My favorite cities in the world always seem to have a few shared characteristics:
- There are amazing restaurants to choose from but always the option of delicious street food
- There are lots of museums. And free museums at that
- There’s a balance of urban convenience but with easy access to some natural expanses
- There’s great street art
- There’s efficient, easy to navigate, and safe public transportation
- There are coffee shops. Hip coffee shops
- There’s live music in abundance
- There are bikes
- And for some strange reason, many of them either are / used to be known for the violent crime statistics. There’s got to be a correlation for this somewhere…
I arrived to Medellin two nights ago and soon found that the city ticked all of these boxes.
On Wednesday, after checking out of Villa Mary, I took a few buses to get to the airport in Santa Marta. It was not overly complicated but I was again assisted by the little old ladies on the bus who pointed out the right transfer stops. The flight was uneventful and after landing I took the bus and the AMAZING metro service to arrive at my hostel in El Poblado. Galeria Hostel came at the recommendation of Villa Mary staff and was one of the cheaper options. It is also located walking distance from Toucan Spanish school where I plan to start some intensive Spanish classes on Monday. El Poblado has a reputation for being the tourist hot-spot and very westernized, so I came in with some reservations. But for as much as I like to “live like a local”, there is something to be said for a neighborhood that is organized for you, the tourist, and has loads of options for activities.
In the morning, I was happy to find a free urban gym so I could finally get some structured exercise done. And after, I found Pergamino. Just so it’s clear, when I say I like coffee, I mean I really like coffee. And if I’m stumbling around a new city in the morning before most people are awake and I come across a hip coffee shop like Pergamino, I will be a happy guy. So far, it’s the best coffee I’ve had in a country that typically exports all of the good stuff. (Side note, it’s been only 24 hours after discovering Pergamino and I have already been there 3 times… but in my defense it is VERY good and a macchiato costs $1.13).
After doing some research on Pergamino’s WiFi, I took two metros and a cable car to take a hike in Parque Arvi. The park was a little drearier than advertised due to the rain but I was really happy to spend 4 hours walking around in the woods without any distractions (with the exception of a loud group of teenagers at one point). On the way back to my hostel, I got off a few metro stops early to get some more wandering done before it got dark. At night I scoured a few Couchsurfing groups to try to find some locals who could help me practice Spanish. One of the (numerous) downsides to staying in hostels is the abundance of English speakers who just want to watch bad movies in the common room. I found Julian and Oscar who met me at the hostel bar where we flip flopped between English and Spanish and then went out for some dinner. Had some delicious ramen (another +1 for Medellin) at Formosa. We got so caught up in conversation that by the time we made it to the reggae show suggested by our barterer earlier that night, it was virtually over.
I think I’m going to really enjoy Medellin. I’ll likely spend a month here so if anyone has any suggestions for the city or is in the neighborhood, let me know!