Medellin, Colombia, Part 2: Put this City on Your List

I’ve only been in Colombia for about 4 or 5 days now but I’ve heard the same thing from each traveler we’ve run in to…they all LOVE Medellin.  Originally they allotted two days and stayed one week…or one month…most never want to leave.I get it.  It is an absolutely enchanting city (and it is hard for me to use a syrupy-sweet word like “enchanting”).  But there is really no other way to describe it.  Colombia so far has surprised me in every way.  The weather?  Perfect…at least here at 5000 feet (I will experience the heat in much lower Cali soon).  Medellin, my new love, is not called the “city of eternal spring” for nothing.  80s during the day, 60s at night, sunny with maybe some late afternoon clouds.

The people are incredibly friendly, notably good looking and outdoorsy (probably the reason most of our hostel was populated by young, single male travelers).  When we headed out of the city on Sunday morning, the streets were lined with joggers, people biking, cub scouts hiking and kids flying kites.  Enjoying the amazing weather.  You can see the wreckage in telephone wires all over town.

There are great restaurants (we had some EXCELLENT Indian food at a place called Naan in the Santa Rosa area), super cute boutiques…I can’t say enough good things.

But enough gushing…here are the rest of my pictures from Medellin.  (My “Part One” is here:  Medellin:  Pablo Who?)

The city has an amazing, brand new transit system that is a combination of buses (I avoided those except for my tour), a multi-pronged above ground metro system and cable cars.  Yes, CABLE CARS.  Look how excited Danni and Cesar are to get into their car.

And you can travel through the whole thing…subway to cable car to bus, from the valley to the top of the surrounding mountains, for only $1,800 COP or $1 USD.

Quick note:  You might want to learn your 18 times tables before you arrive in Colombia.  And then get used to the “sticker shock”.  The bill below, so richly stamped “50 MIL Pesos”, is really just about $25 USD and maddeningly impossible to cash in most places.

The longest one, Line J,  at 2.7 km and 3 stops transports people in the less prosperous neighborhoods to and from work, a 20 minute ride that used to take hours of zig zagging up and down the mountains. It’s a great overview of the city and a way to see some of the less than upper class housing on the sides of the hills.

There are very cool public spots all around the city like this “Park of Wishes” that holds the planetarium, an outside projector that shows a movie each night and a play area for kids.

The screen on the planetarium and the seating area….

The view from all around the city is just beautiful.

Let me talk about what I ate in Medellin (aside from the very good Indian mentioned above) and where I stayed.  The food might be the only thing that I don’t want to rave about…it is good…but not my favorite.   For me, it falls into two categories.  The first, which I love,  is tons and tons of fresh and exotic fruits and lots of juices.

There are fruit vendors everywhere, on every corner….

and the juice guys wheeling around these aquariums filled with fresh squeezed juices and ice.  Here is sour sop (or guanaba as they call it in Colombia – and most everywhere that is not Belize) and mandarin.  Mandarin is a favorite fruit and flavor here…and rightfully so.  It’s delicious.

It’s even used in the Colombian michelada.  Beer, lime and mandarin juices and a rim of salt.

I embrace that wholeheartedly.  Love fruit…love fruit and beer..  Excellent.

The second (and more sinister) food group is the fried buttery pastry and the buttery fried cheese category (let’s lump it all into one because they tend to be served together like these fried cheese balls that are sold everywhere on the street ).  Fried plus cheese usually makes for a delicious food product.  But in this case, it is all so overwhelming.  The smell (a bit icky margarine, a bit over cooked movie theater popcorn and a bit super cheap vanilla scented candle) wafts over you from the bakeries that are everywhere.

Apparently, cheese and hot chocolate is a popular breakfast dish in Colombia…adding in yet another element to this cheesy madness.  Ick.

But let’s not dwell on the negative.  Lots seemed to enjoy these products.

And quickly, before I sign off, we stayed at a place called Casa Kiwi in a really good part of town.  In fact, the very best part of town.

They have a huge kitchen for common use, a great bar/common area (that tends to get loud at night so if you want a quiet room, secure one on the higher floors), good Wi-Fi and about 5 computers for general use, a very friendly staff and basic clean rooms (with shared or private bathroom).  The location makes it worth it.

One note:  the  DJ and the people staying there (a bit of a young party crowd) keep the place hopping until way late at night.  For a decent sleep, get there early and pick a room on the higher floors.

We spent 2 nights in Medellin and then headed off south to the coffee region of Colombia to spend some time on a finca (or coffee farm) and find out how the good stuff (Juan Valdez’s coffee) is really made.  We found a great place just outside of the town of Manizales.

I’ll report back…though my hands are already a bit jittery from so many cups of great cappucino.

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