Unlike Mexico City and Rio, most of the shops don’t have private security guards or much in the way of security systems. Bars on home windows are unusual. I haven’t heard many sirens. Solo women walk around many parts of town. Fear of civil war, kidnapping, and paramilitary guerrillas is no reason to postpone a trip. From a tourist’s point of view, Bogota is more secure than most other Latin American cities.
There is less glamour here than I expected, and most of the city is solidly working class, lower middle class. People are well dressed but in a relatively formal way; there is little sartorial individuality or flair. Dark clothes, especially black, are the default style, but not in a Will Wilkinson cool hipster sort of way. Rather the message is "it rains here a lot and it is cool and foggy and we have endured centuries of violence, so why wear floral pink?" The bowler hat, however, is now passe.
Bookstores and libraries are everywhere, and it is common to see people reading or carrying books. The shops display their serious books, not the junk. The museums are the best in South America, for both content and presentation.
Bicycling is a big deal, and the bus system is well-developed to an extreme. The water is potable. The green hills around the city are attractive, the colonial part of town has wonderful colors and houses, and the modern architecture is getting better.
Colombianos are remarkably gracious and friendly. There is nothing like isolation to make people love foreigners. Does having a bad international reputation make people nicer to compensate?
You have to utter "good day" to the guard each time you enter a new room in a museum. People open doors for each other. No one is loud. It all feels vaguely right-wing.
The local soup mixes shredded chicken, avocado, potato, corn, capers, cream, and herbs for a tasty blend. So far the food doesn’t thrill me; too many restaurants remain in the meat and potatoes stage; being in the Andes has never been good for any cuisine, except of course for their hearty soups.
The people look surprisingly homogeneous; I expected more Caribbean types and indigenous. That said, the Turks run the textile trade and there are plenty of Chinese (so-called) restaurants. Indian features are common, but blended into a broadly Spanish mix. No one is very tall.
How can such a nice place be in the midst of a civil war and guerrilla uprising? Why do leaders in the highest reaches of government secretly work with the paramilitaries? Does every radio station in the country play Juanes, and how long will their Tower branches last?
Here is a good reading list on politics and institutions, but do any of these pieces explain what I am seeing?