If you’re a frequent reader of the Colombia Travel Blog, you’ll know that Colombia is a country full of surprises; full of the weird, the wonderful, a whole lot of beauty and, at times, the downright bizarre. One of the biggest surprises for most people, of course, is how safe they feel when they arrive. Thanks to Marcela’s advice and confidence, however, I wasn’t really too worried. That’s not to say she told me everything, though, and here’s 5 things I wasn’t expecting:
1. It’s very international
As I sit here in a cafe sipping my tinto, behind me I can hear a Colombian joking with an American. A French girl teaches a local and when they stumble upon any confusion they revert to English, which is widely spoken. To my side are a couple of Irish girls enjoying some pastry. Across the room there’s a German guy browsing the internet on his PC. Nestled in the corner are a couple, one English, one Colombian. They sail between languages seemlessly and without realising. When I leave and walk up the road I can head to an English pub, an Argentinian parrilla, a Mexican taco stall, a French cafe, a Spanish tapas bar and even a Serbian bread shop. Colombia, and especially Bogota, is surprisingly multicultural and its internationality is worn proudly.
2. The beer is good, pubs are popular
While Colombia might not boast the range of beers that you’ll find in Europe, I’ve found the standard to be just as high. Moreover, you can find yourself relaxing in Bogota in the environs of a classic English pub, sipping a pint over some popcorn (well, something had to be different) while The Clash can be faintly heard through gaps in conversation. For the best places, try Bogota Beer Company and The Pub.
3. The hospitality of strangers
The warmth of Colombians is something that is well documented, so I was expecting to meet some nice people. What I didn’t quite expect was how readily people would give you things, invite you to things, and welcome you into their homes. As a friend pointed out to me, rarely do we buy Aguardiente and, yet, at almost every party I go to I’ll be offered more shots that I can handle. Moreover, you’ll find if you move here you’ll be offered more free meals at new friend’s houses (and their parents) than you can shake a stick it. Friends and food, great.
4. How progressive the cities are
It’s great that in places such as Villa de Leyva, Cartagena and Santa Fe de Antioquia you can meander through the streets like a true flâneur, plucked from modernity and plunged into the past. What’s really surprising, however, is that some cities are at the epicenter of progressive politics, culture and industry. Medellin’s rapid transformation is impressive enough aesthetically, but once you really get involved in the city you quickly begin to realise that this transformation has spread everywhere, and it’s an incredibley modern city. Bogota, too, is an advanced (and advancing) city, full of ambitious projects and politics.
5. The variety
I knew Bogota was a bustling metropolis and that Cartagena was full of charming colonial streets. What I didn’t know is that here I’d find snow-capped mountains, desert lands, beautiful Caribbean beaches, the Amazon, expansive green fields and much, much more. Colombia is characterised by its amazing diversity, and it really should be seen to be believed.
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