On Wednesday, finally feeling somewhat better, Sara and I ventured forth from our new home base and chanced our way into exploring a truly great urban park, Parque Nacional Enrique Olaya Herrera, which merits a brief post of its own. Photos and description follow.
(It was just great to be out and about again. One nice thing about the traveler’s ailments we were both dealing with is that they came on strong and departed in a similarly noticeable fashion. How often do you notice, clearly, that you’re feeling well again?)
Approaching the park from Avenida Séptima (7th Avenue, one of the major north-south corridors of Bogotá), you first notice this striking monument: “To Rafael Uribe Uribe – apostle, paladin, martyr.” What do I have to do to be remembered as “Drew Levitt – apostle, paladin, martyr”?? (Rafael Uribe Uribe was an advocate for workers’ rights and a co-founder of the Free University of Colombia; he won the “martyr” title fair and square; and the protagonist of One Hundred Years of Solitude was loosely based on him!)
The park unfolds upwards toward the city’s eastern hills, gradually at first, then more vertically. Above the monument to Rafael Uribe Uribe is a Swiss clock (pictured below), given by the Swiss government to the government of Colombia in 1938 and refurbished in 2008 in commemoration of the centennial of the Swiss-Colombian Convention on Friendship, Establishment and Trade. At the risk of sounding hopelessly Americocentric, I always get a little kick to learn about bilateral international relations that don’t involve the US at all. (I had this sensation again later in the day when contemplating a statue of Nicolaus Copernicus, a gift from the government of Poland, in another great urban park.)
Above the Swiss clock is the Nido del Amor (“love-nest”), pictured above. Nice pergola! This turned out to be just one of a seemingly endless collection of thoughtful and well-designated spaces for contemplation and enjoyment all jammed together in this big and beautiful park.
This was on a statue of the “discoverer of the Amazon.” I couldn’t care less about some Spanish explorer, but I love this stenciled graffito: “Patriarchy and Capital, A Criminal Alliance.”
A lovely flowering tree we passed as the hillside began to rise more rapidly. Does anyone know what tree this is? It looks kind of like a magnolia, but the ones in Oakland, at least, have white flowers.
Up the hill we went, passing young lovers canoodling and gaggles of youths getting buff on various pieces of exercise equipment, when off to our right we espied – something. A diving board? A putting green? We had to investigate.
And there before us was one of the coolest things we’d seen in a while – an enormous topographical map of Colombia, complete with viewing platform! This big map ticked a lot of important boxes for both me and Sara, and, as a bonus, felt like something straight out of Myst.
Then we progressed ever farther up the hill. We ultimately made it to the park’s eastern edge, at Carrera 1, before turning back and descending. Not pictured: a stand of eucalyptus trees, Sara’s favorite; a police station with horse training facilities (photography prohibited); a view of the city (there wasn’t a great one because the tree cover was pretty solid); a bunch of mountain bikers doing outrageous dirt jumps on a steep downhill trail. Pictured below: a young banana tree with a particularly attractive leaf, and the Río Arzobispo, which flows down from the eastern hills to meet the Bogotá River.
I have long felt that in some sense, a city’s greatness can be measured by the amount and variety of fun surprises one can encounter in its public spaces, for free. By this measure, and in this park, Bogotá is faring very well indeed.