Medellin Colombia has tango? Yes. In fact there’s a history of tango in Medellin. Unfortunately the complexity of this beautiful dance has been lost on the younger generation, but there are still a few triumphant dancers that keep this art-form alive. Gracias a dios (thanks to god.)
Finding vegetarian options in a Medellin Restaurant can be challenging. The cuisine of Colombia is meat centric, and Colombians are not in the habit of even eating salads, never mind an entire meal without their favourite cut of meat.Read More »
Guatape, Colombia is a little lakeside town with a gigantic rock looking over the landscape: El Peñol. It’s a great place for a short side-trip from Medellin.
Admiring the view from the top of El Peñol.
While in Guatape my friend and I stayed at El Encuentro. It was my second time staying there. It’s such a beautiful and relaxing place to stay that it’s worth the trip just to stay in the hostel. It’s a great base for exploring the region, or just to relax. The private rooms have amazing lake views, and only cost 55,000COP/night ($30.)
The view of El Peñol from our balcony.
The most common excursion in the area is to climb El Peñol. Don’t worry, they’ve installed stairs, so it’s a relatively easy 650 stairs to the top. I mean the other option is to climb the rock, and that would be much more challenging. For info on climbing El Peñol see the staff at El Encuentro. For those less intrepid, you can catch a jeep to the gas station at the turn off to El Peñol for 1,500COP. This is the most economical option. The jeeps leave frequently from the town square.
The Colombian military on the road.
After we had finished climbing El Peñol we were on the road walking back to town when were were passed by four uniformed and armed Colombian military personal. The military in Colombia is ever present, and they have done an outstanding job in the recent years to clean up the country. Just 10 years ago this region was too dangerous to visit because of a large FARC influence in the area. The FARC have now retreated, and are situated about two hours past Guatape. These young men have a hard job in Colombia, and I have a lot of respect for the work they do to keep Colombia safe.
A vendor with way too much character not to photograph.
The town itself is also a great little place to hang out, enjoy some typical Colombian food, indulge in a dessert, and watch the world go by. While doing just this the man above approached us selling ochuvos, one of many of the fantastic fruits in Colombia. The town has many old men with a tonne of character. It made me understand better the appeal of portrait photography.
A typical Guatapean street.
How to Get to Guatape:
Go to the North Bus Terminal in Medellin, and find the stand for “Guatape.” Buses leave approximately every hour from 7am-7pm and cost around 8000COP depending on the company you choose.
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The metro in Medellin Colombia is truly a remarkable accomplishment for the city. It’s a crown jewel, in an already beautiful city. A functioning, clean, and efficient metro is the sign of a modernity around the world. Much of South America, however, lacks the convenience of any metro system, never-mind one that resembles the metro in Medellin.
The Medellin Metro map.
The metro in Medellin has two trains, and two gondolas (or metrocables) that compile a total of four distinct lines. The fare is 1,800COP ($1) and that fare entitles you to go anywhere on the metro line. It is also possible to get a frequent rider card that you can recharge. This makes each trip much quicker, and saves you a few hundred pesos per a direction.
The train arriving at Station Estadio.
The stations are all open air, because well, the weather in Medellin is perfect year round. It also allows for the fantastic views of the surrounding mountains that are available from pretty much anywhere in the city. For an even better view of the surrounding mountains you should take the chance to transfer to one of the two metrocables. Don’t worry, it’s all included in your fare!
Medellin’s Metrocable overlooking the city.
One of the most popular tourist journeys while in Medellin is to take the Metrocable ride to see the city from above. It allows for amazing views of the whole valley, and doesn’t cost anything more than your one way Metro ticket. Medellin won international awards for it’s transit system. The Metrocable connected some of Medellin’s poorest barrios with the rest of the city. This cut some of the poor people’s commute down from over two hours one way, to under 30 minutes. Function, beauty, and a tourist attraction all packed into one piece of civic pride.
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To go paragliding in Medellin is an amazing experience. From above you have a chance to see the City of Eternal Spring from a whole new point of view. Since I don’t have a death wish, I decided to hire a professional to take me on this journey. I think it was a wise choice.
A student preparing to practice his take off.
Paragliding in Medellin began with arriving at our take off point high above Bello, a northern suburb. It wasn’t quite hot enough when we arrived, so we waited a little while, and watched some of the paragliding students work on their take off skills.
This is how you practice without dying – you stay on the ground.
We finally got all hooked up and ready to take off, literally. When taking off you run as fast as you can until you are no longer running, you are flying. If this sounds a little awkward when you’re hooked up to another person only cms behind you, that’s because it is awkward. However, until I learn how to paraglide on my own, I guess I’ll have to deal with this inconvenience.
Our take off location high above Medellin.
While in the air we could see the entire valley in which Medellin is situated. We were also afforded amazing views of the waterfalls and fincas that are in the mountains surrounding the city. The views were amazing, and I hope the pictures and video demonstrate this better than my words ever could.
One criticism of the trip was that it was far from comfortable. The seat that attached me to my guide was a new seat, and I don’t know if it had been tested before. It was terribly awkward, and made for an uncomfortable trip. I enjoyed my experience, but it would have been much better with a well fitted seat.
How to Experience Paragliding in Medellin
I went with the people at www.parapentemedellin.com/index.html. I took the 30 minute option for 100,000COP ($60) instead of the 20 minute option for 80,000COP ($50). The transportation is NOT included in this price, and will cost 80,000COP for the day. If you find others to join you, this cost can be split. Another option is to catch the bus there. It’s not direct, but you can find a bus to San Cristobal from Calle San Juan, then another bus up to San Felix. Then at the bottom you are not far from the Metro. They also offer courses to learn how to paraglide for yourself. They cost about 1,500,000COP ($825), and go for about six weeks, weather and student dependent.
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The Medellin Airport in Rio Negro is quite far from Medellin. It takes approximately 45 minutes to arrive in Centro from the airport in a car, and more by bus. The most economical way to get to and from downtown Medellin is by taking an airport bus. Without knowing how to get there, however, it can be a challenge. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to save money on your next trip to the Rio Negro Airport outside of Medellin.
You can ask the taxi driver to drop you off behind Hotel Nutibara in Centro. The driver should know where all the airport buses congregate. This ride should cost about 7,000COP from Poblado.
Hotel Nutibara in Centro, Medellin
Parque Arvi, a beautiful natural reserve just outside of Medellin, Colombia is a great way to spend a day during your travels. Parque Arvi is found in the mountains high above the city, and getting there is half the fun.
Your chariot awaits to whisk you away.
It doesn’t get much easier to get to a national park from a major urban centre. The public transit system in Medellin is connected to Parque Arvi, and will bring you there, from the city centre, in less than an hour. The total cost of the amazing journey to Parque Arvi is 5300COP ($3USD.) Try and get a site-seeing gondola anywhere in the world for less. That’s a personal challenge that I’m putting out there.
The station where your Parque Arvi journey begins.
No, the above photo is not a ski chalet in Canada, the US, or Europe in the summer time. The above building is the top gondola station, and where you disembark for your journey in Parque Arvi. The facilities are truly world class.
Indigenous ruins along the pathway.
OK, so you’ve made it to the top, and now want to explore a bit of the park. What are you to do? One of the things that truly impressed me was the fact that there are park guides at the top ready to show you around. You’re probably thinking “great, hustlers that I need to pay to walk with.” Wrong. These people work for the park, and when we tried to tip Patricia, the nice woman who guided us for about an hour and a half, she flatly refused to accept it. Impressive.
The lagoon that we reached at the end of our hike.
The hiking that we did was of the pretty easy variety. It was reasonably flat, and mostly on well worn paths. It took us through beautiful forests, with flowers, butterflies, and views of the city. Most anyone would be physically able to hike here.
Descending back into “The City of Eternal Spring.”
After your finished your hiking, and maybe grabbed a bite to eat at one of the tiendas, you still have the descent back into the city to look forward to. I kept thinking how weird it was to be in a gondola without my ski gear on. The gondolas are the exact same as the ones I’ve taken for years in Canada. The only differences being that there’s no place to put your skis, and that it’s about 28C outside, instead of 28F (-3C.)
Embarking on our journey.
Information on Getting to Parque Arvi
You can technically take a bus there, through Santa Elena, but that takes away half of the fun, and it takes much longer. Simply take the Metro to the Acevedo Station, then transfer to the gondola. Once you get to the top of the first gondola you will need to buy your ticket for the Parque Arvi gondola, which is 3,500COP. This gives you a one way trip up.
A few tips:
-Weekends and holidays are very busy, if you’re looking for a quiet hike, go during the week.
-The gondola to the park is closed Mondays. I found this out the hard way.
-It can get chilly up there. It’s over 1000m above Medellin. Prepare yourself by bringing a rain jacket or long sleeve.
Abrazos.Read More »
The EAFIT University in Medellin is a private university in Medellin’s El Poblado district. It has great Spanish as a second language courses there for foreigners, as well as a variety of high quality options for studies in Spanish. My good friend and professor at EAFIT University, Daniel, invited me to come visit the campus. I’d been curious to see what one of the most expensive private universities in Medellin would look like, so I jumped at the opportunity.
The library at EAFIT University Medellin.
Does the university that you attended have a moat around the library? For some reason I doubt it. If there was a moat around the library at my university we could have skated around the building for the majority of the semester. That would’ve been cool. I think I’ll have to suggest that to the University of Lethbridge where I studied.
Campus complete with palm trees and big views.
Palm trees, also not likely at a Canadian university. EAFIT University is truly a beautiful campus, with well kept grounds, and bustling students everywhere. These bustling students were all, however, really young. I’m aware that I was at a university, and I’m no longer “of university age”, but back home there are many “mature students” that would resemble someone like myself. I don’t think I saw a single student here that was over 22. I guess Colombians decide what they want to do earlier in life.
The sports pitch at EAFIT.
A nice grass soccer field; not an uncommon site in most of North America. In Colombia, however, this is a rare luxury. There are no public grass soccer pitches. This day there was a group enjoying the sun, and practicing baseball on the far end of the field. Baseball is not a big sport in this part of Colombia, but on the Caribbean coast of Colombia it’s much bigger. Colombia’s most celebrated player, Edgar Renteria is from Barranquilla, home to one of the most amazing events I’ve ever attended: Carnaval de Barranquilla.
I’ve heard great things about the Spanish program here at EAFIT University. I’d recommend checking it out if you are looking to study Spanish in Medellin. It’s a beautiful campus, and very close to where most foreigners live during their stay here.
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The latest Botero exhibition by Medellin’s maestro artist is currently on display at the Museo de Antioquia in Medellin. Via Crusis: La Pasion de Cristo, or The Stations of the Cross: The Passion of Christ was first exhibited in New York before arriving in Medellin. This Botero exhibition is a special one, for it celebrates the maestro’s 80th birthday. I went to take a look at what one of my favourite modern artists had created to celebrate his grand milestone.
The poster for this Botero Exhibition.
Botero has been wowing art lovers worldwide for over five decades. He has a unique style of painting and sculpting that is loved by many, myself included. This exhibition of pieces was completely on the subject of the Christian story of the Stations of the Cross. Botero demonstrates in these pieces the pain that is borne by the man god and the people around him. This is also the first time I have ever seen Jesus painted as a fat man. But what else would you expect from The Maestro, Fernando Botero?
Kiss of Judas
The above painting “The Kiss of Judas” is one of the examples in this Botero exhibition of how he brings the modern world into the Stations of the Cross. Notice the well dressed man pointing at Jesus while Judas is kissing him? Doesn’t quite fit in to the 1st century mode of fashion.
In the above painting, “Crucifiction”, Botero paints a common scene in Christianity, the Crucifiction, in an uncommon local, Central Park in New York. This was to make the point that the crucifiction of Jesus is the centre point of the world, even in modern times.
Jesus wasn’t the only famous Bible character that featured prominently in this Botero exhibition. Mary, the mother of the god in the flesh, also was featured prominently. Considering Mary’s place within Catholicism, it is not a surprise that she would be featured in an exhibition on Christ’s death. I am assuming that the above painting is not the way most people picture Mary to look. This is the unique perspective that makes Fernando Botero’s paintings interesting.
Another part of this exhibition that I truly enjoyed was how Botero used some of the big players from the violent past of Colombia as the perpetrators of the evil-doings against Jesus. In this painting one of Pablo Escobar’s top lieutenants is used as the guard that spears Jesus on the cross.
In the above drawing, “The Kiss of Judas”, Botero forgets any allusions to Pablo Escobar, and uses him as the most demonized character in Christianity: Judas. My interpretation of this would be that Pablo Escobar spent his life selling out Colombia for his own personal gain, while Judas sold out Jesus for personal gain as well.
If you’d like to see it for yourself, it’s here in Medellin until the end of August 2012 at the Museo de Antioquia. It’s in the park where all of his statues are proudly displayed in Central Medellin. It’s open from 10am-5:30pm Monday – Saturday, and 10am – 4:30pm Sundays and Holidays. It costs 10,000COP ($5.50USD) to enter, and your entry ticket is valid for all of the temporary exhibitions, including Viacrucis. Here’s instructions on how to get there:
How to Get to The Botero Statue Park in Medellin:
By Metro: Take the main metro line to the Parque de Berrio stop, and you won’t be able to miss the statues.
By Taxi: Ask the driver to go to “Museo de Antioquia”.
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The two most famous living sons of Medellin are both named Botero: Santiago and Fernando. I am a big fan of both Boteros. Santiago, for his other-worldly feats on a bicycle, and Fernando for his other-worldly feats with bronze, and a paintbrush. My incredible skills have been demonstrated to you beautiful people through the many articles I have written. To demonstrate Fernando Botero’s incredible skills I took some photos of some of his finer works. Enjoy.
Woman Lying Down
All Botero statues and paintings are named very literally. This piece, for example, is “Woman Lying Down”. He is a creative genius, but apparently the creativity didn’t transfer to the naming of his works.
Here’s a bit of a panoramic view of a few Botero statues in the park. You can see “Woman With Fruit” in the foreground, and “Adam” and “Eve” in the background.
Here is a front few of “Woman With Fruit”.
Adam and Eve
Here “Adam” and “Eve” are staring each other down. I’m sure Adam is thinking “We’re going to be skinny once you get us kicked out of the Garden of Eden.”
Everyone loves the “Dog” another statue with an extremely unique name. One of the things I love most about this amazing public space is all the people from young to old getting excited about their favourite piece of Botero bronze.
Horse With Bridle
Another common use for Botero statues seemed to be as a place to rest for many of the local Paisas. I had tried to get a shot of “Horse With Bridle” on its own, but it was impossible. I think it turned out better this way, with the street life as part of the energy of the statue.
Man Being Walked On
This one is “Man Being Walked On”. The guy on top is surprisingly cut for a “gordo”. Botero’s works have been called “los gordos” or “the fats”. I know it’s challenging to see where this comes from, but for some reason the name stuck. This Botero statue, however, is surprisingly cut for a “gordo”.
How to Get to The Botero Statue Park in Medellin:
By Metro: Take the main metro line to the Parque de Berrio stop, and you won’t be able to miss it.
By Taxi: Ask the driver to go to “Parque de Los Esculturas”.
Not that you’d want to, but it’s not a good idea to go here at night.
Abrazos.Read More »