Dial ‘M’ for Medellin

Editor’s comment: The reason for a substantial delay since my last post is because I didn’t want to sensationalise or trivialise our experience of Medellin. Thus I needed time to re-research and explore some wider themes, particularly around our walking tour. Despite the fact we stayed in the city a week we barely scratched the surface and due to sickness experienced very little of the legendary nightlife owing to the ‘work hard party harder’ Paisa mentality. As someone fascinated by other cultures, I’ve never understood travellers/backpackers who avoid the main cities (and we met a few who did) as all urban centres are where social interaction and behaviours collide. Few cities have had a more rapid transition as the result of many factors. This may be why Medellin made for such satisfying people-watching or ‘flanerie’ as the French refer to strolling.           

We flew into the heart of darkness that is Medellin on a 17 hour Rapido Ocho overnight coach that outsmarted the US’ greyhound fleet in almost every respect. It was so refreshing to not be surrounded by ex-cons (and probable future ones) discussing when their restraining orders are up or how in Alabama you can legally shoot anyone who enters your property under some whacko new legislative state amendment. As we only had 1 nectarine, some chewing gum, 1 500ml bottle of water and some Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce all the way from Austin, we understandably lacked nutritional nourishment upon reaching our destination.

Despite the coach’s reclining seats I managed very little quality shut-eye owing to the endless twist and turns of the Cordillera mountainous geo-topography during the overnight drive. The driver obviously put his pedal to the Medel-lin.

Bus station bamboozlement

Upon arrival at the sweltering bus terminal we faced urban sprawl as far as the eye could see in every direction. I felt somewhat unprepared and cautious. A tourist info lady recommended attractions in one monotonous and continuous blurb as if she had recited it word perfectly to every gringo passing through in regular 5 minute intervals. The fact I was surviving on very little sleep and that the Spanish here in the Aburra valley was noticeably different from the Caribbean coast also distracted me from her emotionally detached and rapid fire delivery. In the end I just slouched my dead weight arms over her cool desk and let her sketch a series of concentric circles denoting something I would hopefully deduce the significance of later. All I really needed at that precise moment was a less stodgy almuerzo tipico and something vaguely soft and horizontal to collapse onto.

The tourist info lady automatically assumed we would stay in the Poblado district, a wealthy neighbourhood of very low crime (for Medellin) as well as much recent investment and regeneration close to the centre. At the risk of being typecast as only visiting backpacker bars of cheap drinks, chain fast food restaurants, shopping malls and Escobar terror tours I should’ve done more research into alternative areas. However being too crackered (exhausted) I didn’t protest and let her book a place with character and charm yet still close to the action.

Poblado estacion

Our first Medellin hostel, called El Alternativo was owned by a young Bretton French family who kept their very cute baby behind reception. They were very friendly and helpful and the husband may be the only other non-British person we met in South America whose Spanish was as bad as ours. Some of the guests however had some interesting habits which we observed over a few local artisanal cervejas from the 3 Cordilleras brewery, fruit cheesecake and a little limoncello. The hostel seems to attract several strangely ripped and simian-esque topless shaven hunkaloids who looked as if they were on a teambuilding holiday for reformed bouncers. One of them occasionally played some form of indigenous wooden flute mournfully whilst sat cross-legged in a meditative trance much to my surprise. At first I thought he was ridiculing the atypical hippy traveller and about to smash the instrument over his upper calf or use it as a masturbatory aid (note to self, remove this line when submitting to National Geographic).

The hostel offered a very picturesque balcony terrace with lots of artistic sculptures and portraits. This may have helped create my mistaken impression of anger management retreat for beefy security workers. It was also in a leafier suburban area of the Poblado with older art deco blocks in various Greco-Roman columns (Roman everywhere they were) along steep streets near to numerous art spaces with one such studio directly opposite.

El Alternativo terrace decor

We played an epic game of Scrabble Classique on the hostel terrace which Lou narrowly won with the word ‘Zoom’ on a triple word score (damn that high scoring 10 pointer letter Z) or, as the board was in French ‘mot triple’.

Triple mot!
That’s a full 7 letters for Bumlick!

Sweet snoring Panela

A later hostel we checked into right off the Parque Poblado on a quieter street was named after its very fat female bulldog called Panela. There were signs from the management instructing guests not to ‘play with the dog’ and we were witness to her becoming so overexcited that she struggled to breathe and would follow avid strokers into their dorm room. She had an excessively droopy tongue owing to an underbite (not to mention her nipples) and she mostly just lay on the floor right by the entrance snoring raspingly as if collapsed with exhaustion. I bet in her dreams she’s a graceful butterfly soaring silently far above all of these crusty backpacker’s feet.

Our experience clearly wasn’t as bad as one traumatised Trip Advisor user who wrote ‘Most disgusting was the big, fat dog which goes to the room all the time’. Fair to say not an avid stroker then but personally I’d choose personality over beauty every time.

As a brief educational interlude, panela is actually a ubiquitous unrefined whole sugarcane drink in Colombia as well as across Central and Latin America. It is a solid form of sucrose, often cubed, that is derived from the boiling and evaporation of sugarcane juice then mixed with water, often lemon and pretty much anything else.

Real City Talk A Paisa the action!

The next morning we embarked on an excellent real city tour led by a humorous and honest Paisa (someone from the department of Antioquia or the Aburra valley basin) called Hernan around Medellin’s Centro. This served as a poignantly revealing introduction to downtown’s crazy cast of characters. Hernan impressively remembered the names of everyone on his tour which was roughly 30 people. In the style of an eager nursery school teacher he sat us down in a row facing Medellin’s first preserved steam locomotive, the Ferrocarril de Antioquia.

Here in the scenic suntrap of an outdoor courtyard, he gave us all some background context and valuable insights.

Ferrocarril express train

Hernan first explained the history of the city and his people as distinct from the rest of Colombia owing to their entrepreneurial hard work and play ethic and separate Basque or Jewish ancestry. The vast majority are still ethnically mestizo (mixed race) but with a lighter complexion. He also mentioned that Medellin’s wealth was not founded on drug trade as many visitors naively assume but on pioneer engineering such as the railways, goldmining and other precious metals from the surrounding hillsides. Medellin also grows some of the best coffee in the world being located close to the Zona Cafetera/Colombia’s coffee zone/triangle/axis.

This was also when Hernan first laid down the Colombian theory of ‘don’t give/show your papaya’ which states that tourists who flash their obvious wad (wealth) are far more likely to be pickpocketed/mugged if they offer up the opportunity. This analogy could make things complicated for tourists at the fruit market however.

Rodrigo Betancourt’s Monumento a la Raza sculpture displays the history of the Antioquia region in a 38 metre-high twisted metallic and concrete curve that manages to be both brutalist and innovatively dramatic.


Monumento a la Raza
For purposes of detail this is the most visible part

Another day we visited the superbly art deco fortress-like Museum of Antioquia on Hernan’s recommendation and despite devoting a full day still couldn’t cover all 7 floors. It showcased a complete mix of artistic styles including some very insightful video installations including a Turkish hip-hop group’s inflammatory protest of their neighbourhood’s gentrification. There was also a retro vinyl arcade, a clay-sculpted mariachi band and a church round the corner where prostitutes solicited for business.

Boteros buxom bronzes

Just across from the museum was Plaza de las Esculturas/Botero where 23 of the local artist’s sculptures are displayed as a gift to his home city. Fernando Botero’s recurring and signature trademark is to subvert his creations’ proportion and scale. This has become widely known as ‘Boterismo’ and is generally accepted to prove his appreciation of the larger lady, at least in Medellin. However his work is so extensive and spanning so many mediums that this seems reductive even if many of his characters appear to suffer some extreme growth-hormonal imbalance or to have ingested pre-laboratory tested steroids with barely visible side effects, ‘cough’!

It's not the size its how well you defend it

Overall Botero has donated over 90 sculptures worth an estimated $120 million USD to his home city and a 1983 city ordinance states that any public space built over 2,000 square metres must incorporate a work of art. The City of Eternal Spring could also be known as the City of Eternal Public Art largely thanks to his generosity.

Botero’s body morphism also feels rather apt in Medellin as it is the unofficial capital of plastic surgery in the ‘developing’ world with a plethora of discount nip-tuck scalpel wielders. Cosmetically enhanced ladies with breast and buttock augmentation are a common sight in the centre’s shopping malls. According to ISAPS (The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery), Colombian plastic surgeons performed some 357,000 procedures in 2014 which amounts to 7 per every 1,000 people.

Melons or buttocks, i can barely tell the difference
Melons or buttocks? I can barely tell the difference

Hernan was quick to point out that although machismo culture persists, this trend spiked upwards during the days of Escobar’s narco-traffickers who would insist on sculpting their women to ludicrously unnatural dimensions in becoming mere objects of desire. A fashion 30 years later that elitist business tycoons like Donald Trump seem intent on pursuing. Should you wish to explore further, there is a fascinating recent Al Jazeera documentary on Colombia’s backstreet surgery trade.

Hernan’s tour incorporated many other major sites such as Plaza Cisneros also known as Parque de las luces/Park of the lights which are lit up after dark (when apparently it is less safe for tourists to roam). Cisneros is named after the Cuban engineer who led the construction of the Antioquia railway where the tour began. It comprised an area that was formerly slum housing around Escobar’s former cartels headquarters which fittingly today serves as the Ministry of Education.

Plaza de los luces

This was an ideal interval for a snack from the small market nearby so I grabbed a cup of fresh sliced mango (without showing my papaya of course) for 3,000 COP because as someone once said in Robocop “I’d buy that for a dollar”. The park also has the added advantage of resembling huge sci-fi battleship armoury in vertical photographs when lay on the floor.

See what i mean

Podgy pigeons of peace

Parque/Plaza San Antonio, a huge open square where our walking tour culminated had been the location of a concert on Saturday 10th June 1995. Late that evening a bomb packet placed under 1 of Botero’s sculptures, a bronze pajaro de paz or bird of peace (resembling more of a fat pigeon) exploded. Given the proximity to hundreds of young people in the nearby amphitheatre, 23 people were killed including one woman working at a snack stall but several dozen were badly injured by ricochets from pieces in the blast.

Although they have never claimed as such, The FARC is widely held to be responsible for the bomb. Botero’s son, Fernando Botero Zea was Colombia’s Miniter of Defence at the time. Possibly as a contributing factor, in 2000 Botero commissioned a second identical bird sculpture to be positioned alongside the destroyed original which serves as a ‘homage against the stupidity’ and needlessly lost lives. It also signifies the power of optimism as a sign for peace thus he requested that the original remains as a reminder to the people.

On this point Hernan offered the fact that Colombians have a very short sense of collective memory following such politically motivated terrorism. He offered several explanations for this theory, including the fact that all corrupt political factions of society whether liberals, conservatives, paramilitaries, narco-guerillas, FARC/ELN or otherwise have all perpetuated and suffered so much violent bloodshed that were they to remember nobody could ever move on. Perhaps this is why in his book The Making of Modern Colombia, David Bushnell refers to Colombia as ‘a nation in spite of itself’. Hernan added that one outcome of all this is a shared national lack in awareness of peoples contradictory actions as proven by the numerous porn magazine and video stalls located in the narrow alley alongside Parque Berrio’s Basilica (Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria), Medellin’s oldest church dating back to the 17th century.

Sitting in Bolivar Park’s direct sun which was mucho scorchio, we were also shown what many claim to be the largest baked brick cathedral building in the world. The key word here is probably ‘baked’ meaning roughly 1,120,000 adobe bricks were used in its construction. Sadly the church wasn’t open to assist our group in escaping the midday heat.

Metropolitan Cathedral

4 elderly Paisa men sharing a bench was also the perfect opportunity for 1 of our entourage to politely request their photo. Hernan casually remarked that this park is where the transvestites and junkies hang to score before confessing their sins in the cathedral (following on smoothly from Hernan’s contradictory theory). One rather strung out looking man asked Hernan for some money but welcomed everyone to Medellin and wished us well.

Conscious that many other visitors have recorded their experience of this walking tour in-depth on other blogs I began reading one written by a Australian which I recommend if you wish to know more about this conflicted city’s history (from just before halfway down).

Shake a Funky Leg

When the tour culminated we doubled back to the busy high street and caught an incredible 6-piece busking band of ska/jazz/latin and clearly funk-loving Argentinians called Pata Funk or Funk Leg. This name made a lot of sense as it got the feet tapping with an olde-world style swing or ‘patter’ but then broke out into frenzied soloing with a musically tight yet effortless jam vibe.

Their show was unbelievably entertaining and their co-vocalist/trumpet player incorporated a washboard with many accessories such as a squeaky dog toys, a rubber chicken and numerous tiny bells. Almost every song seemed to have a breakdown as an excuse for him to make novelty noises then pretend to find something amazing in the bin. They captivated quite an assembled crowd and afterwards we swore to catch them again at a bohemian artsy café gig that night.

It occurred to me during both their performances that for such an exuberant people, Colombians respond to live music quite conservatively and the few who got up and danced were other travellers. It may simply be that beyond salsa, vallenato or cumbia Paisas are unsure how to express themselves? I would be interested to know whether any other Colombian visitors observed this as I would love to be proven wrong!

In other music news I saw Medellin’s own answer to my native Nottingham’s infamous Xylophone Man. However, this guy went considerably further than humming tunelessly to himself with an unlit cigarette hanging from his mouth. He held the 2 sticks between his toes whilst busking outside Poblado metro station whilst his more self-conscious looking bandmate played a clumsier rainstick accompaniment which given that he had the far easier job was quite a feat/feet!

The Notorious Criminal

Hernan’s tour had also covered the rise of Pablo Escobar and his notorious Medellin cartel which wrought chaos throughout the city and made it the murder capital of the world. However, throughout he referred to him only as ‘the notorious criminal’ so that passing local Paisas wouldn’t hear the name ‘Escobar’ and naturally assume this was another sensationalist walking tour cashing in on their years of endured bloodshed and misery. He explained that as a result of the notorious criminal’s actions, the subsequent chaos and global media coverage, Colombian passport holders are still hampered by some of the most severe travel restrictions.

We felt this was a particularly necessary and sensitive touch on the tour as during our 2 months in Colombia we were offered several Escobar tours. Some of these undoubtedly glamorised his gangster cult of personality for Gringo profit such as the option of ‘capture the flag’ paintballing at his former jungle hideout near Guatape. Something about blasting other backpackers in paint from his balcony doesn’t seem terribly respectable to the families of his several thousand victims. The best and most honest reflection of life under his shadow seemed to be on the Paisa Road tour rather than Escobar and the Rock but there must be many more springing up all the time. Rather than embark on any of these however, we spent a full week in Medellin appreciating a whole host of other cultural pursuits.

On a related note we observed how many other backpackers in hostels the length of the Andes indulged in the cheap price of cocaine. This price could only be considered cheap of course in terms of high street value and not the cost of human suffering for many of Colombia’s poorest and most remote campesino / peasant or farming communities. Whilst I strongly implore readers to delve deeper than topics touched upon here, I could never hope to do justice to the convoluted and vastly divisive history of Colombia’s struggle for political and economic power. Needless to say, any summary would have to include the FARC or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia being the longest established armed insurgency, communist or otherwise in the western hemisphere.

Some younger travellers we met didn’t even know who the FARC guerrillas were and probably thought I said ‘farty gorillas’; if only they were that lovable and harmless. The FARC were originally inspired by and based on many of the same principles which overthrew Batista’s Cuban government in the coup of 1959. To recommend but one excellent read, Tom Feiling’s Short Walks from Bogota covers a lot more ground and was written less than 5 years ago.

A brief introduction to Colombian cuisine

After the walking tour concluded I was eager to sample ‘bandeja paisa’ meaning the Paisa tray in Medellin, the region’s speciality as talked up by Hernan. This is basically coronary surgery on a plate; fried everything including pork, chorizo, pigskin, egg, patacones (fried plantain or banana), beans in rice, avocado and raw mince for some reason. Be sure to have your cardiologist’s number on speed dial. Fried pigskin is called chicarron – which personally is very hard for me to hear without bursting into that nonsensical song of a similar name Chacarron (repeat incoherent babble ad infinitum).

Bandeja paisa and some other wimpy meal by comparison.JPG

I swear the Colombians love deep-fried food and snacks arguably as much as the Scottish, were such an argument not to raise blood pressure even higher. Switch the rice and corn for chips and some of the snack stalls could feature in long-running Glaswegian detective series Taggart, most likely in the dock as the accused with Gillian McKeith’s invasive nutritionary methods presenting the case for prosecution. She’d probably take the whole thing a bit far and use Taggart’s recently evacuated stools as evidence.

Based on our experience Colombians would also appear to love creamy cakes and desserts as much as the French. Yet they aren’t as miserable as either them or the Scottish and benefit from much lower heart attack rates. It just shows what climate, a positive outlook, regular fruit and exercise can bring. Well, all that and a zeal for life that I imagine only more than half a century of untold civil warfare atrocities can bring.

Talking of grossly unhealthy foods, around this point Lou’s list of Brit pub grub cravings reached unimaginable proportions. As we were both frequently bedridden she would repeatedly mention her cravings for chips and proper gravy, full Sunday beef roasts. potato waffles with crumbly Lancashire cheese etc. In other words she pretty much just missed spuds & gravy whilst still recovering from having been served a quite possibly bacterial plate of ‘spaghetti carbonara’. Ya can take the lass outta Bolton etc.

A brief note on traveller’s tum

Taking of food and drink and lack of keeping down thereof – Who needs to party hardy when you’re crapping yourself in a quasi multi-sensory onslaught every week or so? You certainly learn more about your limitations and endurance. Gazing deep into the rabbit hole (some kind of hole anyway) of your damaged psyche you can examine the contents of your mind much clearer without the contents of your stomach. Lou has recently been, ahem, shining her nightlight out of a pinhole camera until it poured. I consider that a more ladylike euphemism for excavating one’s bowel. It’s not that we didn’t want to fully embrace the Paisa-party lifestyle after a tough working week sipping cafe negro and admiring Boteros. It’s more that we kept finding flyers promoting promising sounding clubnights on lampposts the day after they had happened – names as promising as ‘Lusty Wolf’ being but one example.

On the loosest of related topics but no looser than our stools and without meaning to sound ridiculously British, I also noticed the absence of tea towels all across the Americas. Sometimes it’s just the little things y’know?

One night in Medellin we embarked upon a lengthy exploratory stroll to find a spectacularly swanky Lebanese restaurant. This was in a romantic private courtyard where the full mezze platter was sublime after a shared starter of slow-cooked beef stew, warm pitta breads and fresh garlicky hummus exactly the way I like it. This meal ended up costing us the equivalent of $40US! We lost serious backpacker budget smarts somewhere along the line and later regretted spending such an amount on what could’ve been a week’s food budget.

Things might get mezze.JPG

Ah well, hot dogs and empanadas for the rest of our stay it was then.

Cruel Summer

I savoured quaint Pueblito Paisa which is a quaint Antioquia model hilltop village a la Portmerion in Wales where they filmed the Prisoner. Unfortunately there was a butt ugly ministry of defence building next door which spoiled some of the mock charm. We tried to navigate our own way there from the nearest Metro stop but gave up and hopped in a taxi owing to a complete lack of pedestrian crossings. The driver kept pretending not to hear our repeated requests for him to stop ‘para aqui por favor’ at the foot of the hillside instead of the summit.

After a packed lunch at the model village we erroneously decided to visit the Parque Zoologico Santa Fe / Medellin’s Zoo in the afternoon which just made us feel severely depressed due to the behaviour of what other few visitors there were. A father let him son feed tiny protected species of monkeys crisps despite Lou’s unmistakably intense scowling. Later on approaching the big cat zone an idiotic young father was riling up the jaguar by growling aggressively presumably with the desired effect of startling his son. Then he started chatting up the cheetah and i thought ‘he’s trying to pull a fast one!’ but enough Tim Vine silliness. This is precisely where wardens or surveillance should intervene to prevent such dangerous cruelty but the zoo seemed highly understaffed.

We shouldn’t have tolerated the conditions or sad reality of animal rights there which were clearly lacking and too cramped. The impression I got from the flamingos was that I should’ve put my foot down. Some areas of grassland were entirely eroded denying their herbivores the ability to graze. I also felt the entrance fee was far too cheap – 14,000 COP which is less than a fiver. Many of the animals had torn out their feathers through stress, neglected or just lonely and restless, especially the Spectacled Bear which wasn’t even wearing glasses! He forlornly chewed on a coke bottle perched on his lone dead tree’s summit whilst being tormented by those evil vultures from the Disney films.

Don't make a spectacle of yourself
“Gotta lotta bottle? Well, do ya? Punk?”

Much better was the Jardin Botanico and Parque Explora where there was more than enough space for 4,500 species of flowers over 14 hectares with iguanas scuttling about in the scrub. The enormous hexagonal roofed theatre/event space is apparently designed in the shape of a bouquet of flowers but instead just made me miss Bob Holness (RIP) as it reminded me of the board from television gameshow Blockbusters.

Come on down and you could be a winner tonight.JPG

Comuna 13 its no District 9

One of the main reasons Medellin was so compelling to me and increasingly other travellers is the democratisation of public space and transport. The city boasts Colombia’s only clean, efficient and frequent overground Metro, cable cars to the outskirts, escalators in Comuna 13 and 33 gardens, parks and plazas. You will not find a spec of dirt when riding the metro as locals are so proud of it and work hard to keep it clean. This stems from the 1980s campaign “Depende tambien de it, darle amor a Medellin or ‘It depends on you too to give love to Medellin’.

We rode the Metrocable cars which swoop near soundlessly over dramatic hillsides. The height at which the cablelines are elevated varies repeatedly so riders are only 10 feet above the corrugated rooftops of some outlying hills. A streetdog barks, a child chases a ball through a darting network of narrow paths and the whole scene feels eerily serene as we leave the chaotic noise of El Centro far behind. This is because Paisas work hard and commute far to reach the centre. By now it is also peak siesta time when the sun is at its least merciful. The increasingly shanty-esque neighbourhoods seem to have shakier-looking building regulation as we near the outskirts.


For the equivalent of 50 pence each it surely has to be one of the cheapest and most spectacular sightseeing tours in the world and no one is paying me anything to say that!

Stray dogs, cats and other animals are also treated far more humanely in Medellin than almost all other Colombian cities by adopting ‘the basic tripod’ care strategy ‘including mass sterilization, encouraging adoption and responsible ownership and effective measures to control the population of animals’. Subsequently the city is noticeably cleaner having only just over 1,000 stray cats and dogs compared to Bogota’s 100,000.

It is such a shame the city had to become one of the most violent in the world in order for these measures to be introduced with initiatives to give something back to the people who had been terrorised for so long and endured so much.

In the last decade or so Medellin has won numerous awards for eco-urban redevelopment and pioneering design to maximise social interactions. In many respects it is still leaps and bounds ahead of many European cities. However I am more than aware that having read a few articles, guidebook summaries and spending a week as a blinkered tourist by no means qualifies me to pass comprehensive judgement that all of the city’s ills have been adequately remedied.

Comuna/district 13 is one such example of a far-flung impoverished suburb which since 2011 can be reached using a single metro ticket incorporating rail, bus and escalators! That’s right, 6 consecutive under cover escalators showcasing vibrant street art were installed to help save the local workers aching legs ascend their unforgivably steep neighbourhood of “hundreds of large steps, the equivalent of 28 stories” each evening. The word escalator is far more fun to say in Spanish & has a rhythmical quality ‘escalera electrica. This is nearly as much fun to say as ‘chocolate caliente‘ (hot chocolate).

Once considered the most dangerous neighbourhood in Colombia, tourists can now get Communa 13 graffiti tours (albeit at a price that could still be considered daylight robbery).

COOLOMBIAAAAAAAAAAH! Es muy rapido comentario, no?

On another occassion we witnessed how Medellin and probably most of Colombia clocked off early for the day when they played Ecuador in the Brazilian World Cup. We happened to bump into Oskar, our Swedish hostel roomie on a date at a streetside bar where they sold better beer than Aguila. We had invited Christopher, another Chilean guy from the Panela hostel along. I was still left incomprehensibly baffled by just how fast Colombian football commentators speak and love to roll their R’s. Because I can’t roll mine I felt more than slightly emasculated throughout all of South America.

Maybe the tongue movement reflects the rapid flight of the hummingbird of which Colombia has more varieties than any nation on earth. When I try I just sound like disturbed baby gargling cyanide. I’m referring to rolling my R’s btw not flapping my wings although both repel onlookers.

On one of our last days of over a week in the city we metroed all the way to Casa de la Memoria (House of Memory) which is architecturally bold enough for Vogue to deem ‘an Instragram worthy attraction’. Well why else would Vogue readers visit?

Unfortunately we probably didn’t get much further than most Vogue readers because by the time we arrived it was about to close 2 hours earlier than we were led to believe. It was also getting dark and about to rain. We admired the outdoor archive snippets of tributes to those locals who lost their lives during the cartel narco-guerilla years. We then circumnavigated the building to the lower ground floor where I managed to successfully charm offensive use of their bathroom to ensure it wasn’t an entirely wasted trip.

Medellin breweries – barroom hopping

One night in Medellin we wandered past just about every single bar in the Poblado and beyond, only to wind up in a Bogota Beer Company pub. Ah well why kick the habit of our whole trip? Ever since I first sampled BBC’s charms back in Cartagena I had fallen under its refreshing flavoursome spell.

Little did I know better Medellin breweries lay in wait such as Apostol/Apostle and the aforementioned 3 Cordilleras referring to the mountain ranges we had twisted and turned throughout on the overnight coach to get here. The latter was started back in 2008 as the first micro in the city with brewery equipment purchased secondhand from Portland, Oregon aka Craft Beervana. Well, why wouldn’t you buy from the best in the business? Unfortunately other info online about them is rather outdated but they’re on Untappd.

Whilst harder to procure we stumbled on the Colombian version of a Whole Foods-esque hipster deli minimart where they sold 6 packs of both…



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