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From Paris to Bogotá

Our Paris apartment was one of the smallest apartments so far, comparable to the size of the one we stayed in Madrid. Ironically I got sick in both of them, this time with COVID. I’m double vaccinated and boostered and therefore was not so scared of getting it, but of course would have liked to avoid it. I was also sure that I would get COVID at some point, since there is almost no one (or maybe literally no one) I know who hasn’t had it yet. It was like the flu and knocked me out for 4 days, 2 of which felt pretty bad. I noticed later, when I started running again along the Seine, that the first few times it took me more effort to run my usual distances and pace, and towards the end of the runs, it got really difficult. I also had some headaches from time to time, but luckily no Long COVID symptoms so far.

The last time I was in Paris was for a fun bike messenger get-together with participants from all over the world, which included a subsequent 3-day group ride to Lausanne where I participated in the Cycle Messenger World Championship. But this time in Paris I had no bike and explored by walking and taking the metro. Again, I did not make it to the Louvre. Big tourist crowds are such a huge turn off for me and it costs me a great deal of energy to convince myself of going to such places, even though I love art. Nevertheless, one day I will make it there, since I did go to Montmartre and the Sacré-Coeur, which were totally overrun by tourists. While there are plenty of tourists in Paris in August, many Parisians actually leave the city and go on a longer vacation. A lot of businesses are closed, sometimes for the entire month, and they send their employees on vacation as well. I was luckily still able to meet my Austrian-Parisian friend, his partner and finally his kiddo too.

Apart from some nice views of the Eiffel Tower from various parts of the city, we also got to see a beautiful sunset in the lovely Park Buttes-Chaumont. We love parks and picnicking, so it took us by surprise when suddenly around 15 soldiers(?) with a red beret and machine guns walked through the park looking around as if they were searching for someone.
A few days later the same thing happened in Park Monceau when policemen with machine guns suddenly walked through the park. I guess this was preparation for the tight security which we would experience in Bogotá.

We arrived in Bogotá at around 4:00 am Paris time / 9:00 pm Bogotá time. I used to fly twice a year from Vienna to New York, which has a 6-hour time difference, and I felt it took me much longer to get accustomed to the new time zone in Colombia with a 7-hour time difference, something I attribute to the altitude here in Bogotá (2640 m / 8660 ft). I joined a gym here on our first day and ran 5 km / 3.1 mi. Maybe this contributed to me being short of breath for the first week, which I don’t remember ever having experienced even though I once lived for a year at 2000 m / 6560 ft and 2 months at 3500 m / 11500 ft. I’ve also climbed a 5000 m / 16400 ft mountain. An explanation for my shortness of breath could also be the pollution in this city of 8 million, which doesn’t have a subway. On some days we felt the pollution when walking on the street and the air quality index would show “unhealthy for sensitive groups”. Anyway, I think I am pretty much back to normal by now.

Unlike Paris, I saw only two soldiers with machine guns in La Candelaria, the historic center of Bogotá. The security here is generally on a completely different level though. The house next to where we are staying has an armed security guard, who I believe is also watching our house on the side a little bit. Generally, many places, like for example the nearby craft beer brewery, have gun-toting security. Barbed wire or electric fences are standard; our house is no exception. In front of banks and shopping malls and other businesses are bomb-sniffing dogs. I have never seen so many cute dogs with such a serious job. A lot of the security measures, including the bomb-sniffing dogs, I believe, are a remnants of the past, when lots of bombings and murders took place. That shouldn’t ease one into thinking it is totally safe here. According to one source I read, in 2020 Bogotá had 82,000 armed robberies and we took several precautions before arriving here. In Johannesburg, I had my phone snatched out of my hand while I was on the phone, and the guy doing so jumped in a waiting car (without my phone, because it landed on the ground). Ever since then, I have been much more careful in places with higher crime rates. So our core principle here is the local “no dar papaya”, which means, don’t give anyone the reason to think you could have something of value they could take possession of. We keep our phones in our pockets almost always, don’t wear jewelry, and don’t show our watches. We also try to dress similar to locals, so we don’t stand out and are always aware of our surroundings. I also got a cheap phone in Paris, which I’ll use if we ever have to go to places not so secure. I will happily hand this over along with other possessions if I had to… I planned to use this cheap phone throughout my stay here, but it seems unnecessary in the areas where we hang out.

We are staying in the neighborhood Quinta Camacho, which seems to be very safe and happening. There are a myriad of restaurants, bars, and cafés within walking distance. And we are very close to Zona G and pretty close to Zona T, which both have a lot of options too. The quality of the restaurants is really good and the prices are very low compared to most European countries and the US. If we don’t gain weight here, it will only be because of our regular workouts: so far 6 times in 12 days, way more than I ever usually exercise.

The last time we visited Bogotá was on a short visit in March 2017, before heading to the hot climates of Cartagena and Santa Marta. Being so close to the Equator, the temperature in Bogotá is pretty much the same year around, but due to the altitude only 19°C/67°F. I don’t remember having felt cold that time, but now I do feel a bit chilly at times, because most houses here have no heating due to the temperate climate.

Since we are in our 9th city, what happened next probably had to at some point: we were forced to change our apartment during our stay.

Continue to Bogotá post 2

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