Globe Trotting

My trip to Medellin, Colombia: FIrst Impressions

Medellin, Colombia as a tourist hotspot doesn’t initially resonate well with the general public.  It is all too easy to associate the city with violence, drugs and fear.  And, well, those assumptions aren’t necessarily unfounded. Pablo Escobar did terrorize the region, transforming a once booming cultural hub to a frightened and bloodied battlefield.  And while travel advisories have lifted, the heavy past feels unshakeable to an outside eye.
For my first time visiting South America, I mentally promised myself to let go of preconceived notions and embark on this journey uninhibited.  Albeit my mother’s warning “your kidneys will be harvested after youre sold to the sex trade” was quite difficult to forget… no matter how absurd the notion was.

I was relieved by the cleanliness and order of the airport. Yet a bit surprised to find no one spoke
English.  “Perhaps my college degree in Spanish won’t be a waste after all” I repeated to myself while I mentally panicked over my sub par Spanish vocabulary and rusty conjugation skills.   As we loaded into the cab, headed for the hostel I felt tired, but excited.  Aware, but ready to submerge myself in the unknown.  Bring on the empanadas! Por favor!
The ride was delightful with plush jungle foliage like I have never seen before.  Each new bend in the road gave way to the city stretching miles below in a deep ravine, enclosed by steep snowcapped mountain peaks.  The elevation of Medellin is 5000 feet, but the airport is even higher and the air felt crisp and fresh as we descended towards the city center.  I kept finding myself trying to relate it to somewhere I’ve been before. Oh, this corner reminds me of the roads of Vermont in spring.  Or this ravine with the city below feels like we are driving up Muhullond Drive in Los Angeles.  I tried to disconnect from my associations and just be in the moment, enjoying my first taste of ‘the city of eternal spring’.
We eased into the Poblado area, and my nervous anticipation subsided as we drove through the lush tropical streets lined with al fresco bars and restaurants.  The energy was lively but relaxed, with music floating from one restaurant to the next.  I was romanced by the sounds and sights, and couldn’t wait to drop by bags and start exploring.
Hostel Casa Kiwi is nestled just out of earshot for the nightlife, but only a quick walk.  The hostel is comforting and cozy, with a zen ambiance and decor.  I was refreshed to hear English being spoken amongst backpackers enjoying a Club Colombia beer on the front patio.  Pulling a 20,000 peso note from my pocket (approx 1 USD) I ordered my first beer and joined the group, eager to make my first friends and divulge my Colombia expectations.
As I sipped the sweet but malty beer, I wasted no time in inquiring about the city.  Within minutes, I had more activities than we could squeeze into our short time there.  I mentally jotted down the most appealing: hang gliding, the cable cars, The Real City walking tour with Pablo and checking out a local salsa club.
Another beer for the road, this time Aguila, an unimpressive but refreshing lager, then out the door to explore our surroundings.  From dusk to night, the area had come alive.  We stopped for a burrito in a small store front then headed to an open air bar for a bottle of aguardiente, which tastes dangerously similar to absinthe.  The drinks turned to dancing and I mingled between locals and tourists with ease, the Spanish rolling off my tongue as if I had just sat through a lecture on Pablo Nerudo earlier that day.
It’s only night one, but it’s safe to say that my preconceived notions have dissipated.. Medellin you just may have stolen my corazon.
More to come on Casa Kiwi, Activities, Food and Culture in Medellin 🙂

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