On the morning of May 2nd, we woke up on our boat amid the Galapagos islands, in Ecuador. That night we went to sleep in Medellin, Colombia. Getting from one place to the other entailed a Frolic & Detour record-setting four flights: Galapagos to Guayaquil to Quito to Bogota to Medellin. Although most of our movement was through airports, the marathon travel day combined with an active and very warm week in the Galapagos left us ready for a break. Fortunately, Medellin delivered.
To some, the mention of Medellin conjures images of Pablo Escobar and the Colombian drug wars that wreaked havoc on the city throughout much of the 80’s and 90’s. The associated violence made Medellin the world’s most dangerous city for some time– but the city has been on the upswing since the early 2000s. While there are still problems in Colombia, Medellin has turned into a nice place to visit, and we felt perfectly safe there. We opted out of the various “Pablo Escobar tours,” taking visitors to infamous sites, for all the obvious reasons.
Our hotel, In House, was amazing– great wifi, friendly staff, arepas at breakfast and located in an almost-too-cute neighborhood, El Poblado. Of paramount importance, we quickly found the wonderful Pergamino Cafe, a few blocks away from our hotel (one of the best cafes on our trip). Along with great coffee, our neighborhood was packed with boutique shops, restaurants and bars. This all added up to a perfect place to relax for a few days.
We quickly found that our neighborhood was the place to be at night. The square near our hotel was crowded with people eating, drinking and talking the night away. The square was surrounded by restaurants, bars and cafes which were all packed until the early hours.
Eventually we made it beyond our neighborhood to explore the rest of the city. We hopped the very nice metro and took it to the center of town. The city’s center was alive with activity– street vendors and performers, tour groups, people just hanging around, etc.
We started with the Plaza Botero, then found our way to the Museo de Antioquia. The museum housed a great collection of paintings and sculptures by Fernando Botero, a beloved Colombian artist (to round out our viewing experience after the plaza) and also had a wide variety of other modern art. So much modern art I see seems like nonsense… I might be alone in this.
A word about Fernando Botero (of Botero Plaza and featured in much of the Museo de Antioquia) because I knew nothing about him before arriving in Colombia. His signature style is called “Boterismo.” It depicts images in a large, voluminous manner. My first exposure was in Botero Plaza (picture below). At first I was skeptical but after more exposure at the museum (and yet more exposure in Bogota museums), I really started to enjoy his paintings, sketches and sculptures. They’re weird, don’t get me wrong, but also intriguing. It’s a must-see on a Medellin visit.
After the museum, we took the metro to Medellin’s funicular/gondola. The gondola serves as both a practical means of public transportation across a congested city, and a way for tourists to get a great view of the city and surrounding valley. The very last section–leading to the tourist viewing area–was, unfortunately, closed for maintenance, but we enjoyed the ride anyway.
After a few days in Medellin, it was time to see the countryside and drink more coffee, so we grabbed a bus and headed further inland.