Medellin, the "City of Eternal Spring", truly had the most perfect weather..not too hot, not cold, and especially not humid. What a relief after the heat of Cartegena. The city sat along a long valley and spread up onto the slopes of the surrounding green mountains. While there were many highrise apartment buildings in certain neighbourhoods, there were also many tall trees and lots of vegetation, making it a very attractive modern city.
Medellin was famed for being the hometown of one of the most notorious druglords of all time, Pablo Escobar. The political instability and the corruption and crime that came along with the drug trade, made Medellin an extremely dangerous place for decades. Pablo Escobar was a significant player in creating such a violent and fearful society. For a long time, many of us could associate Colombia only with cartels, kidnappings and murder. But today this metropolis has moved far beyond it's violent past and is a city brimming with innovation, and looking toward the future.
We did an interesting graffiti and neighbourhood tour of Communa 13. It was known as the most dangerous neighbourhood in all of Colombia about 15 years ago. At the time, the guerilla group FARC had a stronghold of the area. The communities were created in the 1950's when people from the countryside were driven from their homes and into the cities because of civil war. These displaced people set up shantytowns on the hills, and until recently did not share the same rights or privileges as the city residents. Over the last decade, the community has gone through a major transformation and it is now much safer and more stable. Various innovative and progressive measures have been taken to improve the lives of the people in this neighbourhood. One of these initiatives was the implementation of a series of 6 sets of escalators that significantly improved travel up and down the steep mountains, allowing people easier access to the city. Also, schools and libraries were built in the community. The graffiti art was scattered throughout the neighbourhood and was no less impressive than the stuff we saw in Bogota.
Another impressive infrastructure built in a similar neighbourhood was a cable car system that went from the city up to the top of the mountain. Again, this was to facilitate easier movement of people up and down the steep slopes. The cable car was so long that it took almost 15 minutes to get to the top and increased in elevation of over 1000 metres! The sheer scale of the distance that these homes were away from the city was massive and you wonder how they could ever go back and forth without it being a complete ordeal.
One other notable experience we had was a day trip to the nearby town of Guatape. It was a beautiful town built close to an artificial lake which was dotted with many small islands. All the buildings were decorated with colorful frescoes depicting local customs and artful scenery. Close to Guatape was Piedra Del Penol, a massive chunk of rock jutting straight up into the sky. To get to the top it was almost 700 steps! And we did it! The view from the top was worth it.
Medellin was really enjoyable ....for its vibrancy, for its history, for its great restaurants, and for the perfect climate! What added to the experience was we had a visit from our dear friends Bob and Anita and their daughter Sofie from home. Thanks for coming to hang with us!