Oblea is a typical sweet from Colombia and some other Latin American countries. It is very popular in Bogotá and you can buy this plain but delicious sweet from many street vendors around the city. Oblea is a very thin crisp wafer usually made of wheat flour. It somehow resembles pancake, but it's thinner. Oblea consists of two wafers and filling between them.
Most typical is oblea con arequipe (arequipe or dulce de leche in Spanish, which is prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to make a cream that is similar in taste to caramel). Oblea can be also served with soft white cheese, mora (sweet blackbery) or condensed milk. To my surprise, many people chose the combination of all of them, but my favourite were with arequipe and arequipe/soft cheese.
The diverse offer of fresh fruit in Colombia is immense and many of the different types have probably not been tried or seen by most of the people. When you are in Bogotá don't forget to sample the greatest variety of tropical fruits, from mango, papaya, maracujá, pineapple, banana, orange, melon and watermelon to lesser known but delicious curuba, feijoa, granadilla, lulo, guanábana, tomate de árbol, mamoncillo, uchuva, guayaba, chirimoya, chontaduro (fruit of a palm, eaten with salt and lemon or with honey)...
Many street vendors around the city offer fruit salads and freshly squeezed juices. Fruit salads are sometimes served with cheese (I prefer pure fruits) and fruit juices are often mixed with sugar, milk or water (I like them only with water, if necessary). At some places you can also get salpicón, mixed chopped up fruit with either orange juice or tamarindo soda drink Colombiana.
Canelazo is a drink that will warm you up on a chill night in Bogotá. Though there are many recipies, canelazo is basically a mixture of aguapanela, lime juice, cinnamon and sugarcane liquor called aguardiente.
3 cups of aguapanela
1 cup of aguardiente
6 cinnamon sticks
several chopped limes
Boil chopped limes with aguapanela and cinnamon sticks. Once it is boiled, blend the liquid removing the cinnamon sticks. Pour in aguardiente and stir. Strain and serve hot. It serves 4.
Rum makes a great substitute if you can't find aguardiente and aguapanela can be replaced with brown sugar. You can also add more fruits, as oranges and passion fruit, or even aromatic herbs, as lemon grass. I love canelazo prepared with different fruits and aromatic herbs. It's such fine mixture of ingredients and it really tastes heavenly!!
Picada is a great food platter you should try out! The locals love it; it's delicious and easy to share with friends. You order one picada for a couple of people (more if you are very hungry) and you get a ig plate with pieces of delicious grilled meat, corn, arepas, potatoes, guacamole... ofcourse it depends on the place you order your picada, there are a lot of variations! Enjoy!
Alot of Colombians don't go out at night for an emergency pack of smokes or a couple of beers to drink with the buddies. They have 'em delivered! There is a shop that does this kind of service exclusively. They have a number, you call, they bring whatever, you pay (regular store price!!) Very handy if you don't want to risk getting out in the middle of the night! So spoiled...
Though not as common in Bogota as in some parts of Colombia, vendors selling chantaduro are still to be found especially on traffic-free Sundays on La Plaza. One vendor in Salento had given us a small taste of the fruit and we found it a bit dry and tasteless but to be fair, it was with no topping. From what we say, people got the obviously very popular snack with either a savory or sweet flavoring and this must have made it less dry. This seed is from a tree in the palm family and is very nutritious so if so inclined give it a try and let me know if it's better than my first impression. It's a cheap snack and maybe we should have given it a full try but with so many other great things to eat, you don't want to waste your appetite on something you're not going to like!
One of the great things about arriving in Bogota on New Year's Day was that all the Christmas decorations were still up. Most Colombians like most South Americans are Catholic and they take Christmas pretty seriously so it came as no surprise that the would spruce things up especially on La Plaza. What was surprising was the colorfulness and what seemed to us a big departure from tradition with regard to their tree. It was big but plastic with red and yellow plastic ornaments right out of the 1960s. Even the nativity scene was on a grandiose scale. At first we found it a bit unnerving but warmed up to it when we saw the locals' obvious affection for it. When we returned to Bogota at the tale end of our two month travels around Colombia, the tree had been taken down and we kind of missed it.
One of La Candelaria's more charming aspects are the sculptures of local artist Jorge Olave. This sizable depictions of ordinary people are made of recycled materials and sit like sentinels atop the buildings looking down at those passing by. These relatively recent additions (since the late 1990s) are a nice addition to an area very much in transition and readying itself for a tourist influx it very much deserves.
Despite the safety concerns that exist in Bogota, the fact is that the vast majority of locals are very friendly, sociable and willing to help. Just by smiling and respectful, it was easy to start up conversations with locals just about anywhere in Bogota.
We met Lina (in the second picture) in Park 93 at the Juan Valdez (yes, THAT Juan Valdez) coffee shop and ended up hanging out with her the whole evening.
One of the most interesting and convenient things I noticed was the many places in the city that you'll find people on the street corner selling gum, candy, cigarettes along with mobile phone calls for a very reasonable price. You'll see signs saying, "minuto cellular" and you just stop and tell the person that you'd like to make a call. Just let them know if you are calling a land line or a mobile phone, give them the number and they will dial it and give you the phone. A quick call of a couple minutes will only cost or dollar or so.
Something I saw in Bogota and had never seen before, was somewhat a bit shocking. The police had caught a street criminal and was taking him to (probably) the station or jail. Ok, no big deal, seen that plenty of times... The thing is; this criminal wasn't put in the back of a police van or a car like most Europeans would expect, he was put on his knees in the open trunck of a pick up with his hands tided back. The police was driving at great speed with sirens on so every one could see THIS man had commited a crime and was being punished for it! Bizar site!
Years ago I came to know a friend from Colombia while doing my exchange program in Maastricht, Netherlands who used to live in the same guest-house. He regularly sent group and individual emails to all of us and last year and half we some way lost contact. But when I became sure of my trip I wrote to him and found out he works in NY and he intends to visit Bogota around same time. With some change in his plan he introduced me online to Daniel. Daniel and his girlfriend Carina wanted to include me in the horseriding the same afternoon I arrived in Bogota. I found out all about it much to my surprise since I could not check email previous couple of days. And phoned him and was told they would pick me at my hotel. They were on time and we were on our way to La Callera. I did not feel for a moment that I met them first time that day. So friendly and hospitable floks. Hats off to you guys!
While many (myself included) would consider this extremely cruel and barbaric treatment of the animals, the fact of the matter is that this stuff happens. Since I am of the opinion that one must do and try everything at least once, I decided to go check it out.
This is taken very seriously by many people there, particularily the chicken owners and 'trainers'. There are bets on the fights, and everyone gets right into it, screaming and cheering on their chicken.
We were able to go behind to see the chickens being weighed and matched and 'prepaired' for the fights. The owners of the chickens shave a little stump type thing into the back of the chickens legs, on top of this stump they melt candle wax and fit a spike over this. It is then secured with tape. After this they would talk to the chickens to relax them, and strech their legs and so on. Many were also praying and doing the catholic crossing themselves thing. The chickens are now ready for the fight.
There are two ways to win the match. One is if the other owner forfitts the match if he feels his chicken is in a bad way. The other being, when a chicken goes down an hourglass is turned over, if the chicken does not get up in this time, the other wins.
We watched two fights (both about 5 or so minutes in duration), the first was a forfitted match, though I doubt that the chicken survived much longer afterwards. The second match, the chicken went down, and before the hourglass was done, the other chicken had effectivly pecked out the losers eyes and pecked a hole in its head, exposing the brain...very gruesome. The losers owner was crying, this just goes to show how seriously they take it. Anyways, two matches was enough, we left after that.
In Bogota, chicken fights are held Thurdsay and Saturday nights from 10pm until 2 or 3am at Calle 57 # 14-63. Take the transmilenio to the Calle 57 station, and it's about one block from there. Admition 10,000pesos (less than $5).
Graffiti can be found in every large city in every corner of the earth. While most graffiti is just meaningless sh*t drawn by teenage wannabes...much of it is also quite good, artistic and/or portraying a deeper meaning. Head to the national university to see some good ones.
Also around town, particularily in La Candelaria, you will see 'NO TLC' painted on every street corner. This TLC (Tratado de Libre Comercio) refers to a proposed free trade agreement between Colombia and the USA.
La Calera is a small town about 15 minutes from Bogota, and they are known for arepas (a corn cake with a filling inside.) Arepas go back to ancient times, but the type of filling varies by region. The ones in La Calera have a filling of fresh cheese. Arepa stalls lined the street, and we chose Asadero de Arepas, a small shop owned by Viviana. You can watch them being made.