After a short and smooth plane journey consisting of a good sleep and Janus and I convincing Ross to start watching “Narcos”, I arrived in the City of Eternal Spring – Medellín. Once upon a time it was the home of Pablo Escobar, the Medellin Cartel and it held the title of being the most violent city in the world. Hmm. Fortunately, things change. Here I am a generation later and it will be my home in just over a week when i attend Spanish school. For now, I’m here for just a few days.
The city itself is sprawled over a large area that is nestled within the Aburra valley. Thankfully, as a result of its elevation, the temperature is cooler (a freezing 25 degrees at the moment) and more importantly, there are less mosquitos around! By chance, I stumbled across a gem of a hostel called Galeria. Great staff, good location and cheap beer! Would highly recommend.
After a bit of reading and speaking with other travellers, it turned out that one of the most interesting things to do in the city was a FREE city walking tour. To be honest, usually i try to avoid tours, but I’m happy to say that this one was excellent. A woman called Carolina led the way. She was 28 years old and had lived in Medellin for most of her life aside from some studying in Peru and the States. In truth, she was an interesting character who unsurprisingly had buckets of knowledge.
Despite all her historical accuracies, it was her attitude that i enjoyed most. It was genuinely refreshing as she was up front, frank and honest about the history of the city, the effects and consequences that drug money had, the realities of growing up amongst the violence and how the city has turned itself around.
Whilst wondering around during and after the tour, the city’s charm was everywhere. It truly is a fascinating place. Pockets of European architecture are present, but nothing overwhelming that resembles closer places to home. People were queuing in some areas to have letters and post written for them on old school typewriters. Imagine that. A man casually writing up a letter for you whilst casually sitting underneath parts of the roaring city intersection or a stones throw away from the clunking trains on the country’s only functioning Metro system. “Gracias amigo”. Never seen that before.
It gets better. At every street corner you’re met with smiles and offerings of fresh fruit in large cups. Take your pick. You cannot go wrong. Mango, strawberry, guava, grapes, oranges, papaya, the list is endless. All for theextortionate price of 2000 COP (Colombian Pesos) – which in current market rates is equivalent to 50 pence. Makes a packet of £1 strawberries at Tesco seem like a rip off.
However, on this day, lunch was the real treat. Colombia doesn’t have an official national dish, but unofficially it is Bandeja Paisa. It is a traditional dish that originates from the Paisa region which Medellín is the capital of. I consider it to be similar to an English breakfast. If you are vegetarian or on a diet, it’s safe to say this dish is not for you! It consists of white rice, red beans, ground beef, plantain, chorizo, morcilla, chicharron, arepa, avocado and a fried egg.
In a single word; amazing. To those back at home in London, pop down to Brixton food market. There is a fantastic Colombian restaurant called El Rancho Del Lalo that will serve you this. Give it a go. To top things off, I’m told the city has 2 football teams; Medellín and Nacional. Shirts are EVERYWHERE so it’s a formality i’ll be visiting a few games. Just need to pick “my team” and get into the spirit of things.
All in all, it appears as though choosing to live here instead of Bogota was a good decision. More fun awaits for sure…