Downtown Medellin

Plaza Botero

Plaza Botero

Plaza Botero

Church near Plaza Botero

Plaza Botero

Ugly building in Plaza Botero

Metrocable station

Houses cascading up the hillside

Overlooking Medellin

Shakily built houses on the hillside

Shakily built houses on the hillside

La Sierra de Medellin

La Sierra de Medellin

Church in downtown Medellin

The other side of the hill

Holding a baby dog I found at the restaurant

Grasses growing off the side of the rock

The switchback staircases up to the top of El Penol

Winding roads and interlocking lakes

Lakes to the horizon

View from the backside of El Penol

A motorboat cruises through lake

With the nuns on top of El Penol

A spider admires the view

Lunch time!

El Penol

Horses riding during a parade

Tri-cars riding in the parade

Trucks riding in the parade

Medellin, Colombia

City of Eternal Spring

July 17, 2010

Power and the money, money and the power

Minute after minute, hour after hour

Everybody's running, but half of them ain't looking

- Coolio

Medellin is beautifully set in a lush green valley. That setting and the city’s pleasant and mild climate has led to it being called the city of eternal spring. It also gained considerable infamy during the 1980s and 1990s as the headquarters of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel. During his early years Escobar was widely popular and the city owes much to his patronage; whether or not the money came from illegal drug sales it was put to good use in some cases supporting development of the city.

These days Medellin is home to a burgeoning corporate and cultural center that is starting to rival Bogota. There are upscale shopping centers and vibrant nightlife areas like Parque Lleras. The busy main plaza features numerous Botero sculptures and some old churches. One unique feature of the city is integrated system of cable cars that functions seamlessly with the rest of the public transportation system to transport people across the hilly city landscape. The Teleferico offers riders a unique aerial perspective of the city and the houses that cascade down the hillsides. As many of these areas are poorer and probably not safe for foreigners to walk through it allows you to see how the less fortunate people live, the other end of the spectrum from those high-end shopping malls and entertainment areas. Many of these areas were commonly filled with gun battles and turf wars during the city’s descent into anarchy during the war on drugs.

There is much to see in Medellin but unfortunately I was there for work and my busy schedule did not allow for much sightseeing. However, over the weekend I was able to make a trip to the village of Guatape, about an hour or so from Medellin. The town is famous for the giant rock that dominates a landscape otherwise filled with a series of lakes. A steep set of stairs has been constructed allowing visitors to climb to the top of the rock to enjoy the panoramic views of the beautiful scenery. At the top I met a group of nuns from Ecuador who were visiting Colombia on a sort of mission so at least I wasn’t the only foreign tourist there.

On the way back to Medellin the road was suddenly blocked because a local parade was passing through. It was a minor parade but it seemed like the entire village was in it, whether they were riding in some type of vehicle, on horses, or even walking. I suppose it was just a little bit more local culture before returning to the city. It was an enjoyable day and I only wish that I had more time to spend in Medellin because it seemed to be an interesting place filled with friendly people, lots of things to do, and a place that has a very bright future.