When I was at university, I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold and thought it was brilliant.
Since then, I’ve been meaning to read more of his work (particularly Love In A Time of Cholera and 100 Years of Solitude) but other novels somehow always got in the way.
I have felt guilty about this since the moment I arrived in Colombia.
Garcia Marquez – an ex-journalist and Nobel Prize winning author – is Colombian. He was born in Aracataca, a couple of hours south of Santa Marta, in 1927.
I realised Colombia was probably the best place to start devouring his most famous works.
But for some reason, English translations here cost three times the price of his works in Spanish and, quite frankly, I’m not prepared to pay £20 for a book that should cost me £7.
So – after many hours trawling Bogotá’s bookshops – I’ve ended up with a copy of Chronicle of a Death Foretold in Spanish, which I shall translate at the pace of a snail.
Still, when I bought the book, I also came across one of the those cheery Thousand Places to Visit You Die efforts and flicked through to Bogotá.
The only listing was for the city’s Gold Museum.
(When I mentioned this to my Colombian host, he rolled his eyes and said “Journalists, they don’t know shit about Colombia” which is fast becoming his mantra)
Still, the Gold Museum is pretty impressive.
When I first walked in, there was a lot of text about how gold was discovered and shaped and I thought it was a little dull. Metalwork doesn’t interest me.
But the story soon moved onto tales of the ancient South American cultures and what the gold meant to them.
I became lost amid the glorious masks and fabulously intricate jewellery, admiring the prowling jaguars and other creatures revered by the ancients’.
I also learned that having an impassive face was the sign of being a great leader (hence the blank expressions on all of the masks) which might explain some of my previous discoveries about the Latino poker face (read here)
I also highly recommend the Fernando Botero gallery.
Botero is a fantastic Colombian artist and I could not love him any more because he is always painting and sculpting extremely fat people.
If I ever find myself with a proper home again, I’ll be buying myself a Botero print to remind myself it is okay to eat cake.
But it has not been all culture for me in Bogota.
My Colombian host, Diego, has tried and failed to teach me to play basketball – although in a recent game of one-on-one I only lost 12-11 thanks to my effective throw-and-hope tactic.
Similarly, I’ve also sampled some fantastic restaurants and bars – including Candelario, Yumi Yumi, Kea, De Marcha and Quiebra Canto.
I’ve become addicted to ajiaco, a delicious Colombian potato soup stuffed with roast chicken and served with lashings of cream and avocado.
The other night I stumbled across an outdoor salsa competition (I’ve never seen dancing like it)
I’ve taken a cable car up Montseratte mountain and I’ve wandered into the depths to the Catedral de Sal – the salt mine turned into a cathedral.
So here’s a message to the authors of A Thousand Places to Visit Before You Die:
If you feel the need to prove a Colombian wrong and you do intend to update your Bogotá section, just give me a call.