A write up on my time in Medellín; musical, progressive, diverse, inviting, stunnngly beautiful and boisterous city of proud paisas... and why it would likely be Daryl Somers' favourite city.
14.03.2016 - 14.04.2016
Medellín is a truly beautiful, diverse, friendly and fascinating city!
I had a truly amazing time here; made great new friends, danced, explored and learned a great deal about Colombia's broader and complex history here.
Once upon a time Medellín was a nucleus of woes that are now long forgotten, and of which no real signs exit anymore.
Medellin is also known as the city of eternal spring for it's great year-roundweather.
It sprawls across gorgeous canyon like terrain, woth has magnificent views from every point in the city.
Wildly musical; originators and proponents of Reggaeton, stoic flag bearers of Salsa and embracers of modern rock and electronica - Medellín nightlife is full on, varied and comprehensive!
Many taxi drivers and local friends were pretty insistent that Salsa culture in Colombia started in Medellín.... long before Cali...
This may have been symptomatic of the extremely competitive paisa nature, especially when it comes to other cities in Colombia.
Medellin has amazing public spaces and, arguably the best infrastructure in the country; which includes Colombia's only metro system, a solid road system, clean and safe streets, etc.
Colombia is generally a very friendly country, but Medellín's hospitality was a totally standout experience.
It swiftly became my favourite city in Colombia.
Metro and Metrocable
The immensely impressive Metro Cable is just another example of Paisa prowess.
It provides a fast, clean and efficient means of transport to the very difficult to reach, less wealthy areas that are embedded in the giant, steep hills surrounding the city, that were once illegal settlements.
It also adjoins the city's amazingly, clean, fast and efficient Metro system; the only one in Colombia!
This feat is indicative of the inclusive, altruistic nature of the region...
...levelling the playing field by providing very cheap, reliable public transport to all, including those that were once prohibitively isolated.....
Medellín may be second in size to the capital, but they certainly compete strongly for the premiership!
Botanical Gardens and Public Spaces
The public spaces in Medellín are some of the best in the country.
And none more amazing than the Botanical Gardens!
The periphera spaces are equally impressive and seem highly utilised.
I visited with a friend during Sunday afternoon, the area was ALIVE with and families, kids, chanting capoeira groups, buskers, and more!
Events and Socialising
It was really easy to make friends here; even with my broken Spanish.
Especialy through Medellín's very active Couchsurfing community.
I went to picnics, language interchange events, karaoke and games nights, etc.
Taxi drivers were always up for a chat; to practice English,recommend places, ask myriads of questions about Australia... and to totally hype Medellín!!
Wanderings and Walking Tour
The Real Walking Tour in Medellín is an absolute must!!
We traversed the downtown area, where many local friends advised me not to go...
As we walked through bustling markets blasting classic Salsa, and full of smiling, raucous and enterprising vendors, our guide explained the very complicated, at times turbulent and ultimately triumphant history of Medellín; the events, circumstances and personalities.
It was the best insight I got into Colombia's past/present/future.....
It seems many a tourist hears the same warnings from their new local pals from the safer, wealtheir hills of El Poblado... don't go downtown!
Our guide suggested that the motive behind the warnings are actually double edged...
One being safety...
The other side indicates a more subversive motive.....
That the in-your-face hustle and bustle of downtown Medellin doesn't suit aspiring image of mainstream Colombia.
I really hope there isn't merit to that suggestion, because Downtown is the most friendly, jovial and boisterous area I visited in Colombia,
Though, to be fair, it probably isn't the safest at night.... but neither is King St in Melbourne on a Saturday...
All of the major administrative buildings are in this area, plus some really beautiful parks and public spaces.
Parque Botero has some stunning examples of Botero's work, and is always full of interesting activity.
Despite what people say Downtown is an essential visit!
I stayed at Hostel Antiguo - a stunningly beautiful and tranquil place that adjoins a honey factory!
It has the best facilities I've seen in a hostel!!
I definitely recommend staying here, even for a couple of nights... for one or two nights, but take a taxi at night.
You're unlikely to find a gluten free/ vegan/ decaf joint around here, but you will find traditional paisa beauts like gut busting bandeja paisa (Colombia's answer to a full English), and many fried goodies.
You will also find a lot of bakeries and street vendors with fresh fruit.
There are many stalls and shops here selling clothes made by the nearby factories.... pretty awesome bargains to be had in lovely old buildings!
This is the most popular area for tourists; with the highest concentration of hotels, nightclubs, high end restaurants, mega malls, etc.
It is 100% safe; day and night.
El Poblado is a significant distance; geographically, socially and economically from downtown....
...and home the highest echelons of Colombia's apparently rigid social hierarchy..
As I browsed the very impressive Santafé mall I couldn't help feeling my watch and shoes being so obviously and routinely regarded, as if by reflex...
....by every shop assistant and attendant...
I just hope that my travel-chic Nikes and G-Shock didn't ... er shock ;-)
On weekends the huge Zona Rosa; condensed with hundreds of swish restaurants, bars and clubs gets pretty crazy.... a contrast of stunning and elegant Colombian beautification with gringos at their most casual....
...and so the streets and bars interweave designer clad, super preened and manicured enterprising locals.... coexisting in relative harmony with many pale, bearded, shaggy, backpackers dressed / smelling far worse than the folks downtown, who my protective pals here so fervently told me to avoid.
There's probably some irony there.
I heard someone say recently, that folks try so hard to look like they are having a good time in El Poblado, that they actually forget to have one.
This is by far my favourite part of Medellín, and probably Colombia!!
It has many parks, tree lined streets and feels tranquil.
There are also great restaurants and (for me anyway) the best nightlife in town... along la 70!
There are plenty of great hotels, but it doesn't feel overly touristy; and generally caters more to a local crowd (and those who want to get down in a local way)
There are many health cafes and great including the amazing Paradisíca!!
The culture here is open, friendly, easy going and progressive.
I stopped at Kapital Kuts and spoke with the dudes that run the place for a couple of hours (the haircut only took 20 minutes), and got a nice insight into both Paisa and Colombian popular culture in general... and some good tips.
I definitely recommend stopping by for a solid haircut and cup of strong coffee that the lads brew throughout the day!!!
The best in Medellin! La 70 is a long strip of restaurants and places to drink/dance/socialise...
You will only hear latin music along the massive stretch of clubs, and discoteques - Salsa, Vallenato, Merengue and a hint of Bachata
It's really nice to walk along at night.
I visited a lot of Salsa joints in Medellin, across all parts of town... even more than Cali.
I liked dancing in Medellin, as folks are easy going, and really, really dig the music.
Just like Cali, many people bring their own percussion to clubs to add their own rhythmic fire.
In Medellin entire social groups brought Cuban decorated claves, cowbells and maracas.
Here are my top places:
As an aspiring Salsero, I had an awesome time at the subterranean, El Tibiri.
This place is everything a Salsa joint should be - a space for dancing, loud music, posters of Salsa legends, a Cuban flag and just a few tables and chairs... boom!!
It becomes a sweat box very quickly, but that adds to the authentic flavour! Boisterous, authentic, pretension free and awesome.
This joint is definitely the most gringo friendly.
Their biggest night is Tuesday and it felt like every backpacker in town was there when I was... iinterspersed with passionate local salseros!
The band here totally cooked!!!
Quite possibly my favourite Salsa venue on earth!!
The name says it all... this a place for those passionate about Salsa... and only Salsa.... no crossover.... nothing else except pure Saaaalsa.
Armies of folks; young and old danced around with their Cuban-flag-painted-BYO instruments, banging out beats, shaking shuffling...it really does add to the atmosphere.
...and on Saturday nights the 9 piece live band totally cooks!
I visited on town separate Saturdays and it was consistently packed with a rapturous crowd.
Daryl Somers would love Medellin
As a drummer, I loved Medellin for the passion around percussion.
It wasn't just in clubs.... one of favourite cab rides in Colombia was in Meds when I had a drum-off with the driver as he blasted classic tunes.
Daryl Somers would have loved it!
....*don't worry Mum it was only when we stopped at the lights *;-)
Atop a giant hill in the middle of the city, with some of the most awesome views... is historic Pueblito Paisa.
The views are breathtaking, especially at night, and certainly has a romantic air about it.
I'm sure many a proposal has taken place in the serene corners here.
Thanks Medellin, adieu Colombia
Yes, Medellín is a special, and beautiful place, and probably my favourite city in Colombia, which says a great deal.