Medellin was the last stop of our journey, and we were really curious because everyone we’ve met during our trip said that it is the coolest city of Colombia.
It used to be the most dangerous city 25-30 years ago due to the drug and mafia wars, today it the most developing city of Colombia. In several districts you’ll find places of European standards, full of tourist, restaurant, services, expats, digital nomads.
Unfortunately, we only had 2 days left for Medellin, so we left out many things from the visitor’s top 5 list, but we tried to use the time as best as we could. We booked accommodation in the most touristy part of the town (at least we think so), in El Pobládo. It lays on the South-Eastern part of the town, the commercial and industrial centre of the city. Upon leaving the flat we discovered so many interesting places nearby that even if we had breakfast, lunch and dinner at different places every day, it would still take a month to try every place around here. The best café in town (Pergamino) was right across the street from us. We quickly realized that this is a meeting point for the foreigners in the city, all we heard was English chitter around us.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start with the technical information.
There are two airports in the city, the one coded EOH is only for regional flights, and the Jose Maria Cordova Medellin Airport (MED) is the one welcoming international flights. Currently the only direct flights to/from Europe go between Medellin and Madrid, operated by Avianca or Iberia. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the city from the airport, you can choose from several options:
- airport bus, 9500 COP
- taxi, 70 000 COP
- private chauffeur and minibus, 80 000-120 000 COP
- 1 USD = around 3150 COP (in October 2018)
Public transport: there are two metro lines in the city, although they is more similar to a tram or the Hungarian HÉV, as they go over ground. There are also 2 bus lines and many cable cars. Medellin lies in a valley of mountains, it would have been hard to connect parts of the city with anything other than cable cars, so they are part of the public transport system, valid with the same ticket as the metro. You can change from the metro and take a scenic ride up to the hills. One ticket is 2400 COP (about 220 HUF). On our second day we decided to use this opportunity and visited the Santo Domingo district of the town, where we were welcomed by the beautiful panorama. You can take another line from here to Park Arvi, a much-recommended place to visit, but this line was currently closed, and we didn’t have enough time anyway.
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Arriving back to the city we met up with another Hungarian traveller, but I will tell you more about this meeting later on.
We wandered around the centre of Medellin, checked out the shopping street and the Plaza Botero, a square which hosts the bronze statues by the famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero.
Pablo Escobar is bound to come up in any conversation about Medellin. The most famous drug dealer was the richest criminal in the world in the 90s and lived here in Medellin, managing the Medellin drug cartel. There are several movies (Escobar) and series (Narcos) about his story. The series is so popular that there are several organized tours around the city into Communa 13 (the most dangerous part of the town) the tomb of Escobar and his house as well. Many tourists in Colombia come here especially because of him. However, the hype of Escobar was barely noticeable when we arrived in Medellin, the city worked hard on leaving its past behind with every negativity of it, so the name of Medellin wouldn’t equal to drugs and murders. We thought they managed it quite well.
However, we were interested in history, so on our second day we visited the Casa de la Memoria, built to remember the victims of the troubling era. The exhibition was interactive and enlightening; the family members talked about their experiences, you could check the old newspapers, follow the story on an interactive map. There as only one problem though, that most of the exhibition was only in Spanish. The text on the first wall was available in English as well, but nothing else. Therefore, we missed a big part of the remembrance, and could not properly appreciate the museum as intended. But we definitely recommend it for those who speak Spanish!
We found a rooftop bar by mistake on our last evening (to be more precise, we found a tall building with definitely something on the roof, so we checked it out) which we would recommend for a visit to everyone. From the 18th floor of the Charlee hotel, the panorama is breath-taking, like the 360Bar in Budapest. The two cities are not comparable of course, as they have too many differences, but both amazing. We spent two hours gazing at the view with LULO flavoured Mojitos, glad that we discovered the place.
The next day we took a flight from Medellin to home, with layovers in Bogota and Madrid, making it a full 24 hours of travelling.
These 3 weeks seemed to fly by, granting us the opportunity to glance into each region of the country, but we’d probably need 3 months to discover all the beauties of this country. Colombia has a spring-autumn type weather all year round, outstanding natural sites, good coffee and nice and open-minded locals. It felt a bit like Cuba: ahead of a great development with the shadow of the past still noticeable. We would definitely recommend dismissing all prejudices and visiting Colombia. It’s worth it.