The other day, my friend Felipe commented that if I liked Bogota, I’d love Medellin. He was right! Medellin is known as the City of Eternal Spring. Upon exiting the airport I could see why. Everything is bright green, with lush vegetation the entire route from the airport, about 30 mins south of the city, to the center of town. It was a stark contrast to Bogota, which truly was a concrete jungle. In Bogota, even the parks have very little greenery, and are comprised mostly of cement squares, monuments, and a few trees. In Medellin, there are trees and flowers everywhere. Whereas Bogota was a bit chilly, the weather in Medellin was absolutely perfect. Now I know why they describe it as Eternal Spring!
Lodging this time around was at a hostel in the El Poblado neighborhood, which is a youthful and trendy neighborhood with a lot of restaurants and bars. El Poblado seems very modern and updated. About 10 blocks south of the hostel is the Poblado station for the Metro, which is incredibly clean and (again) modern. Oddly enough, there weren’t any ticket machines, just one teller per station; you have to wait in line to buy your ticket… every single time! What struck me was how calm and civilized everyone was. No one was pushing or in a hurry, everyone was patient, even during the morning rush hour. For about 80 cents you can ride as far as you want. Yesterday, my friend B and I took the metro to Acevido and took cable cars up to Arvi National Park, an experience that warrants it’s own post!
Then we took the metro back downtown to the Universidad stop, home of Parque Norte and Jardin Botanico. After a quick lunch, we decided to skip the metro, and walk down Calle 52 to the center of the city. It was definitely a view of the “real” Medellin. Our route took us through a bit of Pasaje Junin, which showcased the grittier side of Medellin. There were a few dealers and several scantily clad prostitutes. What everyone says is true – the paisa girls all all about big boobs and big butts, and very tight clothing – and these girls took it to the extreme! I wish I could show you pictures, but I was not about to break out my camera at that particular moment! Plastic surgery is apparently fairly cheap and extremely popular in Colombia. My friend Diana had mentioned previously that it’s common in some areas for girls to get plastic surgeries for their 15th birthday gifts!
Around the corner is Parque de Bolivar, which reminded me a lot of Union Square in NYC, with benches lining the main paths, and tons of people hanging out. To the north of the park is the Catedral Metropolitana, built in neo-Romanesque design, with Spanish stained glass, and housing a German built pipe organ.
While we were in the park, I told B that I was getting a bottle of water at a shop about 20 feet away from where we were standing. When I came back minutes later, I didn’t see him anywhere. I figured he was taking pictures or something, so I walked around the park looking for him, but couldn’t find him anywhere. About 15 minutes later, I realized that we might not find each other again. And then I started wondering if he left me there on purpose! Just that morning he was talking about the importance of getting lost and how great it is to do stuff on your own, and it just wouldn’t have surprised me if he had left me there “for my own good!” I knew I could figure out how to get back to the subway and take it to Poblado, but that would mean missing out on the rest of the sights since I didn’t have a map. I figured I’d walk around the park one last time before leaving. And at the tail end of the lap, I ran into B! Turns out he wasn’t trying to ditch me after all. Anti-climactic!
We continued walking downtown, and passed through a large outdoor market. I have never seen so many people selling athletic shoes and backpacks! Cut fruit was another popular item for sale. We also stopped at the Centro Comercial Palacio Nacional, and the Ermita de la Veracruz, the city’s oldest church. We ended the tour in Parque Berrio before heading back to Poblado.
A very full day! Later that night we went to dinner and checked out the bars. The central square in Poblado is gorgeous. Palm trees, lots of lights, and outdoor seating everywhere. Reminded me a little of South Beach, Miami. However, it was drizzling which seemed to have put a literal damper on things. The bars seemed a little quiet for a Thursday night. But I learned that American rock and German techno are the music genres of choice in Poblado bars!