February 20, 2013

Two Days in Medellin, Colombia

We just got back from a week in Colombia and our first stop was Medellin. If the city name sounds familiar, it might be because the infamous drug warlord, Pablo Escobar, ruled the city for many years. But he's gone now and the city is much better than it was during his time. To set the stage, we both read "News of a Kidnapping" by the well-known author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The book is based on a true story of several kidnappings of journalists in the 80's and 90's by Escobar's gang. It helped to picture what people went through during that time. Thankfully, the drug cartels are not what they were back then and Colombia is much safer now.

One slope of Medellin

The Medellin airport is actually 45 minutes outside of the city in a little mountain town called Rio Negro. To get into the city, you have to take a mini-bus and go over some hills and down into a valley. Apart from being so far away, it was nice to see a more rural part of the country because Medellin is 100% city. The city was warmer and a little more humid than Quito, but much of it was similar.

We decided to stay in the city center without much thought as to why. If I would do it again, we'd stay out in the El Poblado neighborhood, which was more hip and felt a lot safer. But no matter! Being in the downtown meant we were close to the park that housed more than 20 Fernando Botero sculptures and the Museum of Antioquia (the region Medellin is in). If you only have 24 hours in Medellin, these are two great sights to see.

Although it was raining when we got to the sculptures, we didn't let that deter us. The interesting thing about Botero is how he makes his subjects so large. According to him, he makes them that way because he wanted to express people's voluminousness and sensuality. I guess he meant we're all larger than life. ;-)

The museum itself had 3 stories full of Botero sculptures and paintings, as well as other Medellin and Colombian artists. A lot of the painters were from modern times so it was interesting to see their work.
Can you see the gun? This guitar was created to promote peace.
The next day we spent the day roaming around the El Poblado neighborhood I mentioned before. It had little shops, cafes and restaurants. There was even options for vegetarians - something that's not at all common in Ecuador. The area had a beautiful stream running through it with lots of lush gardens around, too. Our mountain-dried skin soaked up the moisture like sponges.

I'll write more about the later part of our trip in another couple blog posts - Medellin was okay, but Cartagena was the highlight of our trip. Just wait until you see the pictures!

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