It seemed fitting to share photos of our visit to La Catedral de Sal on a holy weekend. We visited on our third day in Bogotá. The cathedral is an old salt mine that has been converted into a Catholic Church 200 meters below ground. Mass is held on Sundays at noon.
Inside the mines, long vacuous tunnels show the routes miners took when the mine was active. At different points, you can look over the edges of seemingly bottomless cliffs. As you enter the mines, the tunnels have been converted into the Stations of the Cross depicting the path that Jesus took to his crucifixion. Regardless of one’s belief system, I think it’s a beautiful representation of a spiritual journey. Each station is hand carved out of the halite and incorporates symbolic properties of the salt and the mines into each stop.
You can even pay a small additional fee and be a miner for the day. They provide hard hats and pick axes and you spend 30-45 minutes experiencing the mine through the eyes of a miner. We passed on this part. The thought of crawling through narrow, low caves made me catch my breath!
We did not get to spend any time in the city of Zipaquira which looked like a vibrant but quaint colonial town. On the way back to the city, we enjoyed the gorgeous views of the mountains and the lush countryside. We passed green fields dotted with grazing cattle and greenhouses nurturing the flora and fauna of Colombia. What a wonderful way to cap off our three days.
The best way to view these is by clicking on the first photo (twice). This will enlarge them and allow you to read the commentary. Hint: You may have to scroll down a bit to see the comments.
Catedral de Sal de Zipaquira
Carved mural at mine entrance
Leaving the light as we entered the tunnel.
Salt crystals along the tunnel walls
Estación VI – Verónica limpia el rostro de Jesús. Las ondulaciones de la pared representan el paño. Station VI – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus. The rolling curvature of the wall symbolizes the cloth.
It was not very comforting to see stretchers as we walked through the tunnels! ¡No servía de consuelo ver estas camillas en el camino!
View of the main chapel from above. The cross is over 45 feet tall. How much do you think it weighs?
A closer view of the cross in the main sanctuary. Did you guess how much it weighs? The cross is carved entirely out of the salt. Answer: it does not weight anything. The cross is a carved hollow in the wall of salt. If you look at the photo, it tricks the eye, sometimes appearing solid, sometimes hollow.
Coffee at 180 meters below ground.
The figure of a woman makes an offering under a canopy of trees.
Do you see the spider?
Estación IX: Jesús cae por tercera vez. Station IX: Jesus falls for the third time.
The camera flash makes it look lighter than it really is. A little scary.
A tall sculpture in honor of the miners who picked at the halite.
Frijolada con arroz, aguacate, arepa y chicharrón. Mmmmm.
The highlight of our second day in Bogotá was a visit to the Museo Botero. Fernando Botero’s paintings and sculptures are characterized by disproportionately large people and objects. I felt as if I was looking at the portrayals through a different lens. They made me smile.
The museum is located inside a roomy house built in the early 1700s for the local archbishops. It has wide verandas and beautiful gardens with views of the nearby mountains.
The museum also has a collection of art by international and local artists. This large textile was another favorite. It is the work of Olga de Amaral, a textile artist from Bogotá.
The tapestry is called Muro tejido No. 98 (Ca. 1972), made from animal and vegetable fibers.
Our last stop was all about shopping! The Galería Artesanal de Colombia had countless tienditas (little stores) full of local arts and crafts
I fell in love with these exquisite crochet bags handmade by Wayúu women. The bags are crocheted with cotton thread and come in vibrant colors and interesting designs, each unique to the woman who made it. Multiple threads are woven together to make the straps.
As young Wayuu women come of age, they learn to weave and crochet Wayuu Mochila bags. According to legend, the tradition comes from “Wale´kerü”, a spider that taught the women how to weave their creative drawings into the Mochila bags. Each design incorporated into every Mochila bag is unique to the weaver, telling a story through the bag’s colors, patterns and shapes. (Source)
Along the long aisles of hammocks, baskets, bracelets and hats, there were more crocheted bags.
There were also textiles woven in bright colors.
By the end of the day, my head was spinnng, possibly due to the explosion of color, or the altitude! Another amazing day in Bogotá.
This was our first visit to Colombia and now I know where all the beautiful people come from. The capitol is nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. The vegetation is rich and green and vibrant with colorful flowers. The people are charming and open and beautiful inside and out. Here is a recap of three wonderful days in Bogotá.
We walked through the cobblestoned streets of the historic La Calendaria district. At its center is Plaza Bolívar anchored at one end by the Cathedral of Bogotá. The Cathedral was built in the early 1800s (source) and has seen better days. But the church and the plaza were still the heart of the city pulsing with people and activity.
The plaza was taken over by pigeons, hundreds of them. People were buying dried kernels of corn from the street vendors and feeding them. For a moment, I had the sensation that I was in the middle of a Hitchcock movie.
And what’s a plaza without llamas!
Close to Plaza Bolívar is a very small restaurant called “La Puerta Falsa” (The Fake Door) that has been around since 1816 (source). The first thing that draws you in is the window featuring trays full of these.
The ones on top are cocadas de arequipe con cacahuates y cocadas blancas (coconut with dulce de leche and peanuts and sugared coconut). The goodies at the bottom are called Marquesas. They are filled with fruits such as guanábana and moro (sour sop and mulberries).
Inside the tiny restaurant, we had a typical Colombian meal of tamales and ajiaco. The tamale was filled with a delicious mixture of cornmeal, chicken, chick peas and carrots all wrapped and tied inside large green banana leaves. To accompany it I had a glass of fresh mulberry juice. My husband had the Ajiaco Santafereño, a thick soup of chicken, yellow potatoes and corn. It was accompanied by rice, avocado slices, crema fresca (fresh cream) and capers.
It so happens that “La Puerta Falsa” was featured in an episode of Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain. Watch Anthony enjoy a steaming tamale.
Our next stop was el Cerro Monserrate, a mountain in the center of the city. One can hike up or take either a train or cable car. We chose the teleférico (cable car). The cable car took us over the funicular rails below.
Once up the mountain, from 3,170 meters above sea level, there was this incredible view of Bogotá. The city stretched farther than I could see, possibly due to the smog. According to Colombia’s Official Travel Guide, the city has over 10 million people.
The Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) featured pre-Colombian art hammered out of gold.
Gold funeral masks…made of the sacred metal…immortalized the chieftains with their symbolic power.
During ceremonies, the hanging plates on ornaments twinkled in the light and gave off metallic sounds…
Time was conceived as being cyclical or like a spiral…
As I turned a corner to the next exhibit room, I saw this.
The spindle whorls that were used for spinning were fitted to the end of the stick which the cotton thread was rolled around. Fabrics from this region were noted for their fine quality.
Like a metaphor, the weave notion can be seen in the filigree work in earrings…and in other objects… [200 a.C – 1000 d.C]
Cotton and sisal were spun using spindles that were driven by engraved stone whorls…
…and the resulting thread was used for making blankets, caps, bags and nets. [600 d.C – 1600 d.C]
We ended Day One with a fantastic dinner at Andrés Carne de Res. We went to the city center location; the original is in the suburb of Chia. I can’t tell you more about it because no retelling will do it justice. It’s the sort of place you simply have to experience, like Bogotá.