We arrived mid-afternoon in Medellin’s large, two-level, clean and surprisingly calm bus station. At the information booth, we showed the woman the address of Melissa’s apartment and after consulting with another fellow, they had no idea where it was – so much for “information” booth. She said for 100 pesos a minute we could use the public phone to call a home phone, but if we needed to call a cell phone, we’d have to use one of the market booths. Seems you can only call cell phones from other cell phones and you have to know the service provider of the phone you are calling so that they can use their network, otherwise it costs more, or may not even go through. Simple, right? The lady was very kind and called Melissa’s home phone and gave us a paper with the destination of a super market (for the taxi driver) where we met Melissa and Juan.
Melissa and Juan had invited us to stay with them a year ago. Her mother had warned her that if anyone was going to take them up on their invitation, we would – and we did. They and their oh-so-cute! dog Bella, were nice enough to give up their living room to us for the next three days.
The following day, we got a guided tour of Medellin from Juan. The city is a vibrant, modern city not unlike any other major city in the world – museums, historic sites, parks with sculptures, even a metro. The metro is the first and only of its kind in Colombia and it put our Washington DC metro to shame(and you can ride it to any stop for just 60 cents). The cleanliness was amazing – I think if someone had dared us to lick the floor, we just might have – and the lack of push and shove was definitely unique in South America. It also has two lines that are actually cable cars (like you’d see at an amusement park) called the “Metro Cable”. We rode one line up to the district that used to be isolated from the rest of Medellin. As Juan pointed out, since the area had be reunited with the central part of the city, people have been able to make a better life for themselves, feel like they are a part of Medellin, and crime dropped. Seems the cable car was probably one of the smartest things the government ever invested in. The cable car also provides some amazing views over the city.
The next stop was plaza Bolivar, next to which was Cathedral Metropolitana built from over a million bricks supposedly a secret mixture of bull’s blood and specially “manufactured” horse pooh. I’d hate to be the guy mixing the secret recipe. We enjoyed a walk through the market district, a quick beer at Juan’s uncle’s bar, a walk through the very nice and modern convention center, then hopped in a taxi to Juan’s other aunt’s & uncle’s restaurant. After a huge plate (one of which was more than enough to feed a family of four) of rice, two types of sausage, pork, ground beef, egg, plantain, lettuce, tomato, beans, avacado, french fries, and some beer, we thought we would burst. But no rest for the stuffed as we then made our way to the top of Cerro (hill) Nutibara for a look at a replica 19th century Colombian village and some great views over the city.
Thanks to the hospitality of Melissa and Juan, we had a wonderful stay in Medellin. Amazingly, we booked some really cheap online airfares ($40 each way) on Avianca from Medellin to Cartagena, where we will spend 3 or 4 days. Check out some more great pictures in our gallery.