All Quiet In La Candelaria

La Candelaria, Bogota
Dec 30, 2010
Bogota may be a large sprawling modern city but the district of La Candelaria, especially the old town retains a quaint flavor of days of old. Narrow cobble-stoned streets weave their way through the area. Some are just wide enough for one car while some others have been widened in places to accommodate traffic In some places stand remnants of the old walls. Some of the walls are made of huge blocks of stone reminding me of the Inca walls I saw in Cuzco and all along the Inca Trail. I wonder how old these are. Do they go back as far as the Incas? My knowledge of Colombian history is vague at best and I have reading to do.

Many of the walls sport graffiti, the images painted in vivid colours. There is talent in many of the paintings and the murals show wild flights of imagination. Small plazas lie scattered throughout the area, some with crumbling fountains. They may have been working fountains in the distant past but now are home to flocks of pigeons pecking through bits of litter. The pigeons scatter as a ball lands in their midst. One of the group of boys playing football in the street runs in to retrieve the ball. Some of the narrow streets have ribbons and garlands strung across them in this, the festive week of the year. There is a muted air of celebration in the streets.

The sight of militia armed to the teeth and dressed in bullet-proof vests is common place here. Almost every corner has a couple of men standing around. Strangely, the sight makes me feel safe rather than edgy. They smile and return my greetings as I walk past.

The streets are lined with buildings, some battered and derelict but others are painted in bright Caribbean colours. Barred windows look out on the street and wrought iron balconies grace some of the upper storeys. There are flowerpots hanging from some of the balconies. Small cafes, bars and eateries lie sandwiched between doorways. The strains of salsa and reggae float out of the doorways and hang in the air. The cafes have benches outside and grimy glass cases filled with empanadas and arepas. They cater to the locals and the occasional tourist. I sit on the bench and sample an empanada.
It is quiet as La Cendelaria slumbers in the pale afternoon sunshine. An old woman sits on the curb selling flowers. A man sits in the doorway of his shop holding a conversation with his friend in the balcony across the street. There is hardly any traffic on the streets. A couple of small compact cars, sleeker than I had expected rattle over the cobblestones and honk at the burros plodding placidly along the street. A trio of them come clopping down a street on their own. They have large plastic cans strapped to their backs. When shooed or honked at, they plod off apparently knowing their way to wherever they are going.

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