A Travellerspoint blog

An a-salt on the senses

Zipaquíra

sunny
View Destination - south on ew5827's travel map.

What we had planned to do Sunday we did on the Monday instead. About an hour and a half's bus ride from Bogota's old town is the town of Zipaquíra. It's a pretty little town in itself but the real draw is the number one tourist attraction in Colombia (as the poster outside says) - the salt cathedral. Within a still working salt mine, there is a cathedral built within an excavated section 200m underground. There was an old cathedral built in the 50s but it was closed due to safety and replaced with a larger, newer one, built in the 90s.

Entering the salt mine

Entering the salt mine

Miners' plaque in the salt cathedral

Miners' plaque in the salt cathedral

The 14 Stations of the Cross lead you down into the mine to the dome lit up with an electric blue light.

Carving in the salt mine wall

Carving in the salt mine wall

V Jesus meets with his holy mother

V Jesus meets with his holy mother

X Jesus is stripped down of his vestments

X Jesus is stripped down of his vestments

The dome ceiling lit up

The dome ceiling lit up

Beyond is the great expanse split into three naves - the birth, the life and the death. There are also other smaller rooms, presumably chapels, and statues.

Looking down on the cathedral

Looking down on the cathedral

A statue of an angel

A statue of an angel

Alter with a salt “waterfall” behind

Alter with a salt “waterfall” behind

The nativity

The nativity

This is the largest underground cross in the world

This is the largest underground cross in the world

This represents the hand of God and humanity reaching out to one another, the crack is the link broken in two by sin (if I understood correctly)

This represents the hand of God and humanity reaching out to one another, the crack is the link broken in two by sin (if I understood correctly)

I've now read it's a copy of part of Michelangelo's "The creation of Man/Adam".

They carved four huge, smooth pillars to represent the gospels

They carved four huge, smooth pillars to represent the gospels

It's a fascinating place. Not quite what I was expecting and not your conventional cathedral by any means in location obviously but also in layout. There’s a unique stillness and quietness about the place (when there isn’t a tour group nearby). It’s a bit of a shame about the tourist aspect really. At the end of the cathedral are a few shops for trinkets and jewellery and it feels a bit strange going to the 3D cinema showing which explains about the salt mine in what is advertised as a tour of a cathedral!

There was an interesting addition at the end though. At first glance it looks like a great crater in the ground but with a closer look you realise you’re looking at an almost perfect reflection of the ceiling in water. The water is so salty it absorbs almost no light at all so the reflection is astonishingly mirror-like. You’d never guess it’s only 10cm deep!

The rocky floor is a reflection of the ceiling in 10cm deep water

The rocky floor is a reflection of the ceiling in 10cm deep water

This looks like a rock but is actually a reflection in very salty water

This looks like a rock but is actually a reflection in very salty water

Posted by ew5827 19:34 Archived in Colombia Tagged churches Comments (0)

Busy in Bogota

Bogota

semi-overcast
View Destination - south on ew5827's travel map.

The journey from Villa de Leyva to Bogota took us through many little villages. I think I must be losing it as we kept seeing these animals that looked a bit like deer or goats but neither really. It suddenly dawned on me they were brown sheep! It's been so long since we've seen sheep I've forgotten what they look like! That and I suppose we don't get shorn, tan-coloured sheep much in England. That’s my excuse anyway...

On the way to Bogota

On the way to Bogota

Another snap out of the Bogota bus window

Another snap out of the Bogota bus window

Bogota is BIG, it took us 40mins+ just to get from the bus station to Down Town. It was bucketing down with rain when we arrived and the traffic was manic. The weather cleared up for most of our visit so we only got wet once, which was lucky given we walked most places.

We'd arrived on Friday afternoon in time for the supposed weekly scene of local Bogotarians packing out the streets - pedestrianized for the evening - with street sellers, musicians and street artists out to entertain everyone. I’m not sure if our guidebook was wrong or what but the streets were only packed with hooting cars, buses and people rushing on their way to somewhere else!

In contrast, Sunday really was an event. Carrera 7 is closed to all transport and people come out in their hundreds, maybe thousands to cycle, run, skate or walk up and down the road. It was a fantastic atmosphere and great to think it’s a weekly thing. There were so many people walking their dogs; one guy on his bike had even made two little platforms either side of the middle bar on his bike so his terrier could stand its back paws on them with the front paws on the handle bars - very cute! In the main plaza with the cathedral and government buildings etc., street sellers were lined up selling fruit, snacks and hot dogs and several entertainers including a puppeteer were gathering crowds. There was even a man with a llama, random for the middle of a city; I presume for tourist photos.

On your bike Bogota

On your bike Bogota

The whole family gets involved on the Sunday cycle/walk/skate

The whole family gets involved on the Sunday cycle/walk/skate

A llama and a penguin, strange combination, outside the Palacio de Justicia

A llama and a penguin, strange combination, outside the Palacio de Justicia

Bogota Cathedral Primada

Bogota Cathedral Primada

On our walk we wandered into several churches as well as the cathedral. The architecture is so varied and elaborate with incredible intricacy. If you look closely at the photo of the cathedral ceiling you'll notice something bizarre about the one of the paintings.

An interesting addition to an ordinary painting

An interesting addition to an ordinary painting

A stripy church

A stripy church

Inside the stripy church

Inside the stripy church

On Sunday we saw a sign up in the hostel about interest in going to a local football match. We’d talked about seeing a local game at some point but Colombia was the last place we thought we'd do it. A few hours later we turned up at the stadium with the Aussie guy who'd put up the sign, just the three of us. My first reaction was "Wow, ummm, this is a bit intimidating! Is this such a good idea?" For starters I've never been to a football match anywhere, unless you count a varsity match. Secondly, there were police EVERYWHERE and not just the regular kind on foot. There were horses, men in full body armour with shields and even a couple of tank-looking vehicles! Hundreds of fans were queuing up for tickets and you could hear the thunder of the crowds chanting inside. It was pretty awe-inspiring. I asked the guys if this was what a “normal”/English football stadium looks like before a match, apparently it was not.

Some of the police in full body armour

Some of the police in full body armour

Still we were there so as long as we stuck together, we thought we should be ok...we hoped :) At the back of the very long queue (for some reason there was two very long queues in different directions?!) we were wondering if we would even get a ticket. Then the touts started circling like vultures. It was raining and with hundreds of people in front of us we decided it was probably our only hope of getting a ticket so we went with a lady who said we wouldn’t pay her until we got inside. We couldn't see how her tickets could be fake if she wanted payment that way so we followed her and it paid off. Yes it was a bit more expensive, all of £13 a ticket, but we were in within 5/10 minutes.

The stadium (the right side under maintanence); the pitch strewn with paper

The stadium (the right side under maintanence); the pitch strewn with paper

Wow again, bloody hell! The stadium was booming with drums, chanting, the fans jumping. I've never seen anything like it. A good introduction to a large scale football match! The two teams playing were Millonarios and Santa Fe. For both teams this was their home stadium but for this match Millonarios was playing at home. We ended up behind the Millonarios goal but luckily on the non-fanatical side - they looked slightly mental! Before the match started a local boy introduced himself and took us under his wing so to speak for the rest of the match. He explained some of the chants, a bit of the history of the Millonarios and the rivalry between the two teams. We were really lucky on the match choice as it’s Colombia’s biggest derby and only happens twice a year.

Commandos Azules - Millonarios fanatical fans

Commandos Azules - Millonarios fanatical fans

The match and Santa Fe stands

The match and Santa Fe stands

Before the match started there were smoke flares going off, newspaper pieces and loo roll flying everywhere; it was insane. They left a load of toilet paper strewn over one side of the pitch during the whole game. We had a little bet on the ten minute window within which the first goal would be scored but the first half came and went and it was still 0-0. Second half and we re-chose times. I think it was the 57th minute when Millonarios scored and the stadium went ballistic. I was so caught up in the crazed fans around me that I didn't realise I'd won the bet, only an ice cream but I was happy.

Millonarios fans

Millonarios fans

Millonarios cheerleaders

Millonarios cheerleaders

Final score was 2-0 and the blues (Millonarios) continued celebrating for the next half an hour or so while they waiting for the reds to leave the stadium. It was raining harder by the time we left and we jumped in a taxi down the road back to Down Town 20mins away.

Fans climb on the barriers in celebration

Fans climb on the barriers in celebration

I like things like that where you had no plan to do them that day but something falls into place and you end up with a really interesting memory.

Posted by ew5827 12:40 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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