12/11/2011 The Republic of Colombia is a large country that is full of contrasts. We will here cover a wide range of information that might interest you in your research or while planning a trip. Understanding a little of its history, might make your trip more understanding. Practical Information Especially if you’re thinking of staying in Colombia longer than the 2 month (+2 extension) tourist visa allows, you can visit the local embassy or consulate back home (if you’re in the U.S.) History, Government & Money Colombian history is complex and unfortunately, filled with violence ranging from what happened to Colombian gold and indigenous people under the conquistadors from Spain to what was once the huge Gran Colombia (large Colombia). To get a better understanding of the founding values and principles of the country, you might be interested in reading up on the Colombian government and also, the Colombian Constitution. Or perhaps you’re curious about the Colombian flag? On a practical note, it is useful to know about the Colombian currency.Recent events hit the news such as the rescue of Ingrid Betancourt, that was a feather in the cap of the former Colombian president, Uribe. Geography, people and nature There are many Colombian cities to choose from if traveling through the country starting with the largest and capital, namely Bogota, followed by the warm and friendly Medellin, Cali and the famous and most visited tourist destination here, which is Cartagena. The geography of Colombia is fascinating in how varied and beautiful it is. It’s interesting to know that 80% of the population live above 1000m (3000 feet) in the Colombian Andes which represents about 20% of the surface of the country and gives surprising weather conditions at this latitude. Not to mention that the nation has the second largest biodiversity in the world, after Brazil. There are therefore, a vast variety of plants and orchids here. The weather is surprisingly varied depending on your altitude and whereabouts. The population of the Republic of Colombia is roughly on a par with that of Spain but the people vary significantly. As is so often the case, the Republic of Colombia and soccer go hand in hand, with people showing great passion for their local teams and the famous news commentator impressively long shouts of “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!!!” when they score. Jobs here as as varied as everything ranging, from the low-end minimum wage type manual labor such as working in mines or cleaning apartments to high-end business and land owners who both have and sometimes, display great wealth and power. This is not an egalitarian society by any means. Culture & Society Spanish Learning Spanish is very practical now that the language is more relevant than ever. Spanish is the fourth largest language in the world and is spoken by over 350 million people worldwide! It is the official language of 20 countries, spoken throughout South America excluding Brazil. A number of people come to learn Spanish in Colombia, which makes sense because you can combine both travel and adventure with acquiring a language. Depending on how fast you are, I think it’s possible to learn to speak at a basic level in about 3-months. Colombian Restaurants Colombian restaurants are friendly and often serve what’s known as “menu” which is the set lunch for the day, usually consisting of a soup, main and some sort of dessert.