A Quick Taste of Medellin, Colombia
You might be thinking, after reading the title, that this post is all about eating in Medellin. You’re wrong – I don’t think writing about our foodie adventures at KFC, Domino’s and Subway would make for interesting reading. Despite our unadventurous eating habits in Medellin, we did get to taste a small slice of this infamous city, including some larger than life art, possibly the cheapest cable car ride in the world and a very scenic day trip to Guatape.
Riding the Metrocable
One of the things I love about Medellin is the fact that it’s easy to grasp the full scale of the city. It spreads itself up the hills on either side of the valley – the rough ‘barrios’ overlooking the money making city centre. There’s no better way to view the sprawl of Medellin than taking a trip up one of the metrocable lines. The metrocable isn’t aimed at tourists – it’s an extension of Medellin’s impressive public transport system. This makes it both cheap (essentially free if you’re already using the metro) and a great way to see real Medellin life in action. We took the K line, which took us over some of Medellin’s poorer neighbourhoods and up to Santo Domingo Station. There is also a connecting line that takes you even higher, to Arvi Park, but as it was a Monday it was closed for maintenance. The views from the cable car are great but the windows aren’t that clear. Also, forget about a romantic experience, you’ll be jammed in with a whole lot of commuters. We loved it and it’s definitely something you should experience in Medellin.
You could be forgiven for thinking Fernando Botero, Medellin’s most famous artist, has a bit of a fat fetish. His works depict big boned versions of people and animals; but apparently he’s just really interested in volume (I’m pretty sure Val Kilmer uses that same excuse). Plaza Botero, in the downtown area of Medellin, is home to lots of his famous sculptures, including a massive face, a rotund Roman soldier and a fat cat. It’s a fascinating place to walk around; you’ll see all kinds of people either admiring the art or hustling a few pesos.
Museo de Antioquia
I’m not really an “art guy” (cue a lecture from James Franco about why the fact I like video games and Subway means I love art), but seeing some of Botero’s canvas works was something I really enjoyed. He paints some interesting scenes, including the death of Pablo Escobar and an overweight Jesus, all in his famous “voluminous” style. There are also some works by other artists at Museo de Antioquia, some of which were good and some of which I’m pretty sure I could have done myself.
When deciding where to stay in Medellin, two areas will seem like viable options: Centro or Poblado. Centro is the chaotic centre of Medellin which is safe and interesting during the day but a bit dodgy by night. Poblado is one of Medellin’s more upmarket areas and it’s one of those places that could be anywhere in the world. While Poblado might not be the “real” Medellin, it is a pretty good place to stay. It feels very safe, and it’s nice to stay somewhere that feels like home from time to time (and there are lots of fast food options!)
A day trip to Guatape
The most popular day trip from Medellin is to the surreal, man-made Guatepe Lagoon. The lake isn’t the only unique thing in these parts – the huge rock jutting out of the flat landscape doesn’t match its surroundings at all, which leads some people to think it’s not of this world. We climbed the rock and got an amazing, almost 360 degree view of islands and peninsulas stretching out into the distance. Guatepe town is also apparently worth a visit but after nursing a sick girlfriend up a giant rock we decided to call it a day early.
Medellin in movies
The first time I can remember hearing about Medellin was in the movie Blow, which starred Johnny Depp as a cocaine smuggler in the 70s and 80s. New Zealand’s’ chameleon actor Cliff Curtis played Pablo Escobar, and although Medellin featured very briefly, it seemed like the kind of place I’d never end up visiting. The next I heard of Medellin was on the TV show Entourage; season 4 portrayed the making, and eventual flopping, of Medellin, a film about Pablo Escobar. Medellin also features in Escobar: Paradise Lost, a movie starring that guy from the Hunger Games. His character falls in love with Pablo Escobar’s niece, which obviously leads to trouble.
Further reading: If you’re interested in learning more about Pablo Escobar, check out this page on Wikipedia, it’s a good read.
Adrian Grenier as Vincent Chase as Pablo Escobar
We didn’t get time see everything that Medellin has to offer but we did get a small taste; if you’ve been there (or live there) let me know what I missed!