For decades, the Colombian capital Bogotá has been synonymous with crime. In the 1990s it was reputedly the most violent city in the world, with thousands of homicides a year.
Although things have improved since then, Bogotá remains a hotbed of ill behaviour according to the British government. “British nationals have been robbed at gun point in the Candelaria district,” it says. People are routinely drugged, kidnapped and raped: “Take care on city streets if you are on your own."
Undeterred, I set off into the heart of the city one afternoon, dressed in a suit, carrying an expensive camera, mobile phone in hand. What could go wrong?
Fortunately, nothing. I walked through busy, pleasant, attractive squares, ate a gourmet lunch at a refined, white-linen restaurant, then walked uphill for a few miles in search of views. The weirdest thing I saw was a man dressed as Osama bin Laden carrying a (fake?) machine gun and heckling drivers through their car windows.
Eventually, I found a cable car to whisk me up to Monseratte monastery, where the city spread beneath its walls as far as the eye could see. To my left was an attractive, brightly-painted barrio tumbling down the hillside. This, I later discovered, was the famous Candelaria district.
Stalls next to the monastery sold tee shirts, baseball caps and keyrings bearing the image of notorious drug baron Pablo Escobar (1949-1993), much as you’d see Maradona in Argentina or Mandela in South Africa. The high price of these was about as criminal as it got.