Every city has bad areas, but not every city goes out of their way to make those areas better. Many cities seem to shut out these rough segments of society. The governments magic trick, a distraction, some sleight of hand, and if you look away for long enough, you can pretend the problems have disappeared. Medellin, is not one of these cities. In fact, in 2004, Medellin’s government built a metro cable system for the specific purpose of connecting one of it’s worst areas, Santo Domingo Savio, with the rest of the city. Medellin’s government could have left Santo Domingo Savio in the peripheral, a slum tucked away in the mountains. Instead, the government told the citizens they wanted to connect them to the city, but they needed to work together. If the gangs cut the violence, if they could work together to cut the crime, the government could turn the hour and a half walk to the closest metro, into a 15 minute cable ride.
The metro cable has brought new life to Santo Domingo, it has made getting a job more obtainable, and it has brought the people hope. If you believe that travel is the best education, then consider this Travel 101: See How Your City Functions. The area used to be so dangerous that only military was allowed on the streets after 5pm, and the only entertainment afforded to kids were gangs or drugs. Today they have libraries that offer everything from reading groups to theater groups, and trust me the kids have been reading. When you get off the metro cable you are sure to meet a nice kid, filled with pride, who will tell you the history of his community, and how much it has changed, for a few pesos of course. That’s just Business 101: The Hustle.
The metro cable didn’t just bring Santo Domingo to the city, it brought them tourism, which in turn brings money. To get to Parque Arví, a popular tourist destination, you have to make a line change in Santo Domingo, which gives the people a chance to sell you their wares. I highly recommend going to Parque Arví, if only for the views you get from the cable car. When you get to the top, even if you decide not to take the tour through the nature reserve, you can have lunch at the farmers market. The market offers homemade wines, fresh foods, and local art.
For a great all day excursion take a trip out to Guatapé. Our tour with Maxi Tours, only cost about $22. The tour included breakfast, lunch, a boat ride past some of Pablo Escobar’s properties, a guided walking tour of Gautapé and a ride over to Peñon De Gautapé, where you are on your own to walk to the top.
We stayed in two different areas while in Medellin. We stayed in Laureles, and Poblado. In Laurelels you are surrounded by bars, restaurants, music and dancing. Laureles is a great place for those who love city life.
Poblado is a much quieter area where hotel boutiques are tucked away in neighborhoods, but you are always within walking distance of great nightlife. Parque Lleras is the heart of Poblado, offering great food, live music, and dancing. Poblado has a lot of tourism, expats, and tries to cater to your every need.
We even found a great bar that shows hockey! We hadn’t been able to find hockey anywhere in Colombia, so this was a big deal. We got to watch our team win a few, and lose a few in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, at Patricks Irish Sports Pub. Patricks streams any sport you want to see, their food was good, Peroni’s were only $2, and the staff, and service were phenomenal.
Make sure you go see Botero’s Sculptures!
Bogota, take notice, Medellin is fast becoming Colombia’s premiere city. Trash cans were everywhere making litter scarce, traffic was orderly (we even saw people stop at stop signs, unheard of in Bogota), and public transpiration was modern, fast, and affordable. Whether it is for the inordinate amount of beautiful women, or all the other reasons named above, it is not hard to see why so many expats have chosen Medellin as their new home.