16th to 20th May

Friday 16 May

We arrive at 6h30 in Medellin. The bus, from Expreso Bolivariano, was comfortable and allowed us to sleep well. We arrive just next to the Enrique Olaya Herrera airport, where Carlos Gardel died in a plane crash in 1935. Mick finds his bike punctured by… a lovely golden heart.

low-1130983
low-05207

We cross the city to go to the house. Mick will go with Fabian, a Colombian friend, in the centre at a couchsurfer’s house, while Julien will go to a friend’s parents house more in the suburbs. Even though it’s early, it’s already hot. We eat posta a la Cartagena (rice with potatoes and meat).

low-1130986

In the afternoon, we go for a visit of the city.

low-1130999
low-1140001

The Botero park (Fernando Botero is the famous artist from Medellin who draws/sculpts everyone as obese) presents the sculptures, the Museo de Antioquia, a big collection of his paintings. Would you recognize these famous people? (one of them appears twice)

low-1140013
low-1140014
Low-1140019
Low-1140017
Low-1140018
Low-1140020

If you want a hint, look at the end of this post.

Then we see the local government buildings, and the reconstitution of a typical local village (pueblito paisa). From the hill, we have a panoramic view on the whole valley, where Medellin is spread.

Low-1140034
Low-1140043
low-1140040

As a curiosity, the Via Crucis of church in the pueblito paisa has a 15th station:

Low-1140038

After dinner, we go the three of us (with Fabian) to a salsa bar. We need to pass 4 times in front of the entrance to see it, because it’s just a stairs going down, with no sign. The ambience is very nice there. There is good music to dance, good dancers (very good!), and they are here to dance, not to flirt.

Saturday 17 May

After a short night, we meet to go to the Peñón de Guatapé. It is a huge granitic rock, standing in the middle of the countryside, on which they got the idea of putting a mirador on top, and stairs to access it. The aspect of it is surrealist. The stairs make it look like a wound being sewed back. There are 720 stairs to reach the 200m summit. From the top, there is a breath-taking view on the surroundings: they built a dam in Guatapé between 1972 and 1979, flooding part of the valley (in fact, the village of Peñol was flooded and reconstructed a little higher, you still can see the cross of the former church emerging from the water). As it was very hilly, now, the landscape stays as a lace-like superposition of blue and brown-green tongues.

low-0186
low-05222
low-05230

For lunch, we go to Guatapé, to eat the typical dish of the region: bandeja paisa. It is rice with beans, salad, avocado, banana with many kinds of meat: grilled pork skin, sausage, egg, smashed meat.

low-1140084

The village of Guatapé is absolutely charming. It is called the “pueblo de los zócalos”, the zocalo being the frieze drawn at the bottom of each house. And in fact all the houses are very colourful, with a different icon on the lower part of the walls.

low-05253
low-05288

Back in Medellin, it’s already dark. We go to eat other typical food: arepita rellena de carne, papa rellena.

Sunday 18 May

We will enjoy the day in parks. We start with the botanical garden. In the centre, there is an installation in the shape of bee alveoli (ok why not) with many orchids at the foot. A group came here to practice yoga early in the morning. But afterwards, we can admire the wonders of these flowers. They are huge, colourful, with a beautiful shape, well, the kind of flowers you find in the shops in Europe for a lot of money.

The botanical garden is an ideal place to get out of the stress of the city (even though the city seems pretty calm compared to other buzzing cities of the developing countries). There are groups of scouts, people learning to dance salsa or tango, children from poor neighbourhood in excursion, romantic couples, !

There are several ambiences in the garden, including a pond with ducks, a desert-vegetation area with many cacti, a giant jail with many butterflies inside, a didactic garden with useful plants for condiments and medicinal uses, !

low-1140187
low-1140186
low-1140183
low-1140181
low-1140179
low-1140178
low-1140157
low-1140150
low-1140132

low-1140109
low-1140106
low-1140101

After this enriching stroll, we do what many Medellin people for a Sunday: we go to have lunch in the Arvi park, up in the mountain: the weather is fresher, you escape from the city to relax, ! to go there, we take the metro and then the cable car. It climbs up to the mountain, passing over the poor neighbourhoods of Popular and Santo Domingo. The houses over there are made of brick, with a zinc board for the roof, no decoration. Here, the construction of the cable-car integrated with the metro (i.e. with only paying a ticket for the metro you take both media of transport) has been a welcome relief. Now, the workers from these areas can go to work much faster and cheaper, they are not any more excluded. La Paz in Bolivia has built its cable car between El Alto and the centre of the city with this intention too (and in fact has been inspired by the case of Medellin).

low-1140203

We arrive in the middle of nowhere, in a sea of trees. On the road, many small stalls with handicraft, sweets, fried food, fruits, ! And after a short walk we arrive at the desired restaurants, and eat, typical food again: chorizo, mondongo (a soup with pig stomach), tamales (a dough of corn, with meat, potato, !). Then we go for a walk. The temperatures are ideal. We arrive soon to an idyllic place, with a small river, some tables to have picnic, flat areas to play football. But it is already time to come back.

low-1140209
low-1140227
low-1140243

On the left: a sweet made of the fat of the cow pig, and processed… it tastes like marshmallow. On the right: a Chifa, originally a bus, but now a trendy moving disco at night.

For dinner, another typical dish: patacon! It’s a banana smashed and fried, it looks like a crepe, in thinner. Very good!

low-1140254

Monday 19 May

With the sweetness of Medellin, its weather, its people, its ambience, ! we decided to stay here a little more. Today we rest and visit a little the city: the basilica, and some streets in the centre. There used to be a beach, on the river Santa Elena, with beautiful houses on each side! a little paradise. But they decided to bring down these houses to build higher buildings, and cover the river by the road. So that now, everyone knows the “Avenida La Playa”, but it’s only a strip of tarmac, with ugly cubic buildings on the sides. Only one house, casa Barrientos, has been conserved and transformed into a library for children.

Tuesday 20 May

After a morning at home, working on the website, we go out in the afternoon. The weather is grey, threatening, let’s hope it’ll stay like this. We go to the South-West of the city this time, to Retiro. Medellín being in a valley, we have to climb on the mountains, and up there, the weather is fresher than in Medellín. On the way, we stop at the ranch Fizebad. It used to be a luxurious colonial estate, with its huge land, many buildings, and so on! and now, it is used for events. It is closed to the public, but by pretending that we would like to visit the place for a future wedding, we can enter. In fact, it’s just unreal, like in a typical fairy tale: there are several huge reception rooms, with dance floor, there is a pond for outdoor reception, a little chapel, a small river creating a relaxing ambience, ! and of course orchids everywhere, we are in Colombia!

low-1140267
low-1140271
low-1140270

Retiro is a town some 45 minutes out of Medellín. It is very calm, in the fresh and pure air of the mountains. Many wealthy people of Medellin have chosen to build a house there. The disadvantage is that the weather is colder than in Medellín, and changes very fast. It rains more here than in the city. We try several typical breads: pandebono, pandeyuca and pandequeso.

This time, there is no video.

Hint for the paintings: There is a couple of French royalty, a French painter, a Spanish painter and the most famous Medellinean