Month 3 of Remote Year has me living and working in breathtaking Medellín, the second-largest city in Colombia and the capital of Antioquia. I fell in love with this city the moment I arrived with its laid-back atmosphere and colorful culture. The temperature hovers anywhere between 65 – 85 degrees which has earned the city the reputation of “City of Eternal Spring.” I really enjoy the humidity and tropical vibes. Also, it rains intermittently throughout the day which I find quite romantic. It’s nice to dodge into a cafe or restaurant to wait out the weather and awaken your senses in that moment. Because of the rain, it is super green and lush throughout the urban areas. There isn’t a lot of traffic here making the air cleaner than the previous cities I’ve lived this year.
My neighborhood in Poblado is lined with graffiti, tropical flowers, complete with rippling creeks, nature paths, and also hip coffee shops and restaurants. It is great, but on the other hand, it is a neighborhood that you could easily find in the U.S. and thus attracts a lot of tourists. In fact, it looks nothing like the majority of the city and metro area.
In Poblado, I was able to find a natural market right away called Ceres. I also found the most majestic reformer pilates studio which was located in a castle. My favorite coffee shops to work from are Pergamino Cafe, Cafe Velvet, and Urbania Cafe. I had the best meal during my entire two-month stay in Colombia at Carmen. The dishes with creative and new and the wine pairing went perfectly with each course. In fact, it was one of the best wine pairings I’ve had with a tasting menu. My second favorite meal this month was at El Cielo. The tasting course began with you washing your hands with chocolate and salt and really set the bar high for creativity and innovation. My favorite lunch spots were Burdo, verdeo, and Mundo Verde. A quirky bar that I loved, Chiquita, was more like a museum of sexual experiences from the diva goddess fictional character, Chiquita’s travels and extravagant life, how appropriate.
Medellín was the epicenter of drug industry twenty years ago dominated by cartel tycoon Pablo Escobar. Today, Medellín is one of the most vibrant and innovative cities in South America. From the mountains that surround the capital of Antioquia you can see how the Medellín River runs parallel to the Metro, which connects various parts of the city. Many of the barrios, or neighborhoods, that are built into the mountains above the city, are extremely poor. The people who live in them were taken great advantage of during Escobar’s reign, and have been dealing with the aftermath ever since. The city built a cable car system that reaches up to the highest neighborhoods so that people can use it to commute to work in the city. This has created opportunities that have enabled people to rise out of poverty and live with dignity. I took a cable car out of the city and through thick forests into Arvi National Park.
One particular area of Medellín, an area called Comuna 13, also known as the San Javier, has the most tumultuous history of the city, once labeled the most dangerous community due to its astronomical homicide rates and forced displacement of thousands of residents. I joined a walking tour of Comuna 13 to understand what caused the immense shift. Soon after the city built the country’s first metro line and cable cars, cultural centers, libraries, and a complete overhaul of the city’s education agenda also contributed to the rebirth of not only Medellín but also its poorest neighborhoods like Comuna 13. Most recently, it finished installing a series of escalators in order to connect its residents with the rest of the city and provide safer, more efficient public transportation. It completely amazed me to see this transformation firsthand. I felt inspired by the colorful and positive murals, the welcoming residents, and the breathtaking views of the city.
I was really impressed with the Museum of Modern Art of Medellín. It features many artworks by Débora Arango, who was born in Medellín.
I also had the opportunity here to visit a local coffee farm. I have always been curious to see where the stuff I drink every day comes from. And what better country to find out than in Colombia? Concordia is a town in Colombia’s northwestern coffee region with extraordinary landscape and is easily accessible from Medellín. I went on a day trip with a tour of a coffee farm to learn all about.
Our guide showed us young coffee plants growing in the fields. He taught us which “coffee cherry” was ripe for the picking. With the coffee cherries in hand, he explained how the bean is extracted, then dried for several days. He walked us through the husking and roasting processes. We brewed the perfect cup of joe before heading to the coffee co-op in the town. The town itself was cute and felt very real – it was the first time in Colombia that I was the only gringo around – helping me to dive a layer deeper into their life. The coffee blooms were blooming when we visited the fields and the white flowers smelled of sweet jasmine!
No trip to Antioquia is complete without at least a day spent wandering through the colorful streets of Colombia’s most colorful town – Guatapé. Outside the colorful town is La piedra del Peñol, a giant rock with 740 stairs, a spot that people hike up to get the best view. Once you reach the top you see landscapes of blue-green lakes and breathtaking mountain vistas. Highly recommend the “do it in a van” tour! Our guide picked us up in the morning, made a delicious breakfast at his house, took us to a few small towns to explore, led us to a spot to jump off a 30-foot bridge, and finally made us lunch after we hiked up to the top of the rock.
Another mesmerizing day was spent at Pomario Farms. I had an intimate view of one of the premiere farms in Colombia producing micro-greens, tiny veggies and edible flowers. They are recently in cooperation with Koppert in The Netherlands, one of the world’s largest farms. A tasting menu based on a scavenger hunt was prepared by the local chef of Osea.