South America

Posted By: Brinda Amin

Post Date: May 9, 2018





When someone mentions Colombia, the first thought that comes to mind is “is it safe to go there?” Contrary to that mindset, Colombia has gone through the most amazing transformation, giving visitors a safe country with the most picturesque and well preserved colonial towns in all of South America along with breathtaking nature! 

 

Bogota, the Capital city of Colombia is a vibrant, cultural melting pot. The city’s hotspot is La Candelaria. This historic downtown, with cobblestone streets and colonial buildings, is a gathering place for tourists and locals alike. I visited El Museo de Oro (The gold museum), which houses the largest collection of pre-Hispanic gold artifacts in the world. Most impressive was the pre-Colombian Muisca raft, an object made by the ancient goldsmiths that represents in detail a sacred ritual of the indigenous Muisca people. My spiritual highlight was a visit to the Magnificent Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira. About 45 minutes from Bogota, this underground Roman Catholic church was built within the tunnels of a salt mine, 200 meters (approx. 650 ft.) underground, in a halite (rock salt) mountain. The temple at the bottom has three sections, representing the birth, life, and death of Jesus. As I started walking down the mine shaft, ready to begin my one mile-long walk through a mountain of salt, I felt a calm, serene energy surround me. The passageway sloped down past a series of chambers where miners had dug out rock salt on either side of the tunnel. 14 of these cavities are now rough-hewed devotional chapels, carved and crafted by local artists. Each chamber represents a key event that occurred on the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus took to his crucifixion. As the Way of the Cross ends, you enter the vast central nave of the Catedral de Sal. This chamber, more than 250 feet deep and 30 feet wide, soars more than 70 feet above. The rough walls are partially bathed in purplish-blue light, highlighting a 50-foot-tall cross that seems to float in space before a dark rock salt wall. Upon getting closer, I saw that the cross was chiseled into the wall and concealed lighting illuminating the recessed channels was creating an illusion of a floating cross. I was, both, humbled and mesmerized! A visit to Bogota would be incomplete without seeing and experiencing this unique architectural marvel! I spent the afternoon at a flea market in the town of Usaquen, enjoying a light lunch at one of the local restaurants. 

 

My onward journey took me to Cartagena. This UNESCO World Heritage city has some of the best well preserved colonial buildings in the old town fort area. The real joy of Cartagena is exploring its barrios on foot, an experience that awakens all five senses, with the rhythms of cumbia and mapale, the flavors of the Caribbean, the blend of the natural world against the variations in architecture, all buffeted by a Caribbean breeze, making the city an incredibly romantic destination! Some of the impressive sights we visited were the La Popa Monastery, San Felipe Fortress and Church of Saint Peter Claver. Being a foodie, it was a treat to eat Empanadas, Patacones (mashed and fried plantain cakes), Arepas (corn cakes stuffed with meat) and fresh ceviche’s from the street vendors. And how can you forget Colombian coffee and some good 70% cacao dark chocolate!

 

I cannot wait to go back to explore Cali, famous for its salsa music and Medellin, located deep in the fertile mountainous Aburra valley, surrounded by lush coffee plantations and flower farms.

This a country that offers visitors a great combination of cultural and natural treasures!

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