Thursday, February 17, 2011

Monserrate And Short Brown Girls

Right next to the downtown area of Bogotá is the mountain Monserrate. It pretty much dominates the skyline of the whole city since it rises about 2,000 feet above the city (10,341 feet / 3,152 meters -- Bogotá is at 8,612 feet / 2,625 meters). If the name Monserrate sounds somewhat familiar, maybe you've been paying attention to my blog (Thanks!) because I had been to and written about a mountain called Montserrat (note the different spelling) near Barcelona last year. Yes, it's confusing...this Monserrate was named for that Montserrat.

Anyway, Bogota's Monserrate has a church, shrine, restaurants, touristy shops, and some hiking trails at the top. You get up to the top via a cable car or funicular vehicle depending on the time of day (each is open only part of the day). The views of the city on the way up in the cable car are great.

The church was originally built in the mid 1600s at the time in the name of the Virgen Morena de Montserrat (Brown Virgin of Montserrat) whose sanctuary was in Barcelona Spain, thus the connection (other than me of course).

The inside of the church is nice...if you're into churches I guess. (I'm not a super big fan of either churches or museums as you may already know.)

Off to the left side is a small shrine dedicated to the morenita (short brown girl) who you can see below. There's nothing like a Latina Mary statue to spice up a church. Unlike churches and museums, I've always been a big fan of morenitas... :-) By the way, it's funny to be in Colombia and find a Catalan flag (note: not the Spanish flag). On the left is the Catalan flag and on the right is the Colombian flag.

Fortunately, I had some time to kill so I did a few confessions while I was there. For that, two Hail Marys and one Our Father and you're good to go...

Out back of the church is an area where there are a bunch of restaurants and shops. The day I went, a weekday, was completely dead so many of the places were closed. I guess on the weekend the place sometimes gets mobbed.

After walking down the "hallway" between the shops you end up in a nature preserve that looks out over the valley on the opposite side of the hill from Bogotá. The difference is startling since on one side you've got a giant city with eight million people and on the other side is the Parque Corredor Ecologico (Ecological Corridor Park) where there are rolling hills, mountains, and lots of green. It reminds me a little of Topanga State Park in Los Angeles because you have this huge open space in the middle of a dense urban area.

There were a handful of horses and donkeys hanging around, which was kinda' cool. I'm not sure if they were wild but I doubt it since they seemed to be in great, well-cared-for shape. Where's Waldo exercise: there are three animals in the photo.

Monserrate is a great place to visit but the highlight for sure is the views. It's a very peaceful spot and you can see pretty much the entire city from one location. If you need me, I'll be looking out for a morenita!

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