Yesterday we left Bogota driving for what seemed like forever through the city. We realized how little we had seen. The city spreads out along a river valley as well as up the surrounding mountains. There is a section of very modern buildings as well as many industries. We passed a huge "Poker" brewery...a Bavarian style brought over from Bavaria. An hour after we left our hotel we were passing into the countryside.
We took the autopista north to Tunja and turned west. We passed by little villages and towns of square brightly painted hpuses, small cities of a more colonial flavor.
We went up over 3 mountain passes passing through agricultural land. Some farms were postage stamp size while others were large sections. Potatoes, peas and beets we saw in various stages. Vegetables can be planted and harvested all year round. Huge greenhouses close to Bogota had flowers growing....mainly roses for export. Closer to Villa de Leyva (Leiva) huge greenhouses are used to grow tomatoes. Other crops being grown we did not recognize. Our driver, Rodrigo, only speaks Spanish.
We arrived in Villa de Leyva just after lunch, settled in, found an excellent lunch and walked to Plaza Mayor...the main square. This old colonial town dating from the late 1500's has at most two story white buildings,,. although most are one story.....with terracotta tiled roofs.
The Plaza Mayor is the largest of its kind with its balanced architecture. It is surrounded by little shops, small museums and restaurants. In the center is a fountain that was the gathering place of the populace until the town was made a heritage site in the 1960's. Then wires went underground and water was brought to the town. A Church dedicated to Leyva Rosario occupies the center of one side.
We went to the small Asunia muuseum and viewed his paintings. It is in the house he once lived in.
Today we met Julian of Spanish descent. With Rodrigo we went out into the country to Ecce Homo Monastery. Here we learned the history of the Mosca peoples...indiginous...and also of the Dominican monks in the region. The monastery is in the colonial style with a beautiful inner courtyard with flowers and low bushes....in a design that crossed in the center forming rooms of flowers. We were shown the first church where we learned of the simplicity of the original buildings. The carved gold-papered altar and frescoes came later. Two huge gold discs high up on the wall represent Father sun and Grandmother Moon. This was a part of the indiginous religions and was used to coax the Musca into adopting Catholicism....along with the threat to cut their tongues out if they prayed to their gods. In addition to their relious duties the monks cultivated their food.
From here it was back to town past the paleontology museum to the Carmelite Monastery. 21 nuns still inhabit this monastery. It is private. They are never seen outside the walls once they enter. They have a fountain, grow their food and are self-sufficient. Apparently they also have a beautiful garden. They occupy a city block.
From here we walked to the Augustian Monastery. Then we walked to the colonial house of Antonio Ricaurte y Loranzo. We saw his beautiful gafrdens and his casa now a small museum dedicated to him. He was born here but fought with Bolivar in Venezuela. He lost his battle...and blew up his powder room losing his life. His remains were returned to his wife.
From here it was a walk to the Plaza Mayor and a trip up the stairs to the city offices and a look out over the Plaza Mayor. We learned the history. Only in the 1960's was it cobblestoned. The next govenor cobblestoned the surrounding streets of the old town.
We sampled chocolate at a small artesan shop along the way to the park were another Bolivar captain, Antonio Narino is memorialized. We walked back to the Plaza Mayor where Julian left us. We found a small restaurant, Carnes and Olives for lunch. Gord tried a local soup with tongue in it...a surprise. I had another delicacy...fried plantains with salsa...much like nachos and salsa. I tried guanito juice...a white thick unsweetened juice.
The town is situated in a valley surrounded by high unforested mountains. Fires have kept the vegetation low. Julian is a volunteer firefighter. He said that there are 3 rainy months followed by 3 dry months. The dry seasons are getting longer.
After lunch we went back for a rest and then journalized. Tonight we will wander some more. The weather is warm and sunny. In the p.m. it sprinkles. We will take an umbrella.