Bogota’s Market: Plaza De Paloquemao

2016-01-31

Beyond museums and landmarks, markets are the greatest storytellers of a culture, hence they are often one of my top priorities and visited as quickly as possible. Bogota’s largest and oldest market blends old undying traditions under a nice, clean, newly installed roof and stands out from it’s location surrounded by big malls and super mercados.

Colombia’s multiple micro climates contribute largely to a wide variety of produce and flora, many of which are found only in specific regions within the country. This makes for a market wide in range and variety and perfect for exploring strange, delicious finds found nowhere else in the world. 

Upon entry, the largest and most impressive display of flowers presents itself. It’s easily the greatest and most varying flower department I’ve laid eyes on. Colombia is a foremost player in the exportation of flora with plenty left behind for their own markets. From common, to wild, to never-before-seen flooded my sight while my olfactory became inundated with competing sweet smells, transforming a concrete lot to a field for the senses.

Inside, every corner is stacked high with wild, unheard-of, exotic fruits and brightly colored vegetables. Every other stall is a sea of ten types of green, heavenly, rich, creamy, ripe avocados galore. There are plantains for day. Huge carrots and tiny potatoes indigenous to the region dominate the scene surrounded by every type of pepper, gourd, and bean in-between. 

Meats and fish hang and lay splayed in the calmest, cleanest conditions. Selection of the sea are limited to heaps of shrimp, calamari, and only a few types of fish. Catfish and red snapper seem to be most popular.

Back in the poultry department negotiations became heated. A head to head battle went on for some time and the winner walked away with two live chickens dangling calmly at his side. I watched him as he sauntered, smirk smeared across his face, past vulnerably encased yolks piled so high a loud sneeze could surely break them loose. And just like that I was distracted, lost in counting eggs. Continued wandering and mindless contemplation of which came first, I was stopped smack in my tracks by medicinal smells that wafted densely at the sharp turn of a corner. I landed amongst an impressive selection of plants, dried herbs and oils. Heavy aloe plants hung like protective curtains shielding the secrets of the herbal concoctions and spices that hid behind. An alluring, unexpected section of the market, easy to get lost in.

Skirting the parameter are food stalls and miscellaneous goods. Far inside the organized halls is where I found a plethora of new scents and foods that will take more time than usual to indulge in. In a largely globalized world, where almost all things are available from just about anywhere, Colombia still keeps some precious treasures to themselves.

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