Trip Start Jul 21, 2009
Trip End Apr 28, 2010

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Monday, December 7, 2009

The past three days John and I have spent exploring the city of Medellin.  This is one of the larger cities in Colombia, located about 12 hours south of the coast.  It was formerly one of the more dangerous drug capitals of the country, but is now amazingly busy with people out and about at all times of day and night.  In the downtown area, the main pedestrian shopping street was packed with people out walking and doing some Christmas shopping.  The street resembled many that we saw in Central America, with people shouting out and trying to sell everything and anything.  However, rather than selling fake watches and pirated CDs that were so common further north, the merchandise has become slightly more modern.  Favorites of the day were plastic Christmas decorations, fruit, and the best one -- plastic blow-up swimming pools.  I found that entertaining.

Also in the downtown area, we visited a few parks and museums.  The Barefoot Park is supposed to be a relaxing place to kick off your shoes and play around.  It was, in reality, a normal fountain, where you were allowed to play (as opposed to the fountains in every other city, including Chicago, where kids play anyways).  At the Plaza Mayor, we visited a special exhibit of Bodies.  This is a traveling exhibit showing (real) preserved human bodies, emphasizing different muscle groups, bones, internal organs, veins, etc.  It was pretty interesting.  At the Museo de Antioquia (which has free entry at the moment!) we checked out some sculptures and paintings by Fernando Botero.  The theme there seems to be oversized -- oversized canvases and oversized sculptures, showing oversized (ie, fat) people and animals.  Interesting.

Other special events in Medellin include:

Parque Lleras -- this park, located near our hostel, is surrounded on all sides, for about a block in each direction, with bars and resturants.  We went to check it out on Saturday night, and the place was packed!  Early in the evening, every place was full with people watching one of the local soccer teams play.  Later in the evening, the bars were packed, and overflowing.  The streets were also crowded with people hanging out, drinking, eating snacks from the street vendors and whatnot.  It was a fun, but very relaxed, sort of atmosphere.  The crowds were the size that we would see for a special event (New Years, or a concert), but it was just another Saturday night.

Soccer -- There are two local soccer teams in Medellin.  One of them had a game in town, versus a team from Cartagena, so we went to check it out.  The last soccer game we went to was in Antigua, where under 1,000 people showed up.  Although the game here in Medellin wasn't quite a sellout, there were still close to perhaps 30,000 people at the game.  The supporter section was loud the whole time, and the stadium came to life when the home team scored their first goal and later a second to seal the win.

Paragliding -- The area around Medellin is known for paragliding, so John and I went to give it a try.  The process is amazingly simple.  The office is located up on one of the hills that surround the city, but a public bus runs right past, so you can take a bus to the door.  We had called ahead, but didn't have a reservation for a particular time or anything like that.  When we arrived, we checked in, and climbed up a set of stairs to a bit higher on the hill.  There, the pilot for the tandem flight was waiting, with the gear.  Only John was going to fly, so he climbed into the flight suit and waited for one other pair to take off, then he was up.  We had only been there for a few minutes, and the next thing I knew, he was running off the hill, ready to fly.  After going around for about 25 minutes, and seeing the city, the surrounding hills, and even a waterfall, they returned to the same place on the hill for a nice smooth landing.  John reports that it was a great deal of fun!
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