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El Museo de Oro del Banco de la República

The Legend of El Dorado lives on in Bogotá's fabled Gold Museum

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For most the Legend of El Dorado, the Gilded One, is but a myth. In reality, El Dorado is based on a ritual of the Muisca tribe of the Chibcha nation that inhabited the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes making their home in the cool mountain redoubt that is Cundi-Boyacense plateau, the second largest altiplano found in the Andes. At Lake Guatavita, one of the various sacred lakes that lies about an hour northeast of the modern Colombian capital of Bogotá, the Muisca in a ceremony that signified the crowning of a new cacique, a chieftain, in which he was dusted in gold before dipping into the icy waters to cleanse while Indian priests and other celebrants threw gold trinkets and other metallic and stone offerings into the waters.

The Legend of El Dorado drew the Spanish to explore the inland of the South American continent and by 1537, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada (also the founder of Santa Fé de Bogotá) had established its location. Much of the gold work was melted down in the intervening centuries and in an effort to save the pre-Hispanic heritage of the country, the Colombian government established the Museo de Oro, the Gold Museum, in 1939. The museum is run by the Banco de la República, Colombia's central bank, and is located off the Plaza Santander (Carrera 6 #15-88) in downtown Bogotá though every major Colombia city has a smaller museum as well.

Within the four story museum (three are open to the public), various galleries display over 55,000 artifacts dating back hundreds to thousands of years. Each gallery is dedicated to major pre-Hispanic civilizations that inhabited present-day Colombia. These are the Tumaco, the Calima, the Quimbaya, the Tolima, the Tierradientro, the Muisca, the Tayrona and the Zenú. The museum is open daily. From Tuesday to Saturday hours run from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM. On Sundays and holidays, the museum is open from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. You must be inside the museum an hour before it closes. Admission is about $1.25 USD during the week. It is always free for seniors and children and free for all on Sundays. For more information, please visit the Gold Museum website of the Banco de la República.

Posted by Charles Lemos 11:07 Archived in Colombia Tagged museum gold bogota colombia travel_in_colombia colombia_culture Comments (0)

Villa de Leyva

A Colonial Gem in Boyacá

sunny 70 °F

Located in the Valle de Saquenzipa in Boyacá, Villa de Leyva is a historic colonial town that in 1954 was declared a National Monument of Colombia. Located about three and half hours north-east of Bogotá, the town preserves its timeless beauty. At the weekend, the town bustles with weekenders from around Colombia and around the world but weekdays Villa de Leyva remains a quiet placid place.

The Valle de Saquenzipa has elevation of 2,140 meters or just over 7,000 feet enjoying a warm dry climate with sunny days and cool nights. The town was founded in 1572 by Hernán Suarez de Villalobos and named for Andrés Díaz Venero de Leiva, the first governor of the Province de la Nueva Granada. The town originally served as a retreat for Spanish officials and clergymen. It is an architectural gem boasting whitewashed buildings, cobblestone streets and one of the largest plazas in the Americas. The town also has several churches, a monastery and a covent of cloistered Carmelites.

Antonio Nariño, one of the leaders of the Colombian independence movement, lived and died here in 1823. His home has been beautifully restored and is now a museum dedicated to his memory. A number of other museums exist in this small Andean town of 15,000 inhabitants including a Museum of Religious Art and just outside of town a remarkable collection of fossils from the Cenozoic and Paleozoic eras can be seen at El Fósil.

The area is also home to Colombia's small wine country and visits to some of the wineries in the area are possible. Gastronomically, Villa de Leyva offers a varied and diverse offering of cuisines from Boyancense (typical of the area, Colombian and international with Spanish, Italian and Mexican eateries and a menu for every budget. A visit to Villa de Leyva is a must when visiting Colombia.

Posted by Charles Lemos 19:46 Archived in Colombia Tagged churches colombia colombian_cuisine _colombia colombia_culture andean_cuisine Comments (0)

Valle del Saquenzipa

Colombia's Wine Country

sunny 68 °F

Located at 7,000 feet above sea level and blessed with warm sunny days, cool nights and pH neutral soil rich in calcium and potassium carbonates, the Valle del Saquenzipa in Boyacá, Colombia is a perfect spot for viniculture. Three wineries are located in the valley. The most prominent of these is the 23 acre winery Viñedo Ain-Karim (from the Hebrew for "rich soil") founded by the late Don Pablo Toro in the late 1980s. Today the tradition of producing award-winning wines is continued by the Toro family. The winery has an annual production of over 25,000 bottles.

The Viñedo Ain-Karim is located just outside the historic colonial town of Villa de Leyva about ten kilometers outside of town on the road to Santa Sofía. Tours are available daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. A guided tour runs $10,000 COP (about $4.25 at exchange rates current in early 2015).

Posted by Charles Lemos 13:17 Archived in Colombia Tagged mountains wine colombia travel_in_colombia colombian_cuisine food_writing Comments (0)

Día Sin Carro en Bogotá 2015

Bogotá Car Free Day is a Rousing Success

semi-overcast 68 °F

Instituted by former progressive urbanist Mayor Enrique Peñalosa in 2000, Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, has been holding an annual Car Free Day ever since. In a city of 8 million people and nearly 1.5 million cars and 420,000 motorcycles, the Car Free Day has become an institution that has now been replicated in over 20 cities world-wide. Current Mayor Gustavo Petro is proposing an expansion of the Car Free Day to once a month beginning in 2016 and it's likely that the city will have a second one later this year.

Posted by Charles Lemos 07:07 Archived in Colombia Tagged car day bogota colombia free travel_in_colombia Comments (0)

Chanta con Maíz Endiablado

Andean Popcorn with Spicy Peanuts

Chanta con Maní Endiablado (Popped Andean Corn with Spicy Peanuts)

If you're looking for a Super Bowl snack, try some popcorn Andean style. It's simple to make and quite delicious with a nice soft spicy heat to it.

1 cup roasted peanuts
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup Maíz Chulpe (dried Andean corn kernels, available at many Latin markets)
1 green onion, diced
5 sprigs cilantro diced
1 lime
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

In a plastic bag or airtight container, combine the roasted peanuts and cayenne pepper. Shake the container to cover the peanuts in the cayenne. Set aside. In a wok, heat the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the maíz chulpe. Stir well to cover the kernels in the oil. Once you start to hear the corn pop (unlike US popcorn, these kernels won't turn inside out but rather crack), add the peanuts. Mix well. Add in the diced herbs and again mix well. Stir-fry for three minutes before adding the the juice of the lime. Mix well and stir fry for another five minutes. Add salt to taste. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Chanta, without the peanuts, is the main accompaniment to lime marinated ceviches but it makes a wonderful snack on its own. Chanta is common throughout the high central Andeans from Colombia through Chile but it is most common in Perú.


Posted by Charles Lemos 13:48 Archived in Peru Tagged peru ceviche andean_cuisine chanta andean_snacks Comments (0)

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