Medellín was named the most dangerous city in the world (even more so than Beirut) in the 1990's due to the Colombian armed conflict and the rule of the drug lord's. The city maintained its dangerous reputation into the 21st century. But in less than ten years, it has experienced an impressive and radical transformation. In 2013 it was named the world's most innovative city.
The US still warns US tourists about visiting Colombia, but for us, the country's marketing slogan rings true: "the only risk is wanting to stay."
So Little To Do, So Much To See
The number one thing to do on trip advisor for the city of Medellín is the Real City Walking Tour. Now when we saw this, we thought to ourselves "either this city doesn't have much to do or this walking tour is going to be pretty epic."
Both ended up being true. The city doesn't have much by way of touristy things to do, unless a ride on their immaculately clean metro counts as an attraction. After a trip up one of the surrounding mountain sides on the cable car (which is actually part of the regular public transportation circuit...take note San Francisco) and the 4-hour walking tour, we had nothing left to see in the city except for walking around, eating paisa food, and people watching...oh and dancing...lot's of dancing.
But this is not a complaint. After roughly a year on the road, we are quite tired of tourist attractions and site-seeing, so Medellín was a welcomed reprieve.
Observations On The People of Colombia:
1. They win the award for the friendliest people in South America. They will always talk with you and offer to help you, no matter what they happen to be doing at the moment. One evening as Tom and I were lost and looking for a particular restaurant, a Colombian woman, stopped with her arms full of groceries and offered to help us. When she didn't know where the restaurant was located, she led us to her house about 3 blocks away and had her daughter come down to help us.
2. They are the most curious bunch of people we have met. Maybe its because tourism is quite new to their city. Foreign tourists only began returning to Medellin in the last decade. Prior to that, their dangerous reputation kept the Colombians isolated from tourists. Throughout our entire walking tour, Colombian locals kept popping their heads into our circle to ask questions, find out where we are from, and listen to our tour guide (even if they didn't speak English).
3. Dancing is in their blood. One night we went to an outdoor concert (Colombians love to congregate outdoors). Everyone was dancing and compared to me, they pretty much all looked like they could shake their hips like Shikira. The rain came pouring down, but that didn't stop the fun. We all continued dancing in the rain. When I asked my friend from Medellin, how she (and all other Colombians) know how to dance so well, she said "está en mi sangre" ("it is in my blood.")
Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Medellín. It was nothing short of inspiring. The city and its surrounding region of Paisa, has an amazing history of innovation, industry, crime, and renewal.
The people are a happy and proud bunch. They built an impressive metro system during the most tumultuous time in their history. LA still can't seem to get their act together in this regard.
Our tour guide described the metro as a branch above their heads when they were drowning. As the water neared their ears, they could reach up, grab on, and pull themselves up to rise above the situation. As a result, they treat the metro with extreme respect. There is not one piece of trash or one scribble of graffiti in the entire system.
It seems as though it is sometimes easier to accomplish more when you have less. "More" can breed comfort and complacency. But if you have less, then you have more to gain and less to loose. At least, I'm hoping this is the case when Tom and I return from this trip with much "less" money then we left, but much "more" motivation to make the changes we want to make in our lives going forward.
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!