10 Things I didn’t know about Medellin

 

OK, without further ado, here it is, in no particular order, my Top Ten “Things I didn’t Know” about Medellin:

>The public restrooms are clean.  Yes, really!!!

>Close the door to a car here like you would in the States, and you almost feel like you should apologize to the poor thing for abuse.  These appliances offer all the protection you’d expect from the screen door at your Grandma’s house and carry about the same weight.  No superfluous safety equipment like side steel beams or air bags in Colombia!  Macho men here absorb impacts with their rib cages and just grunt, I guess.  Then go to the hospital screaming in pain like little girls.  And let’s not forget, the rich aromatic scents of unburned hydrocarbons are always wafting from the tailpipe with unfettered abandon for your sensory pleasure, thanks to the lack of pollution controls.

>I wish US bankers would take a cue from their Colombian counterparts.  Bank counters here are open from 8AM to 7PM M-F…

>The elevator doors are quick to close and very unforgiving.  I found this out when a child riding with his parents stuck his hand in the crack between the door and the frame.  Lots of screaming ensued, with Dad frantically pressing the “open” button, to no avail.  I finally pulled the door open using brute force.  Got lots of “mucho gracias” for that one.  I hope the kid is OK…

>Don’t wear open-toed footwear here if you’re a man.  That is, unless you like lots of the wrong kind of attention…

>The Holiday Inn Express thoughtfully provides you with a basket full of everything you might need during your stay.  Potato chips, chocolate, crackers, condoms…What?  Yep.  A three pack of “Today” rubbers just in case a pleasant emergency comes up (sorry, I had to).  There’s something you won’t find in America!

>Every car entering a parking lot is inspected for explosives by a security guard using a mirror on a pole to look underneath it…and you’re frisked whenever you enter one of the more popular nightclubs.  They even have electric fences at some condominium compounds.  Guess that keeps the stray cat problem to a minimum.

>Everything imported costs more here.  Everything from cars to computers.  There’s a national VAT of 16% plus the locals bang you extra for vino as well.  That’s why I can buy a bottle of Frontera from Chile cheaper in Florida than I can here.   Hopefully this will change now that Colombia has signed a free trade agreement with the USA.  But, underwear is very cheap here…which comes in handy if you just got robbed and were a little “nervous”, shall we say…

>Colombians like to party.  I can tell because the thick and sickly sweet smell of cannabis frequently vies with unburned hydrocarbons for your olfactory attention, and because there are LOTS of bars.  They work hard and play hard.  That’s why they get 17, count ‘em, SEVENTEEN national holidays in addition to any paid vacation.  It’s similar to what I’ve found in most non-Asian countries in the world, except America, where all work and no play makes for diminishing returns for the working class.  But I digress…

>You can learn a lot of Spanish in a bar, but you won’t remember any of it…

>They may call it “the City of Eternal Spring”, but they could also say, “the City of the Eternal Rain” just as easily.  Only one day in the last 5 had consistent sun.  So bring raingear between September-December and March-May.

So to sum up my Medellin impressions?  It’s a big bustling growing city set a mile high up in the cool green Andes away from the sweltering subtropical climate on the coasts.  It’s got great food, excellent tap water, and wonderful people who seem to genuinely like Americans.  It’s easy on the wallet and the women are VERY easy on the eyes.  There’s plenty to see and do here, with lots of cultural venues to please every age group, and the roads and infrastructure are first rate.  There’s a wonderful vibe to the nightlife and a real joie de vivre lacking in many American cities.  What’s not to like?

Well…

It’s in a valley, and the smog hangs there like a shroud.  You can’t count on the sun for almost half the year, the crime rate is still very high, and the citizens in outlying barrios are desperately poor.  There is no real colonial center, there are precious few buildings of historic significance anywhere in the city, and the modern architecture is institutionally bland for the most part.  So seeing the various city attractions is a little frustrating, especially in so much as it isn’t a pedestrian-friendly town.  But no place is perfect, of course, and Medellin is no exception.

When you think of most great cities, you have an image in your mind.  The Statue of Liberty.  The Golden Gate Bridge.  The Eiffel Tower.  The Coliseum.  The Sydney Opera House.  When I picture Medellin, clusters of brick high rises fill my mind.  So I’m not sure what the soul, the heart, the bold visual statement of Medellin should be.  Maybe it’s the Botero sculptures.  Maybe it’s the Metro Cable’ or one of the many parks….or maybe it’s in the smiling faces of the mother and child that shared a seat with me on the way to El Penol.  Of course, it’s the people who make any place special, and these are proud, fun-loving folk with a real zest for life and a love of family and tradition.  I guess that’s the glue that works its magic here, and I certainly wasn’t immune to its spell.  If you’re going to Colombia, your visit won’t be complete if you stay strictly on the coasts.  Go to Medellin.  Drink the coffee.  Smell the flowers.  Go to the parks.  And meet the people!  I promise, you won’t regret it.

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7 Responses to 10 Things I didn’t know about Medellin

  1. John Schmidtbauer says:

    Hi Jon,

    Enjoy reading about your latest escapades. So, when is the casino story coming out? You have mentioned it twice, please cough up the details.

    Happy Trails to You (Roy Rogers)

  2. Jonathan says:

    Hey John, I’ll try tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

  3. So Jonathan: Are you still living in Medellin. I live in Cuenca Ecuador and the cold, total absence of sun the last 3 months and the bureaucracy is pushing me into considering Medellin

    • Jonathan says:

      Wow! Cuenca is another place that some publications are highly touting as “THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD TO LIVE”. I have never been, though I love Ecuador and its gracious, gentle people.

      No I don’t live in Medellin. You should read all of my posts on it, though. It is a nice city, and it is cool like Cuenca. They have decent public transportation and a vibrant night life. It’s also very cheap and the women are beautiful. It’s definitely worth considering, but for me the big downside was the air pollution and I still think the crime is a problem. Also, I love great architecture and neighborj=hoods that have a feel of the Old World to them. Nothing of the sort there.

  4. Someone is misleading people on Cuenca weather. I have been here since June 2013. There has been not one day of total sun. The sun has appeared once for every four or five days and only for a couple of hours – mainly in the PM – and then it is suddenly night. A couple of days a week it also rains – nothing too heavy. Check the forecast for September: more of the same. Go to anywhere gringos hang and all you hear are complaints about the weather. Word is going to come around soon. I know people planning to leave – I am one of them. And it is cold – bone chilling cold at night. No central heating even in high rises like mine. I am on the 12h floor and getting shot through with the cold winds. San Francisco weather is preferable to weather in Cuenca. I loved Vilcabamba and Loja weather.

  5. By the way: it is very polluted in Cuenca as well. It is one of the reasons I am leaving. Once I get off my perch on the 12th floor the presence of smog is patent and permanent. I see more and more people walking around with masks or covering their faces with handkerchiefs. The worse place I have seen so far in South America is Pesto Colombia. Panamericana and other major highways pass through it. Police officers directing traffic and workers at the bus station wear masks. I truly felt sorry for the young people living there. Quito is polluted as well. Not so Vilcabamba or Loja. The internal combustion engine is gradually killing the people here and no one seems up in arms to do anything about it.

    • Jonathan says:

      I hate to tell you, but it rains in Medellin a lot as well. I even mentioned it in my article. However, the rain doesn’t last a long time. But, like Cuenca, you don’t get a lot of full sun either. It isn’t uncommon for fog to cover a lot of the area. Once you get up out of the valley, that disappears, of course, so it’s like San Fran in that respect. But it isn’t cold like you describe.

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