Medellín, I shall miss you….

So, all good things come to an end, and tomorrow I leave Medellín and finally set off on the bike. I’m healthily apprehensive of the challenges ahead, and more than a little nervous about those hills. The bike has been prepared; luggage reduced; everything squashed into the four panniers I’ll be carrying; and I’m as ready as I’ll ever be….

Medellín has been awesome, and I don’t think I could have chosen a better place to begin my South America travels. The Spanish that is spoken here is a ‘clean’ Spanish and the people are incredibly friendly, and patient. Whilst the climate here is perfect, it’s the people of Medellín that will stick in my mind as having made my time here so enjoyable.

Of the things that I’ve seen, the art in the city stands out. Whether it’s made out of waste, street art, or Fernando Botero’s amazing sculptures, the city is full of art. Botero was born in Medellín and is famous for his plump sculptures of people and animals.

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There is a poignant reminder of the city’s past in one of the squares. It contains one of Botero’s sculptures which was blown apart in a bomb attack in 1995, towards the end of the dark days here. A bomb was placed at the base of the statue, exploding during an outdoor concert, killing 30 and injuring more than 200. Botero insisted the statue remain, but that a new one (his gift to the city) be placed alongside it as a symbol of peace. It’s a powerful sight.

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Walking around the city is fascinating, and it is great to be able to have simple interactions with people in Spanish.

I came upon this band in the centre of town, blasting out tunes to the enjoyment of the those listening or dancing.

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The city is also easy to navigate. It has a modern metro, which is civilized even in the rush hour. It’s also well equipped for wheelchair users.

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Many of you will have read about the problems in neighbouring Venezuela, where inflation has reached epidemic proportions and hardship is affecting millions. This is spilling into Colombia, with over a million economic refugees having crossed the border. Having spoken with a number of Colombians about it, their attitude is one of sympathy and tolerance. Venezuela hosted many Colombians who fled during the difficult times here, and most people I’ve spoken to seem to think it’s only fair that they reciprocate now the tables are turned. The government also seem to be adopting that approach, as described in this article

It is a common site to see people begging, or selling little sweets and other things, and most (but not all) of the time, they’ll be Venezuelan.

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There are other issues here, with a lot of concern about the direction the country’s taking following the presidential election. As with so many places at the moment, the campaign between left and right knocked out the moderates, leaving the electorate polarised. Since the election, there are reports that journalists and human rights activists are being threatened or even killed by the paramilitaries that flourished in the past. Some are linking this to the right wing, and the previous government of Ulribe, who has recently stepped down from the senate due to an investigation into his alleged links to paramilitaries. I went to a candlelit demonstration, where I learnt a whole new load of vocabulary including how to call someone a fascist or terrorist. Let’s hope I don’t need that on my travels. An article about the demonstrations and the reasons for them is here.

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Religion here is very strong, with the (Catholic) churches plentiful and doing good business. There is, however, clearly a tolerance for many things which wouldn’t necessarily meet with the Pope’s approval, as well as shop displays for items that might make the odd priest blush.

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Perhaps the biggest surprise in my time here in Medellín was the size of the annual ‘Pride’ march. I knew that Medellín celebrated its gay population, I just didn’t expect it to be such a big celebration. I had a great day taking pictures in the terrific atmosphere amongst the crowd of tens of thousands.

I was also lucky enough to experience an absolutely incredible fine dining restaurant here. The restaurant is ‘El Cielo’ (Heaven), by the chef Juan Manuel Barrientos. Easily comparable with the (very few) two Michelin star restaurants I’ve been to, it was indeed a foodie’s heaven. Thankfully, the price wasn’t anywhere near what it would have been in Europe though!

But it’s also possible to get a fabulous meal here for a great price. For 10 to 12,000 pesos (around €3.50) most little restaurants serve a ‘menu of the day’, which includes a soup and a juice as well as a generous portion of good simple food.

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Yep, Medellín, you’ve been a blast. Perhaps the most fun in a short space of time was visiting a funfair with Omar, my friend who’s kindly put me up for the last month. He wasn’t particularly enamoured at the thought of going on the ride, but as you can see in the pic, we both had a blast!

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Big hugs to everyone. The next posts should be sent from somewhere in the Colombian countryside 😉

36 thoughts on “Medellín, I shall miss you….

    1. Hello you two, and thank you. Yes, it’s been incredible so far. I’m looking forward to writing the next instalment, as the first few days have been everything I could wish for (and maybe a bit of tiredness in the legs that I wouldn’t!). And well done Sian on your walking challenge too! Lots of love, S x

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  1. Oh Mr G what an adventure you are having xxx just love the photo of you and Omar such joy xxx stay safe and keep on living the dream xxx Lots of Love xx TD

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    1. Hi Mrs. D! Yep, it’s as big an adventure as I’d been hoping for. Omar was a great guy to stay with for my last weeks in Medellin, and we had a lot of fun – the funfair was definitely a trip back to childhood 😉 Lots of love to you and Mr D too please, S x PS – And please can you let Steph know that I’ve been wearing my helmet (most of the time), and tell Caroline that when I haven’t been wearing the lid I’ve been wearing the cycling cap she got me! x

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    1. Hi Tom, thanks. Managed to survive the first few days, and rewarded with some spectacular scenery. The legs have been burning though! Hope all well with you and Zoe in Berlin (and please do give Zoe a hug from the pretzel man!). Best, S

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    1. Hi Tania, great to hear from you. It has been amazing, and so far the countryside has been even more spectacular – think you’d both love it here. There’s loads to do, and the people are so so friendly. Hope all good your end, and K is actually taking some time out from work once in a while. xxx

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    1. Hi Karen, it has indeed all been amazing so far (and the ride has been absolutely spectacular)! I’ve only fallen off the bike a couple of times, and only because rocks keep on getting in the way when I’m going on the dirt paths. Nothing damaged so far though 😉

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  2. Looks like you chose a brilliant time of year to go, so much going on!! I can see why you are so sad to leave. How were the macaroons?? As good as yours???

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    1. Hi Simon. I wouldn’t know whether they were as good as the ones I brought to work, as you ate them all 😉 Hehe, thanks for reminding me about that one. I get the feeling there’s always something going on in Medellin – very much recommended, you’d love it here. Sending you best from the coffee region now, Stuart

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  3. Great photos (as always). Love the fairground ones at the end especially. More topless men next time you attend a Pride march though please… 😉

    Safe cycling x

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    1. Hi Mike, trust you to lower the tone! Yes, I think you’d have rather enjoyed a few of the sights – plenty of eye-candy for you. It was a great atmosphere. Maybe one for you next year? Hope all still going well in the new (ish) job? Manly hugs, Stuart

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  4. Hi Stuart, I LOVED your description of Medellin and the extra articles. It made me miss Medellin and makes me want to go back! I especially love the photo of you and Omar!! Can you send me Omar’s email address? THANKS! I look forward to seeing more photos of your travels around Colombia. I traveled up and down the coast after I left Medellin, but I strongly suggest that if you visit the Guajira desert (but not on your bike). It’s like another planet…seeing the way the indigenous live there. If interested, you can go to Riohacha and find many companies and negotiate a very inexpensive trip there. Take care, Shira

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    1. Hi Shira, good to hear from you. Sounds like you had an interesting time after leaving Medellin. Thanks for the tips. I’m headed South, so won’t be able to make your tips, but it won’t be the last time I visit this incredible place. I’ll send you a pm with Omar’s email. Best, Stuart

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  5. Gitti

    june 27, 2018 at 2:18 pm
    Ich freue mich immer sehr, wenn ein neuer Eintrag in Deinem Blog erfolgt und ich liebe die tollen Fotos.
    Hab eine unvergesslich und wundervolle Zeit und pass gut auf Dich auf!
    Und das wichtiges Reiseutensil ist ein fröhliches Herz.
    Anke

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    1. Huhu Anke! Es freut mich zu hören, dass Dir die Einträge gefallen. Keine Sorge, ich passe schon gut auf. Die ersten Tage im Sattel waren zwar hart, aber ich habe wahnsinninge Ansichten und Sachen erlebt – das Herz bleibt fröhlich! Ich glaube der nächste Post wird dir auch gefallen.
      Hoffe im neuen Heim alles gut, und du vermisst Prenzlberg nicht zu doll? Ganz liebe Grüße, S x

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  6. Fabulous insight as always… Enjoy the next stage of your adventure and looking forward to your posts… Take care of yourself. Phil

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    1. Cheers Phil, and great to hear from you. All’s going well so far, and you can look forward to some pretty spectacular scenery (and stories of tired legs)! The people here are incredible – it’s a different world in so many ways. Hope all well back in not-so-sunny Manchester? Best, Stuart

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    1. Hi Paul, danke Dir! Ich tue mein Bestes, weitere schöne Bilder zu liefern! Die Landschaft hier ist wirklich traumhaft schön, die Berg aber auch ziemlich steil! Denke bei dir ist sehr bald wieder Festzeit, oder? Wenn ja, wünsche Euch super viel Spaß! Allet Jute, Euer Stuart

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      1. Mickey has been to Colombia but not me. One day we will explore the world together hopefully, ha..ha..

        Btw, how long are you there for? How is the hotels or guesthouses? is it easy to find without any advance booking?

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      2. Hehe, sure you’ll be able to manage that. I’m planning on being in Colombia another month or so, as I’d rather travel slowly and collect experiences rather than rush from place to place. For the entire journey, the only time pressure is Patagonia as need to be there by December to catch their summer. That may mean using buses or planes for a bit of the journey, maybe Peru. Haven’t got close to planning that yet though. Here it’s easy to find hotels – I use a mixture of knocking on doors, booking.com and facebook (which is a last resort). If all else fails, the tent is in one of the panniers. Best, Stuart

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  7. Hi Stuart,
    I love the photos and I loved reading about Medellín. How touching to read about the people’s compassion and empathy for their neighbours. Also, the people sound just lovely. Looking forward to reading the next chapter of your adventure. Happy cycling! Lots of love, Marina xx

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    1. Hi Alison, good to hear from you! Glad you’re enjoying the posts, and hopefully everyone in the office can see why I was getting quite excited about my journey… 😉 Hope all good with you, and that my little friend is behaving himself too! Lots of love, Stuart x

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  8. Nice post about Medellín. Not only the recap but excellent photos. What are you Shooting with?

    The Venezuelan problem is rampant & sad to so many displaced people throughout the city & country.

    Éric

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    1. Hi Eric, and thank you. Medellin was a perfect place to start my South American adventure, and I will treasure my memories of the city and the people. I was impressed with the way people I’ve spoken with, now in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, have seen the situation – namely with understanding and compassion. I appreciate there are tensions, but I’ve seen some impressive attitudes.

      I’m using a Fujifilm X-Pro2. I bought it for the trip, having decided SLR gear would be too heavy. I’m glad I did. Really enjoy the X-Pro, and it’s excellent for street and travel photography. Post processing is done in Lightroom CC mobile, allowing me to back everything up to the cloud.

      Best wishes,

      Stuart

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