Before I came to Medellin, I wrote that my expectations are high because it was supposed to be so innovative. And I got to say: My high hopes haven’t been disappointed.
From Salento, we took a bus via Pereira and I got to say it was the most comfortable bus I ever sat in. Double-decker with seats that could lean back, I had way more space than in most planes! We checked in at the Black Sheep Hostel Medellin which I also liked very much. Location is good, staff is lovely and helps you navigate through the city. They also recommended us to spend our first day with a Walking Tour organized by Real City Tour Medellin. We had a fabulous local guide named Monsa who grew up in Medellin, worked afterwards in the US for some years and now came back and works as guide for tourists.
She has the gift to tell you a city’s / a country’s history with a lot of passion, so it’s easy to follow her. It’s noticeable that, while talking over the speaker she was wearing, she never mentioned the name Pablo Escobar, but called him PE or “Voldemort” ( 😁 ). She explained that this topic is very sensitive among the Colombians and because most of the people don’t understand what she is telling the tourists in English, but will only understand the name Pablo Escobar, the locals could be pissed off because they want Colombia to be seen for all the other beautiful things than her terrible drug history. It also fits totally in my personal experience: When my girlfriend told me that she wants to travel to Colombia, I was absolutely shocked because at that time, I was watching “Narcos” on Netflix. Although you might understand that this is only a TV show and telling stories from the past, it creates the stereotype in your head that Colombia is a cocaine-country. But what I am learning in this trip is really that Colombia has SO MUCH to offer which we should talk about a lot more than the Netflix-Point of View.
My experience when visiting Medellin was mainly influenced by the spirit this city now has. They have a new, shiny Metro-system with absolutely clean trains. When asking our guide what’s the reason, she said: The Medellin citizens are very proud of their Metro-system and therefore treat it with care. They see this infrastructure as an investment in a better future. To understand this better, you have to see the cable cars (“telefericos) to the suburbs (“Comunas”) of Medellin. While they in the past needed to walk down a steep hill to go the city center, they now just enter the cable car and are down in 15 minutes. Because of that, they feel more connected to the Medellin as such, it got a lot easier for them to get things done in the city or even just do some shopping.
In the famous Comuna 13, a previously pretty dangerous place to be, the city even installed outdoor escalators. They have a similar effect as the cable cars: They connect the Comuna with the city center. Local citizens get better access to the city’s facilities and don’t need to carry their grocery shopping a 1-hour walk up the hill.
All of this – and also the fact that the city additionally invested in communities for art and culture – is better described in a Podcast called “post-narco urbanism”, check it out here on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5OE0Cvlh5GS2hycde6E65N?si=ejgaqFs-Q52IYYcSsESAyA
Right now, I am sitting in Santa Marta with wet bathing shorts. Weather is awesome, pools is nice, Happy Hour is coming soon ! 🙂
BTW: When we as gringos (tourists) are walking on the streets, people are saying things to us like “Welcome to Colombia”, tour guides ask us to share our good experiences with our friends and family because they want to change Colombia’s stigma. Can we all help with that?