After 4 days in Bogota, we moved on to our next stop, Medellin, once the most dangerous city in the world with 20 deaths a day. However, many years have passed since then and it is a pleasure to be the witness of the transformation this city has undergone. Whereas we enjoyed our time in Bogota, especially the landscape,  we have to admit that the pollution was terrible and even the Mercedes Benz Buses seem to be of lower quality (or maybe only the gas, but one way or another it doesn't matter why it is so polluted, you just cannot breath).This time we had a rather short journey by plane and a very memorable taxi ride- our taxi driver seemed to be a huge fan of trance music of the 90s with even a 9 minute long remix of 'It's a beautiful life' by Ace of Base which I had stuck in my head for days. Johannes fortunately not, as he was sleeping 😀

One reason why we wanted to visit Medellin was Maria, a friend of mine from University. I met Maria while studying in Bournemouth and she just moved back to Medellin after having lived in Bogota. As she is very passionate of her hometown Medellin and because we had not seen each other for 6 years now. we really wanted to meet up again. Luckily for us, we got to meet again, even though it was only for 1,5 days as she had to leave the city shortly after our arrival. Another reason to come was the city itself with the cruel past and the modern and vivid present , in order to be able to see the progress it has made.

Shake it like a Polaroid picture...

Another reason to come to Medellin were the dance classes. Medellin is known for having affordable Spanish language courses as well as dance classes with good instructors. The one dance to learn while in Colombia is definitely Salsa, but as we are already doing salsa cubano, we did not want to mix it up with the NY or L.A. style they teach here. Cumbia would have been a very cool and traditional dance to learn, but useless once back in Germany, so we took Bachata classes instead, 10 hrs of intensive one on one lessons. During these 10 hours, we had three different teachers with different strengths (one for figures and steps, other for ladies styling, and another one for cuddling and intimate dancing), so we learned to move our body like it has never moved before (well, at least in my case) and to 'shake that ass' like a Latina (which still needs practice of course). Johannes in return did an incredibly good job at remembering all the steps, I always wonder how he does that!

 

Meeting an old friend...

Upon arrival, we had already booked 4 dance hours for the first day. In between we managed to have homemade lunch (Bandeja Paisa) with Maria and her husband Laurent, who is a very funny guy as well. He told us about his decision of coming to Colombia in the early 2000s (as he is from Switzerland originally) and how the country has changed. With Maria, we could talk about her experiences and about politics, as well as the voting for the peace referendum. One of the beauty of our travel is not only seeing the sights that a city has to offer, but the people and their opinions on several topics as it shows you what is really going on. I am so thankful that Maria and Laurent took the time to have lunch with us, to go out in the evening and to meet up again in the morning, despite construction going on at their flat and despite the flight they had to take on the same day. Others would not have made the effort, so we really appreciate it. We are looking forward to seeing you in Switzerland and hopefully Chile one day:)

After saying goodbye to Maria and Laurent, Johannes went out on our own to enjoy the nightlife and found a really nice salsabar called BellaVista in Poblado area, in which people were sitting while others were dancing salsa in the middle of the hallway. There was a guy playing live music and I think he handed out cow bells  (' cencerros'), 'guiros' , 'maracas' and 'claves' (just google them!) or the people brought them along while going out to the bar, which we find the less likely but the more amusing option;). We love the fact that in South America, you can hear music playing from every corner, no wonder people are so happy and no wonder most of them know how to dance 🙂

 

How to get around

Surprisingly enough, transportation in the city is very good. On our walking tour which we did in order to explore the city by foot, we learned a lot about the history of the city and how it has changed. Our tour was organized by realcitytours which we can only recommend and it lasted 4 hours, including visiting the nice areas as well as the not so nice ones (meaning the ones you should not necessarily walk by yourself in the middle of the night. This is also where we got informed why the Metro which was build about 20 years ago is spotless and clean unless some other means of transportation or parts of the town: It's due to the fact that people are proud of the metro and see it as their achievement and who would want to ruin that. Furthermore, it connects richer and poorer areas and most of all, it enables them to travel and commute for a low wage at a fast pace (much faster than taking a bus through the city for example). Another way of traveling in Medellin is taking the telecabina which is part of the metro system and connects some of the poorest areas with the center, but a beautiful national forest as well.

On the set of NARCOS

On our last day we decided to do an Escobar tour (which was average, nothing special or recommendable), but we wanted to give it a try as reviews were mixed and it gave us an opportunity to learn more about the history of Colombia after having heard so much about the transformation. By coincidence, next to the building where Pablo Escobar spend his last days before he was killed, there was a shooting going on of the next NARCOS series and we got to meet Don Berna , a familiar face to all the NARCOS fans back home (which is not a popular TV show in Colombia by the way).

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Medellin- once the most dangerous city in the world….

  1. What?! I suddenly feel very offended to know that you, “Isabella”, could find anything offensive with our national pride “Ace of Base”. It’s logical that “Giovanni”, who shares his nickname with Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”, better appreciates their musical talents [-;

    I have a question for you two: apart from guiding tourists, doing street art, producing coffee, organising guinea pig races, protesting against the failure of peace treaties, leading salsa classes, typewriting etc. what do South Americans in general seem to do for a living? Do they even identify themselves much with their work?

    1. I do find a 9 minute trance remix of Ace of Base offensive to the Swedish music culture, but I do like the original. My cousin and I were always dancing to Ace of Base when we were Kids;) But it seems that trance and panflute-trance (I decided to call it that way) of Swedish bands is very popular over here:)

      To answer your question: I do talk a lot and am very social but i have not (yet ) interviewed all the people in South America;) What I find interesting is that, once you are in a very low class, it is almost impossible to move up the ladder (all from what we have talked about with locals). If you do not get a chance to go to university, you definitely don’t earn enough. But there are other people who went to university and earn a lot of money. By a lot I mean sometimes European standards with less taxes to pay (and less living expenses), so it is an option to work in Colombia, for example, especially if you are foreign ( good reputation) and have a good job. I was expecting everybody to earn ‘nothing’, that was my European glasses on that. Especially in Brazil, people were hit very hard be the crisis. Working in tourism is actually a good possibility of earning money (through tips for example) and you get the chance to meet foreigners as well as to show them your country, but obviously you have to know English for that (all linked to education). As far as i know, people are not so crazy and career driven as they are in Germany, but Germans are very special in that case. They forget about everything else. In Sweden, however, there is a much better work life balance. In general , i noticed, if you are doing a job which does not require a certain qualification, you work many many many many hours. I assume if you have an office job it is different and it is truely balanced here as well. But Germans ( as well as Koreans and Japanese) do identify themselves with work more than other nations…

      1. I am not even a fan of Ace of Base – it was just a joke – but thank you for trying to soothe my reportedly hurt feelings [-: And you are right; the use of pan flute can DEFINITELY be over exaggerated.

        And thank you for the answer! I am happy with just your qualitative understanding, so you don’t have to interview ALL the people you meet for my sake [-:

        And your observations make a lot of sense: lack of factors enabling social mobility (like access to education, as you wrote) might very well be key to understanding why South America in general is struggling to catch up with the developed countries, and much more so in comparison to for example China. I guess from us Europeans it’s usually blamed on massive corruption and a certain Latin American “laziness” – i.e. not being very entrepreneurial and industrious – but this “laziness” could very well be a results from there being no chances to make it. Why waste time working hard on something or doing something extra good, if it’s not going to make things better for you or your family?
        Thank you!

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