Medellín, Colombia: Jan 10-17, 2019

Our first stop in Colombia was Medellín, a town of 4 million at an elevation of 5000 ft, and near perfect weather (high 80, low 60 F) year round.

Many people still think Medellín is a dangerous place, because in the 1990s it had the highest murder rate in the world. But that has all changed, and in fact the crime stats for Colombia and the USA are pretty similar these days. (The US has 4 cities in the top 50, and Colombia has 2 cities, neither of which we are going to.) That being said, there are definitely neighborhoods to avoid here, just like in any large city.

We stayed in a fantastic AirBNB apartment with an amazing view, with a couple in their 30s. They own a small walking tour company, and I did 2 of their 3 walking tours, both of which were very interesting and highly recommended. One was of the city center, which is quite dense and chaotic, and other was of a poor neighborhood originally built on a trash dump. I really enjoyed discussing politics and philosophy with Pablo, our AirBNB host.

We also did an AirBNB experience to Comuna 13, and Christine of course did a Cooking Class, both of which we recommend. And we did a great day trip tour to Guatape through AirBNB experiences, one of the cutest towns anywhere, and El Peñón de Guatapé.

Our apartment was in the area called “Laureles”, which we definitely recommend over the more common tourist zone called “El Poblado”. El Poblado was far too touristy for our taste.

The metro, opened in 1994, is spotlessly clean and really nice. Rather than being covered with advertising the trains are full of signs pointing out all the great city sponsored social programs, encouraging folks to donate to charities, and generally be good people. Unfortunately I heard the most overplayed song on the planet, Hotel California, while waiting for a train on the platform.

The folks we met in Medellín are very proud of their city, and like to point out the ways they are better than Bogota (such as having a Metro, while Bogota does not). They seem quite optimistic about their future, and feel the past few mayors have taken the city in a good direction, and are hopeful that will continue.

Food in Medellín has been rather disappointing. Most everything is fried, its hard to get a typical meal that includes vegetables other than avocado and corn, and most everything has minimal spices. But food is pretty cheap, and portions are huge, so 2 people can easily share one item, making it easy to get a meal for 2 for under $10. We did find a good pizza restaurant near our place. As always we avoided tourist restaurants, so maybe they are better?

Music overall was also a bit disappointing, especially after Grenada, where music is everywhere. We did see a fantastic Cuban band at Son Havana, but beware that bands don’t start till midnight, and that ordering a rum and coke means a bottle of rum and a couple of cokes. But in general background music in restaurants and shops was pretty awful (smooth jazz versions of 70s pop), or Colombian reggaeton, most of which I found uninspiring.

But despite the disappointments, we really liked Medellín overall, and recommend checking it out. Next on to Bogota.

Full set of Medellín/Guatape photos are here.

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