Medellín

The City

No city in Colombia can compete with Medellín, in my opinion. It has overcome being the most dangerous city in the world back in the late 20th century to become a modern, active metropolis. It’s public transportation includes a metro system, separate dedicated bus lanes (the best I’ve ever seen) and ski lift-type cable cars that connect the sierra with the rest of the city.

Medellín’s climate is similar to Oaxaca, where I live; both are cities of eternal spring. I think the pleasant weather affects people in a positive way. The city is not perfect, no place is, but it’s where I would choose if I lived in Colombia.

The People

My Airbnb was situated in an upper-middle class neighborhood called Laureles. Many of the apartment buildings hired private security. One of those guards was a 20 year old graphic design student named Sebastián. We chatted about his work goals and whether he could achieve them in Medellín. He thought he would need to work as a freelancer with a presence online so he could find clients outside of the city. He didn’t want to move to Bogotá. He also stated that he needed to learn English to help him be more successful.

Cosechas is a health drink chain. One store was located around the corner from my apartment. I’d passed by it a few times before I stopped. Turns out the manager/franchise owner (?) spoke English. He learned it when he was a child but said he didn’t speak it very often. I ordered a drink and an energy bar. Remember, this is the first time we met. The guy gave me a sizable discount on the drink and the bar for free. Maybe he was happy to have a chance to speak English.

Uber and taxi drivers in Medellín spoke as little English as their comrades in Bogotá. However, I found a taxi driver who spoke a little and when he heard I was an English teacher, our 20-minute ride turned into a language lesson. He had so many words and phrases he wanted interpreted. We laughed, he learned (will he remember?) and at the end I realized I had just taken the most enjoyable cab ride of my life.

Activities

As has become my habit, I took the free city walking tour. The name of the tour misleads the uninitiated. It doesn’t cover the city; impossible to do in three hours.

In most cities we usually meet near a statue in a central plaza, the old town or historic district. In Medellín we met at a metro station. Medellín has no historic center. Because of that there were few photo opportunities of interesting buildings, statues, etc.

Our informative tour guide kept our attention with stories about the history of the city. Coffee, cocaine and Pablo Escobar were featured as were other characters and incidents. Quite an interesting tour, but not picturesque.

I took a tour called La Sierra Barrio tour. The tour guide and I needed to take a tram and a cable car to reach the barrio at the top of the mountain.

Strolling along the streets and listening to Milena talk about the struggles and solidarity of the people there, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the people I knew in Kyrgyzstan. Poverty brings communities together; wealth separates them (gated mansions).

Because I was the only person to sign up that day, we were able to discuss many off-tour topics, similar to my food tour in Bogotá. I can add two more enriching travel experiences to a growing list.

Food

One opinion I’ve formed is that people don’t travel to Colombia for the food. The only dish I’ll remember is the soup I ate on the food tour in Bogotá. I enjoyed a couple of other meals, one Italian, the other Chinese.

The best amatriciana I’ve eaten in almost seven years.

Some of the best tasting Chinese I’ve eaten since leaving there in 2015.

On to Cartagena.

5 thoughts on “Medellín

  1. Very informative and interesting as usual.
    I’m enjoying your keen insight.
    I imagine the coffee ☕️ hits the spot, even though I know you don’t drink much of it.
    Hope the altitude is ok.

    Like

  2. Very interesting for me, Michael. Colombia has been on my bucket list for years but I can’t walk so well as you know. Cartagena is where you can catch the ship to Lisbon. It used to be once a month but I’m not sure these days.

    Like

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