, it’s the people in Bogotá that mean that I enjoy spending time in Bogotá. There are few places in the world where you can have more friends to meet up with than you can fit into a weekend after only three weeks in the country: that’s true testament to Colombians’ friendliness (and to my own friends’ friendship matchmaking skills).