Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Medellín, Colombia, Part 2: I Stay in Love with Medellín. Also, Guatapé.

I love Medellín, but I feel like it's maybe going to be the death of me.  Because it is TOO MUCH FUN.

Some quick stats:

Average number of hours slept per night in Medellín: 4.5
Number of times I made the free hostel breakfast: 2/5
Number of roommates home when I got home Saturday at 3:30AM: 0/8
Number of times I saw the words "organic," "artisanal," "natural" in El Poblado: at least 20

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • After a rough night out, Luci and I spent a chill day walking the streets (I did not phrase that correctly), both in El Poblado and some of downtown.

But first, my standard photo with the hostel dog, Ella!  Our hostel had a dog and a cat, and they both ran around the hostel wearing jaunty bowties, and they were the CUTEST.  And not to depress you, but after I'd left Medellín, Luci stayed another week and told me the cat got run over by a car and died.  I cannot tell you how weirdly sad I was about the hostel cat dying.

You know what helps with the day-after hangover?  Overpriced, organic, artisanal green juices in mason jars. Because of course they have these in Medellín. Also, I may have loved the mason jar so much (it has a dog on it drinking fruit!!) that I am now hauling it around in my backpack.  No, I don't have space to buy souvenirs or anything but I def have room to HAUL AROUND A GIANT EMPTY HEAVY GLASS MASON JAR.  

You know what also helps? Ice cream. Ice cream everywhere.

We then wandered on downtown to one of the main plazas, called Botero Plaza - because it has dozens of Botero statues all around. You know, Botero. The artist that makes everything super-fat.

Like this. Fat lady.

Fat dog. Tiny tongue.

Fat horse.

Fat solider. With a view of a fancy cultural center in the background.
Local lore says that if you take a photo with this warrior (named San Antonio), you will find a boyfriend/girlfriend (whatever your sweet little heart desires) in Medellín. Oh, and you have to rub the soldier's package too. Yes, that package.

The ultra-pretty cultural center. Apparently when the artist designed this center, the locals hated it and made fun of the artist all the time, and the artist got angry and left it unfinished. So the locals had to finish it - so they just made the other side white. Seriously, this side looks like this, and the other side is just a blank giant white wall.

My favorite thing about Botero, besides the fact that everything's fat (everything is cuter when it's fat! Botero is a genius!), is that the proportions are all crazy. Like the tiny head of this super-fat horse, compared to its GIANT tail.

That evening, we had a giant group dinner in Medellín, as friends met on previous legs of the trip had all started arriving! L to R: Fede (Argentina), Sarah (US), Becca (US), Luci (Italy), Maria (Germany), Sarah (Germany), Vendela (Sweden; she was on our Galapagos cruise!), annnnnd I cannot remember the other guy's name but he's from Argentina! NAMES ARE HARD.
  • Took a day tour from Medellín to the nearby town of Guatapé - it's a couple hours away, and it's one of the most popular day trips (though you can stay overnight, or even a couple days in the tiny little town as well!)

They made us stop in a lot of little towns on the way to Guatape, one of which is this one. I've forgotten all their names. This one had good juices and fruits?

This is a church in a city called El Peñol

  • And then we reached the crowning hallmark of a trip to Guatapé - the rock (called El Peñon de Guatapé, or La Piedra)!  It's supposedly 45 MILLION YEARS OLD, and you can climb the 740 steps up the side to get to a stunning viewpoint at the top, which overlooks all of Guatapé and its surroundings.

Giant rock! Tons of stairs!

The 740 steps to the top weren't all that bad, and they resulted in THIS VIEW at the top <3

The tons of lake isn't actually natural - it's man-made as they had to flood the valley to provide hydroelectric power, or something like that

Becca (US), me, and Luci (Italy) at the top

These are some of the friends we met on our tour, who we went out to dinner with later that night

Then we took a one-hour boat cruise around surrounding Guatapé Lake - here is the rock from our boat!  I miss being on a boat.

Who knew Colombia could look like this??

The tiny, adorable town of Guatapé from the boat

Our tour ended with a brief walking tour and history of the town of Guatapé itself, which by the way, is maybe the cutest little town ever. Look at how cute and tiny the streets/houses are!

The village is famous for its zocalos, or the reliefs that are painted on the side of the houses. In the past, only rich families could afford to have these, but now every house in Guatapé does (partly due to tourism and to improve the aesthetics of the town).  Some are just for decoration, while other ones show the profession of the owner.

Pretty zocalos

Here's a zocalo depicting a profession! I LOVE (did they mean to make the shoes look like Tims??). My house would have a relief of me wearing a backpack, with piles of money flying out in every which direction (not indicating that I have piles of money, but rather that piles of money are only outgoing and not incoming).

Ugh, are you seeing how charming and picturesque these streets are


And then here's the church in the main square of Guatapé

And the prettiest home ever on the main square. I want to live in a home with flowerpots all over a fancy balcony.

That evening, we went out for another crazy night in Medellín - because not only had Vendela arrived, but Nadine had finally gotten to town as well!!  Girls from the Galapagos cruise reunited in Medellín <3

What was supposed to be a quiet night morphed into ending up at a guy's rooftop AirBnB (which had its own balcony overlooking the city) at 5 in the morning. SUCH A PERFECT VIEW.

I love you, Medellín!  In fact, I love you so much that I might have missed my flight the next day (kind of on purpose, because of some complex logistics involving my boarding pass, added to the fact that I kind of refused to leave) and spent an extra 2 days here. No worries though, because inter-Colombia flights are only ~$30 - so I just bought another ticket later on.
Unrelated and on a side note, LINDEN IS WEARING THE ALPACA SWEATER I GOT HER IN PERU, and I almost died of the cuteness.

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • Flights are super, super cheap from the US to Colombia - I met so many Americans in this area of the world, all with crazy stories of how cheap their flights were!  So Medellín, I fully plan on being back in you at some point in the future!
  • On that note, Medellín also happens to be a hotspot for expats working remotely or starting start-ups - I also met tons (TONS) of Americans who've relocated to the city to work remotely or start their own companies, because it's hip and cheap and a great lifestyle. It kind of feels like San Fran, where everyone's like "Hi, I'm starting my own business and I live here now and I'm the wave of the future!"  Also, apparently something about tax breaks.
  • Colombian tourism is popping.  Since the end of their super-unsafe-unstable-drug-war era (which has been cleaned up but apparently with some questionable human rights tactics), people have been flocking to the country (and numbers are only growing), as they hear about the beauty of the country, the cheapness, the loveliness of the people, the amazing sites, etc.  In 2000, there were only 50,000 tourists. In 2014, this number was 14 MILLION.
  • There is WiFi in all public squares in Medellín!  
  • In terms of safety, I didn't feel unsafe in Medellín at all (well, especially not ritzy El Poblado) - but you do have to watch your stuff in parts of downtown and other neighborhoods, just like any other big city.  A well-known saying is "No dar papayas," which basically means that you don't go around flaunting your valuables (or your "fruits/papayas"), and you will be fine.

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