Several weeks ago, a few other volunteers and I decided to explore the Botanic Gardens here in Bogotá, as part of our initial (slightly aimless and more-than-slightly lost) wanderings around the city. The Gardens are located adjacent to the Parque Simón Bólivar, one of the most visible spaces in Bogotá and a centerpiece of the city’s outdoorsy culture, as well as the largest park in the city.
Simón Bólivar is actually made up of a group of smaller parks, which combine to create the over-400-hectare space (larger than New York’s Central Park). These smaller sections include the central park, where residents can see many of Bogotá’s outdoor concerts; Parque el Salitre, an amusement park with various rides and an awesome-looking ferris wheel that I can’t wait to ride (and use as a vantage point to take pictures of the whole city, obviously); the Museo de los Niños (Children’s Museum), which I’m certain I will also love just based on the name; the Parque de los Novios, which we stumbled into accidentally while hunting for the Botanic Gardens, and which reminded me rather a lot of Boston’s very own beloved Public Gardens, albeit with fewer duck statues; an aquatics center; and what seem like a million tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, running tracks and bike paths. It’s a hell of a park, is what I’m trying to say. You could spend days there (and nobody would ever find you)!
But the gardens! That was the point! As I said, the gardens are next to Simón Bólivar, on one of the major streets running into the park — but you wouldn’t know it once you’re inside. After paying the 2,700-peso (about US$1.50) entrance fee, we passed through the turnstile under the brick archway and stepped back into nature.
The park feels like a whole separate space from the rest of crowded, busy, noisy, polluted, hectic Bogotá. There are huge patches of grass just begging for someone to sit on them! There are palm trees! There are lagoons and roses and swans and vast meandering greenhouses full of tropical plants and orchids! After spending so much time on the dusty streets and sidewalks of the city, being in the Garden felt almost like an out-of-body experience.
Due to unforeseen incidences of getting lost, we arrived there much later than we intended, so we didn’t get enough time to see nearly as much of the place as we would’ve liked — for example, we never made it to the orchid exhibit. I would be disappointed about this, except that it gives me an excellent excuse to return soon, to spend a few hours basking in the sunny grass, watching birds pass overhead and forgetting that I’m not in the middle of a distant tropical paradise.