Category Archives: COUNTRIES

Without cocaine

Tons of cocaine and terrible battles street gangs and endless political violence — this appears Colombia in popular culture and in the minds of the most ignorant of observers. Meanwhile, this country can give visiting guests an unforgettable experience, it is not associated with drug intoxication. “the” went to Colombia and tried to understand how it is similar to a Latin American Paradise.

“Yes, it’s the coolest country on the continent,” said to me many US residents with whom I had a chance to chat. After moving to California in San Diego, I often traveled to Latin America, and tourists from the States, whom I met, very often, it’s said that Colombia is the best country in the entire region. “Very friendly people, beautiful nature, delicious food, and finally beautiful women. What else is needed for a good holiday?” — rhetorically asked my interlocutors. “What about the insurgents, the drug mafia, finally, just bandits?” — I replied. “Forget it, it’s all stereotypes. There is not more dangerous than new York” — after hearing about these recommendations, I finally decided to travel to the mysterious Columbia.

When boarding the flight to Bogota I was taken to the side of the American border guard: “How much do you have cash?”. Apparently, I looked like a mule — they get money for their deadly goods in cash.

In the bogotá airport “strained” continued. Arrived with me on the same flight as us Colombians told me to go into town by taxi at night: “not safe!” And not only that in Bogota allegedly night is risky to travel even by car — according to them, in the Colombian capital can be trusted not to every taxi driver. New stress was the currency exchange. A girl on each issued me a bill stamp. “This is to let people know that the real bill, and then we have in the country a lot of counterfeit money,” Milo smiled and explained to me his strange actions was not enough.

a Taxi to the hotel I took and luckily we arrived to the place without incident. They started already at the hotel. On the advice of the guide I decided to stay in a budget hotel, focused on serving the American and European “backpackers” (rjukzachnikov). The room is quite suit me, but the wait staff seemed weird — they were all young gay men. Their home — with shoulder length hair, beard and handlebar mustache was very similar to Given, but unlike the great artist, wore a skirt, and used makeup. By the way, in Mexico, is an open manifestation of sexual orientation is risky. So terrible bogotá was, at least, European-relaxed.

the next day I went to the city — I was amazed at the purity and abundance of bicyclists. For them, everywhere was built a special track, and two mobile workshops where on duty ready to help the skilled craftsmen. A similar desire for bicycles is due, however, not only the love of Bogota to the sport: the city has no metro, and not to stand in traffic jams, a move on two-wheeled transportation.

In General, bogotá made quite a good impression — however, as I explained, so it looks only in the rich and relatively safe areas. In poor neighborhoods, the foreigner is not recommended to appear even in the daytime. Center of Bogota is very similar to all colonial Latin American cities: narrow streets with tiled roofs, countless churches. But there is in bogotá and the highlight: the Museum of the Colombian Fernando Botero, the most famous of contemporary Latin American artists. Interestingly, in addition to his own works, there is a very good collection of European classics by Renoir, Pissarro, Toulouse Lautrec, Picasso, Corot and even our Chagall. Paintings of Fernando Botero liked me too. People had rather resemble a grotesque Mexican (thick and chunky), amongst Colombians such less.

in addition, the paintings in this Colombian is possible to study actual problems of his country: he portrays the attack of the mafia, and soldier, looking for Communist insurgents, and even the revolutionary with a hammer and sickle on the bare ass.

Unfortunately, political tensions in the Colombian society is manifested not only in the paintings of Fernando Botero. In Bogota I took a bike tour of the city. The guide was a young girl of pure European appearance: I listened to her story, and I began to feel that I’m driving around the city, and by some the theater of military operations.

“This is our main Cathedral and near the Palace of justice; in 1985 he was captured left group took several hundred people hostage. They demanded that they were given to speak on television, but the President began the storming of the Palace, the soldiers killed everyone, the Palace had to rebuild,” that’s her approximate words in the Central square of the city.

I Rode this thing: “Here in 1948, fighting broke out between leftists and conservatives, the entire city center was destroyed.” When we moved to another area, the explanation appears to have started peacefully: “This is the Bohemian area of the city, there is a ring of boulevards. The architects decided to make here the “Latin American Paris””. But “peacefulness” was short-lived: “there is Also the largest University of Colombia. Nearly all students are leftist, so clashes with the police occur regularly here”. While I imagined the street fighting, the rain started and we quickly ran to the cafe. From the wall we looked at the portrait Karl Marx.

by the Way, in the same area I saw this graffiti on the right of the Colombian people, in the middle of the “heart of Colombia”, and the left — “the us military” and trump. To me it even felt a little pity: in all Latin American countries it is reviled at every step incline. Even me, when I refused to give money to a beggar, named the trump.

somehow in one of the local bars I was talking with one fellow. At the end of the conversation he asked me my name. I said, “Igor. This is a typical Russian name. You do the same in Colombia love Russian names, if Harry is difficult for you, you can just call me “Tymoshenko””. The bar was instantly silence. In the eyes of the people were read the mixture of fear and respect. The fact that Tymoshenko is a pseudonym (in honor of the Soviet Marshal) leader of the Communist rebels. The funny thing is that the bar did not know that Tymoshenko is a Ukrainian surname. By the way, one of the presidential candidates, distinguished leftist views, bore the name of Petro, and opponents called him “Petroshenko”.

Once I was asked from Russia.

— How did you know?— Well, you are in the bus reading a book in Russian.— it is actually difficult — I’m Russian, but from America.— Really hard. It’s like that German Jew.

it Sounded evil. He remembered a conversation he had with a teacher in Guatemala. She was thrilled that I was from Russia, but after learning that I live in the US, it seemed to have changed. “You traitor! I admire Mr. Putin for what he is fighting against American imperialism!” — she said. In General, in Latin America, Russia know and love.

by the Way, in Soviet times, in our universities, studied a lot of studentsCommunists from Colombia. And the consequences of this help distant Latin American country can be felt today. In a small town and asked directions from an elderly Columbine — she angrily responded that Spanish does not understand. “Do you speak English?” — ask. Answers: “No, solo Russo” (no, only in Russian). The old woman turned from the Bryansk — her daughter was still in the Soviet time was married to the Colombian Communist, who had studied with us. Ask, lives like a Communist now. It turns out very well: at home in bogotá and medellín and the country in the Caribbean.

However, went to Russia not only the Communists. So, in Bogota, I met an unusual family: his wife Akaska, and her husband, Icaro Valderrama — Colombian Indian. Icaro, Valderrama graduated from the University of Bogotá for the philosopher, but, though he offered to stay to teach at alma mater, chose to travel through Siberia, studying the indigenous culture and comparing it with the Indian. Especially, Icaro like the Baikal, and he even got a tattoo with the name of the lake in the Cyrillic alphabet. In one of these trips he met his future wife.

In Colombia, a lot of blacks. Along with the mulattos are more than 10 percent of the population. As in the US, the word “Negro” is considered offensive: local blacks called “Afro-Colombians”. By the way, recently in Colombia, published a sensational historical investigation: that in the nineteenth century President of Colombia for several months had been the Negro.

I don’t know about President, but now black at the very bottom of the social ladder: they usually sell Newspapers or fruit, clean shoes or guarding something. The same situation with the métis. About 20 percent of Colombians — pure white. They occupy key positions in the local community. In General, there is a clear pattern: the wider the eyes, the more money.

This is reflected even in popular culture: in the last century when the German company started to produce beer, then her whole advertising campaign was built on the comparison of whites and mulattoes. On the Billboard showed two pictures: the first is dressed in national clothes the poor with Mongoloid features are sitting at a miserable hut, on the other — well-dressed blonde relaxing in a luxurious mansion. The caption under the first picture was: they drink chicha (alcoholic beverage of the Indians), under the second, they drink beer.

tired of city life, I decided to go to the Andes — the good, bogotá is at an altitude of 2,500 meters, and the nearest national Park is just 20 kilometres from the capital.

Alas, such a very small distance I travelled by taxi in just three hours. First, the traffic in bogotá, then a dirt road, washed out by rain. But even when we ran into the fence of the national Park, my torment did not end there. Further the car was not three kilometers on foot. Local worker sold me for a dollar raincoat (“take a shower!”) and said I should go to the “Refugio”. In an hour, says, come.

we had to Walk through the jungle, and the fork (with pointers) came across quite often. And if I did not understand it (my Spanish) and would not have gone there? But nothing happened: after about an hour I was near the hotel. There I immediately asked for the passport. Took out his red and wanted to make a joke: “Russian Communists”, but then I thought — may be misunderstood: a few years ago just for these mountains roamed the Communist rebels.

the jungle itself differed little from those that I’ve seen in Central American countries and in South-East Asia: the impenetrable thicket and damp. Aesthetics in this little nature — in my opinion, the Russian forest is much more picturesque and enjoyable.But in the mountain hotel I met an American Professor of mathematics with the Colombian girl. They met on a Dating site on the Internet. Girl wants in the USA, and a Professor to marry. Columbine are considered the most beautiful in Latin America. Looks like it really is. Unlike, say, Mexicans, they have more Caucasoid facial features, more familiar to Europeans figure (Indian women chunky). In General, the glory of Colombian brides is the same as in Russian: in rich countries, they are considered beautiful and unpretentious.

After Bogota and the surrounding mountains, I decided to go to the province of Boyaca, where she first began to settle the Spanish colonists. This region is considered the “heart” of Colombia. I stopped in a small town (or village?) Via de Leyva, with a population of 10 thousand people. Life here is lazy and measured. Western tourists, fortunately, not a lot, so the flavor of the saved. If you get tired to listen to the bells and admire the colonial houses, you can explore the surroundings on foot or by bike. Despite the relative altitude (2500 meters), the Andes are covered with meadows and look more like hills than the majestic mountains.

by the Way, in the town I first visited Columbia “, asadero” (in Russian means “roaster” or “barbecue”), focusing primarily on the kebabs and other grilled meat. Also very popular chicken soup is almost the same as ours. For $ 6 I was given a huge portion of meat — I didn’t read the third.

Such love Colombians meat is understandable. A significant part of the country (including bogotá and Cundinamarca) located in the Andes at a great height above the sea level. So here almost all year round in pouring rain — the weather is often reminiscent of a rainy Moscow September (the only disadvantage of my Colombian travels!) The rain here is so commonplace that many hotels even umbrellas for hire. Probably, from-for unusual for Equatorial countries cold food in the Colombian Andes reminiscent of Russian.

But not only the architecture and the food struck me in rural Colombia. The locals are pleasantly surprised by his politeness. In contrast to the “familiarity” of Mexico, I never said “Hello” and always — “Good afternoon (morning, evening — depending on time of day). Answering my questions, the local people invariably called me sir, “Yes, sir” or “no, sir”.

I might ask, why I do not write about a famous Colombian cocaine?! But I’ll answer honestly what I know about him quite a bit. Before the trip to the country I found out that “the first step to problems” is to start wondering where you can buy “coke” and decided not to tempt fate. Interestingly, many hotels hang such a memo to tourists: “Buying cocaine, you are not only hurting their health, you are supporting armed groups and thereby bring the suffering of the Colombian people. Think about it!”

However, cocaine is not to be confused with the leaves of the Coca Bush, which is widely used by Latin American Indians in medical and ritual purposes. For example, Coca tea helps to move the mountain sickness. In Latin American countries it is perfectly legal and, according to local physicians, its use is harmless and does not cause drug dependence. many hotels Coca tea for Breakfast. Of course, I tried, but I do not really like it — I think coffee and strong normal tea much stronger.

In Bogota, I visited a special tourist cafes where you can not only drink Coca tea, but also offers pastries from its leaves. According to host institution — the Indian from a remote mountain village, he opened a cafe not so much for business, but to the Europeans Coca was not cocaine. As says the Indian, the drug produced only a negligible percent of the Coca leaves.

In General, do not lie to me American tourists — Colombia was very pleasant and varied country (this despite the fact that I saw her only a negligible part). And bandits and crooks there, of course, but elementary caution of meeting them can be avoided. Personally my month of travelling never robbed, and even counterfeit money are not slipped. So, in my opinion, you can take the risk.