A few people have expressed shock at our choice in Colombia as a vacation destination, but it has been on my radar for a while now. One reason was because of a man; the other because of its transformation. Read below for how we spent our one week in Medellín, Colombia fka the most violent city in the world and now, according to Urban Land Institute, the most innovative city in the world.
Colombia got on my radar for a few reasons but originally because of a dude. Marquez is my favorite (fiction) author. His writing is so magical that even a logical heart like mine will suspend all reality and get lost in his fantastical stories. So yeah, we’re here because of Gabo.
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”
We spent the first day getting the lay catching up on rest and getting our bearings. The area we stayed in has a very Santa Monica vibe — including the weather which was in true 70s — plus a little street vibe. But then we were bustling around. Here are some of our adventures.
A Tale of Two Houses – El Castillo and La Casa De Las Piedritas
El Castillo (the Castle), which is really just some rich dude’s house.
La Casa De Las Piedritas
Gloria and Santiago share their amazing, hand-built, fairytale, family home full of love with everyone! You just walk up to their house, knock on the door, and they give you a tour of their home (give a donation). We caught Gloria in the middle of cooking soup lol. They accept visitors between 2 and 8pm and are the best hosts ever!!
Santiago is a well-known local artist, and in reality this home is one giant love letter to Gloria — they have been married 43 years. He handmade each brick, did the intricate tile work, and handpicked all the glass (some from former traffic lights). Throughout the house are stone hearts, and there is a book of notes and drawings he has made for Gloria and their two daughters. He had even brought her flowers while we were on our tour. ❤️
Day in the countryside seeing small towns and stopping at fruit stands on the way to Guatape to walk up El Pinol (The Rock). My fave part of the day was visiting a small family coffee farm. You guys, I will never take my Starbucks cup for granted again — it takes about 2-5 years from planting to roasting for a packaged bag of coffee. Lastly, PK’s traditional breakfast of Bandeja Paisa aka the South American weapon of mass destruction. Ick.
What intrigued me the most about Medellin is its transformation from the most dangerous city in the world, and today we visited the part of the city which I most wanted to see: Comuna 13.
This was the most notorious part of this most dangerous city. Gangs controlled the community; no cars could drive in, and there was a 5:30 pm curfew. Five policeman jumped into a policecar to test this…and were gunned down within five blocks.
And then a miracle. The government stepped in seven years ago and did a couple things: negotiated a peace with the gangsters and built an escalator so the people could go up and down the steep incline (see video). This showed the people in this community that someone cared — and they responded.
Today it is a vibrant, optimistic, and livable community. The graffiti along the walls serve as a creative outlet and tells the story of this resilient community.
It was inspiring to see what happens when a government cares about those suffering and intervenes. Imagine.
Best advice: “Don’t offer the papaya. If you offer the papaya, I must take the papaya.” Translation: If you’re not paying attention, it’s your fault if I steal your stuff.
Best Bad News/Good News: “No habla espanol” can make getting around more challenging since most people don’t speak English. But if you’re an introvert, it’s a fast conversation stopper!
Best Ugh-America conversation: When we took our downtown tour with a bunch of Europeans, and the English girl complained to me about how she only got 5 weeks vacation, and I told her how much vacation time most Americans get. The gasp and look of horror she gave me.
Best Scary Moment: Two young women brandishing knives and yelling at each other in San Antonio Square (Papaya Level 4) while their boyfriends held them back.
Photos of favorite vegan restaurant, favorite coffee spot, and the downtown tour – pillars, Boteros, and a strange way to make money.
I cannot recommend visiting Medellín enough! We will definitely go back to Colombia to see Bogotá and Cartagena.