Medellin Love

Mark Stewart Cities 2 Comments

I’ve fallen in love with cities in the past, but never this quickly. Bangkok took a bit of time, upon our second visit we finally dove into what she had to offer. Montreal happened much faster. With Seoul, the depth of love wasn’t realized until we’d left. Edmonton of course, our hometown, goes without saying. However, within the first day of arriving in Medellin, with it’s cool air and laid-back vibe, It’s clear. I’m in love with this city.

Following another night bus without sleep, we arrived. We learned quickly how to move in this city. Boarding the rush-hour-packed metro, the doors close on me. Unlike similar transit we’re used to, the doors aren’t easily forced open. I could feel the motor struggling to seal the train car.

Thankfully, me – and my backpack – made it on board with the help of about eight strangers. Half of them gripping the doors while the rest pulled me inside. Judging by their immediate calmness afterwards, they’ve seen this before. While my arms and ego received a few scrapes and bruises, my camera gear and laptop went unscathed.

First Impressions

Sculpture of a heart, constructed of recycled garbage.

A Heart of Recycled Trash

A good friend had recently visited Medellin and gave it nothing but high praise. We’d read little bits here and there, hovering around the internet. Aside from that, we knew very little about the city or even Colombia at all. Given it’s tumultuous recent history, we hadn’t given much thought in the past about visiting.

The only real glimpse into Colombia for most foreigners – us included – is from Narcos and the infamy of Pablo Escobar. We were wrong of course. Although a fair portion of the tourism here is for those reasons, to most locals, he’s long forgotten. A small player from an unfortunate period. A drop in the bucket.

As the modern train moved high above the streets, we viewed our new home for the first time. Shopping centres, high-rises, hip fashion, beautiful green parks, and craft beer shops. Of course, many years have passed since gunfire and car bombs ruled the city. No longer the shit-hole depicted on Netflix, Medellín’s days as the most dangerous city in the world are over.

Our Medellin Apartment

We breath the fresh, clean air as we hop of the train in the laid-back neighbourhood of Laureles. With a few hours to kill before checking into our new apartment, we sit down at a little cafe. The young woman behind the counter takes our order. Two much-needed coffees and a fantastic ham-tomato-cheese bagel arrive shortly.

After catching up on some e-mails, we walk a few short blocks to our new pad for the month. The doorman(!) greets us and we collect the keys. Our jaws hit the floor as we open the door. The first thing we see is the kitchen. Next is the stunning view from our seventh floor balcony. The beautiful hillsides surrounding this great city leave us in awe. Turning, we see the first of three couches and living room as we walk to the bedroom. Again more stunning views from the massive window above the bed. This apartment is nicer than our old homes back in Canada!

Too tired to properly function but wired on caffeine and adrenaline, we head out for a walk.

Graffiti representing peace, following decades of violence in the city.

Street Art Representing Peace in Comuna 13

Home in Laureles

We follow the tree-lined creek – ok, storm drain – that cuts through Laureles. A few blocks down we find a great little market full of fresh meat and a wild selection of produce. A little further and we pick up the necessities from a chain-supermarket and make our way home. The whole way passing friendly residents who never hesitate a smile and buenas.

Oddly enough, going back to the Escobar theme. For the first few days on our daily grocery run, we passed the spot of his eventual demise. His final safe-house (how ironic) and place of death is only three short blocks from our front door.

Following some celebratory travel-day drinks and an early supper, we went for a short walk. Given the city is situated deep in a valley, it’s dark early. “Don’t walk around at night”, they say. While I’m sure this applies to some areas, our neighbourhood couldn’t feel any safer. With it’s mix of older homes and new apartments, old trees and fresh air, it’s not only comfortable but oddly familiar. Yesterday a teenager passed me on a downhill mountain bike, wearing full gear, a cloud of weed smoke in his wake. This place is more like neighborhood in Vancouver than the Latin America we’ve grown custom to.

The city of eternal spring as it’s known, Medellin’s climate is it’s biggest draw for the majority of expats. For us, it’s simply a bonus. The city is full of friendly people, delicious street food, and all of the conveniences one might want to feel comfortable. With just enough edge to remind us that we’re so very far from home, this is somewhere we felt we could eventually settle for some time.

Two weeks in, that feeling continues to deepen.

I love Medellin.

Rooftops of Medellin as viewed from our bedroom window

The View from our Bedroom Window

 

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Jen McLeod
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What a gorgeous city. You guys make me want to visit everywhere