Strange Fruits and Fruit-Shaped People

By Colin McFadden
This post is part of a series called Colombia 2017
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You can’t ignore the mountains that surround Bogotá.  For our last day in the city, we decided to get up close and personal with the most famous peak – Monserrate.  Rather than doing it alone, we met up with another friend of a friend, Nick.  Nick works in a hostel and is a sometimes-guide.

We met up at the base of the Monserrate hike in La Candelaria, and then started our climb.  It’s a very nicely built path, which takes you up about 700 meters.  According to my watch, it’s the equivalent of 127 flights of stairs.  The exercise, combined with the altitude, meant we were feeling pretty wimpy by the end (and sweaty).  But the views at the top are worth it, as is the smugness that comes with not having taken the cablecar.  I figure you also earn yourself a lot of arepas by doing the hike.

By 10, we were back down the mountain, and took a cab to the second largest market in Bogotá.  This is the kind of place where having a local unlocks the real fun – Nick borrowed a knife from a fruit vendor and started slicing up various fruits for us to try.  These were fruits we’d never heard of, let alone tried.  And even if we’d been exposed to them on our own, we might not have believed they were food.

There was a yellow dragonfruit relative, the Pitaya which we both loved, and a creamy sticky fruit called a Cherimoya which was a harder sell. We then tried two passionfruit relatives, the slightly sweet Granadilla and the super sour Maracuyá (Kat’s favorite). Thoroughly sticky, we sought out the banõs for a wash.

Leaving the market, Nick phoned a friend who works at a coffee roaster.  She invited us to stop by to tour the factory and have a cup of coffee.  It’s a small operation – a German roaster from the 50s, and a few folks bagging beans by hand. The smell was incredible, and the coffee from the shop was great.

From the coffee shop, we wound our way through the city, seeking out new street art.  Nick caught us up on Bogotá politics, and life in the city.  Colombians are so excited about the new, more peaceful Colombia, and want the world to know that it’s a safe place to come visit.

Our last stop with Nick was at Bolivar Square, where we picked up an obleas with sprinkles and got a refresher in Colombian history.  Nick had to get home to get some rest (he’d worked the overnight shift at the Hostel), so we said our goodbyes.  Then we popped into ‘the false door’ where Nick recommended we grab lunch and decompressed from our morning.

Most museums in Bogotá are closed on Mondays, but it happened we ate lunch across the street from the only two open museums – the Botero Museum and the Coin Museum.  We started with the Coin museum, which has exhibits on the history of money in South America, along with some gorgeous machinery that was used to stamp coins in Bogotá.  The museum also has a large collection of modern Colombian art, much of it dealing with conflict and rebellion.

The Coin museum connects to the Botero museum.  The Botero has an extensive collection of Fernando Botero‘s paintings and sculpture along with works from his extensive collection, including Picasso, Dali, Klimt and Degas.  As we entered the Botero, the skies opened with hail and intense rain.  We stood in the gorgeous courtyard of the museum and watched the rain come down.  The streets turned to rivers, and the courtyard became a whirlpool of hailstones.  Then it stopped and life went on.

Botero’s art depicts humans, animals, fruits and objects in a proportionally exaggerated form.  He paints fat things.  Fat people, fat cats, fat pears, and fat violins.  Many of the scenes themselves are serious, dealing with violence in Colombia, torture, and other forms of terror.

By the time we were done in the museum, the sun was back.  We took a leisurely stroll home, picking up some outrageously good churros from a cart.  We swapped our coffee haul for laptops and went to Varietale (hipster coffee shop) for a very pleasant evening of working.

After settling in for the night, we received a message from Ximena that she was sending something to us at our apartment. At 10 pm a nice man delivered chocolate, coffee and two kinds of breads. Colombians truly are the most generous people we’ve come across!

Tomorrow, we’ll pack a bit more Bogotá in, before we head to the airport and on to Medellin.


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