Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Medellin

After leaving Santa Rosa, I got a good bus (not shit bus) to Medellin, a city that was considered one of the world’s most dangerous cities less than 10 years ago. However, they are doing a good job at cleaning up the mess Pablo Escobar and the cartels left behind (drugs are Mexico’s problem now) and Medellin is lovely (although still quite dodgy in some areas).

This pretty much expresses my feelings perfectly "I love Medellin".



Since I generally know nothing about anywhere I am going to, I didn’t know how long I would stay. This is becoming the usual on this trip. I ended up staying about 1.5 weeks because I liked it so much. I think part of this was to do with the fantastic amount of vegetarian and vegan food available. Seriously, I ate like a veggie queen while I was there. The hot vegetarian guy at the hostel told me Medellin really tries to be progressive and if veggie food is popular in places like the US or wherever, then they want it. I think having a tarnished history has given Medellin a very strong incentive to innovate. 

I had several conversations with the hot vegetarian about where to eat, including this vegan restaurant (so yum!), this place, which does a raw vegan daily meal (also so yum), and this place, which is vegetarian and comes up with some amazing food creations and has a fantastic shop selling all kinds of veggie goodies. I went to lunch one day after talking to the hot vegetairan and came back and told him where I went. He looked at me weird like he had no recollection of the conversation. Turns out he has a twin. Considering they are in their 20s, they don't do that much to look different. Wearing different coloured Vans is not really good enough. Upside, there's two of them so one of them was usually working in the hostel for you to look at.

Medellin is also the cosmetic surgery capital of Colombia (so I’m told). Apparently you can get a boob job for $3 million COP, which is like $1600 Aussie dollars. Bargain!

Even the mannequins have massive cans.


Although I keep thinking of Colombia's own Shakira, who is sticking up for the small boobed women with her lyrics in Whenever, Wherever: 

"lucky that my breasts are small and humble so you confuse them with mountains".

True.

Anyway, moving on. On my first day I walked around the city centre. There are some bits which look quite dodgy still, but I didn't feel unsafe on any of the streets I walked down.





While walking around, I found this awesome veggie restaurant which sold vegan ice cream. So good.

After lunch, I went to went to the Museo de Antioquia. Outside has loads of statues donated by Botero, a famous artist from Medellin to help improve the city's image.







I like big butts and I cannot lie!








Inside was a bunch of his paintings, which are very, very cool. 




Pablo Escobar's death


Monalisa




The Black Bishop




Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette





Jebus




After Medellin I also went to the Museo Botero in Bogota (flash forward in time since I'm not going to write a day in Bogota up again).

Here are some more that I liked.


More big butts!




The President



The First Lady


Earthquake in Popayan



Skeleton playing guitar



Anyway, Botero is now up there on my list of favourite artists. I also did a free walking tour with some Americans I met at the pub in Salento who were also staying in the hostel.



This was actually really, really good. The guy (Pablo) gave you a lot of history of Colombia and Medellin's role. Basically the city has tried to improve itself through two pillars: architecture and education.


Park of the Lights.







Police get to ride around on segways in this park. Being a cop over here must be so easy, they are everywhere and they always seem to be standing around doing not much and flirting with women. To prove this point, they let us ride their segways.


A cool statue that portrays Colombia's history. As you can see, there is a lot of fighting.






And the artist's ashes are buried here in this box under the statue.



Apparently this area used to be really dangerous, but now they've cleaned out all the crime and drugs and turned this into a pedestrianised area. As a nice twist, this former crack house (or whatever) is now the Centre for Education in Medellin.





Apparently this park is still really dodgy. There are drug dealers in one corner, lady boys in another and homeless people throughout. 





This is the Palacio de la Cultura. It was designed by a Belgian architect Agustin Goovaerts who cracked the shits with the Colombians (since everything takes fucking ages to get done over here) and he never finished it. The Colombians couldn't work out his blueprints so in typical Colombian style they finished it by taking the easy way out and just putting up a normal wall then painting it white.






I also did the Pablo Escobar tour. It was good. I wish Vincent Chase really did make a movie called Medellin. Ah Entourage, what a good show that was. 

Anyway, apparently all the buildings he owned (in Colombia) are pretty much vacant now due to government bureaucracy. And they are all white, Miami style, with palm trees that he shipped in since they are not native to the area.

This is the house he was hiding out in when he was killed (by who is still debated). It was a very modest house. In the last two years or something it was bought and renovated. The upper level is new.




This is the window he fell out of when he got shot.




This was the his drugs HQ. The ground floor is restaurants and the 1st floor is a drug rehabilitation place. The other floors are still vacant.




As part of the tour we drove through Barrio Triste (the sad neighbourhood). You can't take photos here since drug deals are done in the open. But this link has an excellent explanation and amazing photographs depicting the neighbourhood. Apparently 90% of the homeless people (not sure if this is Medellin or Colombia) are addicted to some drug that is worse than crack cocaine. It's whatever the first refinement produces (crack cocaine is the result of the second refinement apparently).  It is very cheap (like 50c a hit), very bad, and highly addictive. 


We also went to Pablo's grave site. The Black Widow is also buried here. She was assassinated by a drive by shooter coming out a butcher's shop in Medellin. Ha, I wonder if it was a vegetarian assassin? Probably not though, since vegetarianism is about not killing. Still, that would be an interesting twist on the story I think.


I also visited the Botanical Gardens. They were ok, but not as good as the ones in Quito. On the plus side, they were offering free yoga and had some hippy market going on. Downside, I didn't know about it until I was there so no yoga for me :(




I like how they are growing herbs in plastic pipes.



And they are recycling tyres for their veggie garden.



The best thing was the butterfly house.







Keeping with the green theme, just outside of Medellin in Parque Arvi. You have to take the metrocable there. Medellin has a metro system (which Bogota is jealous of since it can't get its shit together to build one), including a metrocable line to connect the poor areas to the rest of the city. It's also a bargain tourist attraction since the one metro ticket gets you on the cable cars and you get awesome views of the city. Although you are floating above all the poor areas and looking down upon them. Hmm. 



 


Poor people's roofs seem to be held on with blocks. Let's hope there're no strong winds!




Also, poor people clearly don't have access to internet banking (or maybe any banking?). Here they all are lining up for their social security money. Hmm, wonder how many of them are trying to get jobs? You'd think not having to stand in this line which goes on and on would be a good incentive to try.




This cool building is the Biblioteca Espana. I didn't go there since it was closed.

 


To get to the park you need to transfer to another line (and pay more) to go about 15 minutes further up the mountain and across a park. 





When you get to the park there’s a bunch of walks you can do. However, I didn’t feel the need to do any since I’d already flown over it. Conveniently, this vegetarian restaurant is at the top, so I went and had lunch, then bought some fresh fruit salad from the excellent artisan/ farmers market directly outside the station, and got back on the metrocable.



For some reason they shoved me into a gondola with three teenage boys. Just what everyone wants. There was no line so I don’t know why I couldn’t have gone in the next one on my own since they go constantly. Anyway, the doors closed and this concerned me a bit since there is no security and you’re stuck in a gondola for 15 minutes or so with the other passengers. But I didn't get attacked or robbed and they weren't that annoying so it was fine.

To sum up, Medellin was excellent. Lots of stuff to do, excellent veggie food, good public transport and nice weather all year around. I would definitely like to come back here.

Next up: climbing a big rock in Guatape.





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