Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia after Bogota with 2.5 million people. And when I arrived downtown on Monday evening it seemed like every single person was out on the street. Granted, it was rush hour. But with all the mayhem and pollution I wondered what I had gotten myself into. This was not the calm mountain city I envisioned. Fortunately my hostel is in an upscale district called El Poblado which is a lot calmer, with lots of parks, trees, restaurants and fancy little shops.
Yesterday I went back downtown on the metro (which runs above ground and looks very new). It was busy but manageable. I was hoping to blend in and not look like a tourist so I didn't wear my Tilley hat, probably a mistake since I almost got sun-stroked. Although the air is cooler here (we're at about 1500 metres) the sun is as hot as in Cartagena. There are very few foreign tourists in Medellin and lots of people have white skin so I think I blended in pretty well. Almost no hassles. In fact, on the way back, a traveller started asking me something in Spanish thinking I was a local!
While downtown I visited a church, a museum (mostly paintings), and a park full of Botero statues. Botero is a modern Colombian painter and sculptor with a very recognizable style. Most of his subjects are obese people and animals. The shapes are very round and puffed up (see photos). I had a very filling lunch of some local food, walked down a pedestrian shopping alley, and managed to make it back to the metro before rush hour.
Unlike in Cartagena where I was staying in a hotel, I've met several people here at the hostel. Most are young guys in their 20s or early 30s, but on Tuesday I met a woman in her 50s who was travelling by herself and had been on the road for 4 years, although half that time was spent running a hostel in Peru! She´s a painter. A lot of people travelling in this part of the world seem to have an artistic and spiritual bent, and at times I feel like quite the geek.
Today is laundry day and I'm taking it easy. There is a nice little cafe about 10 minutes walk away and I think I'm going to have a cappuccino. :)