Four Days On In Medellin
“This is your first trip to Colombia, and you’ve chosen to focus on Medellin? That’ll save you a lot of time. This is the place to be in this country right now…”
So remarked one of the real estate agents we met with last week. Lief and I are still getting our bearings here in this city…and we haven’t seen any other cities in Colombia (yet)…but, so far, I’m inclined to think the guy knew whereof he spoke. Medellin is impressing me much more than I expected.
After four days in town, here are my initial observations:
The Euro-undertones are strong, from the way the women dress to the way people greet you in passing on the street. Wandering around Medellin is more reminiscent of walking around Paris than Panama City (my two most ready points of comparison).
In other words, as Lief remarked as we exited the international airport upon arrival, “Welcome to South America.” The differences between this continent and the one just to the north of us right now are striking.
Medellin is a miniature version of Buenos Aires, Argentina (which is one of my favorite cities in the world), from its annual International Tango Festival to its Botero Museum.
Medellin is more manageable than B.A., and cleaner. Otherwise, the neighborhoods, the parks, the downtown shopping areas, the antique shops, the arts and literary history…these things all remind me of that very European city way down at the bottom of this continent.
Here are other observations after having spent four days in Medellin:
- This city boasts the world’s friendliest and most helpful taxi drivers. We’ve yet to encounter even one who was rude or unpleasant…
- Medellin is also home to the world’s cleanest public toilets (note that you typically pay to use them, from 100 to 600 pesos, about 5 to 30 U.S. cents)…
- This is a green city, with trees, plants, and small gardens everywhere…
- It’s also an architecturally consistent and pleasing city. Most every building is constructed of red brick and topped with red clay roof tiles. The overall effect is delightful, especially when viewed from some height. From the windows of the penthouse apartments we’ve visited, for example, the city appears a sea of red clay tiles and red brick buildings interspersed regularly by swatches of foliage and flowers…
- This city is remarkably clean. In the central neighborhoods, you see no litter anywhere. The Metro (a point of pride for the population of Medellin and a great way to get around parts of the city) is spotless and like new. I’ve looked for but been unable to find even a cigarette butt or piece of gum on the ground in any at any of the stops we’ve visited…
- Lief and I are an anomaly, especially outside the central El Poblado neighborhood, where most of the interest from foreign investors has so far been focused. Yesterday, we wandered into more local neighborhoods and drew stares at every turn…
Which leads to the question you’re probably asking yourself right now:
But isn’t Medellin an unsafe place for a couple of Americans like us to be walking around unchaperoned?
Au contraire. We’ve not felt unsafe anywhere we’ve wandered. Our impression is that this, in fact, is a very safe place to be. The drug wars that waged here ended some 20 years ago, and, today, as far as we can tell, Medellin is at peace.
The looks we’re drawing aren’t confrontational. They’re curious. The good folks of Medellin are staring at us, yes. But, once we look back at them and smile, they smile broadly in return.
And they’ve been going out of their way to offer their assistance. If we pause, in the Metro, on a street corner, in a shop, because we’re uncertain which direction to go next, invariably someone approaches to offer to help us find our way.
What cost Medellin? Details on my initial impressions regarding cost of living in this delightful city that, thanks to its elevated situation, boasts a temperate climate year-round, tomorrow.
Meantime, it’s worth noting that the cost of real estate here can be a screaming bargain.
Again, more tomorrow.