Medellín: Comuna 13

Today we are taking a walking tour of Comuna 13, a place once considered one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world (80s and 90s). In the past it was run by violent drug traffickers but now is a very colorful and popular neighborhood for tourism. Tourists visit Medellín and take a tour of its great graffiti art.

We meet our tour guide at our metro station, El Poblado. Once the group has all arrived we ride the metro together down to where we ride the cable cars uphill. At the end of the cable line we take a bus. Alternatively you can take the metro to San Javier metro and walk to the escalators. We took the escalators down later at the end of our tour.

View from cable car station

Once off the cable railway we stop for an arepa and fruit juice.

We hop on a bus and head further uphill to start our walk.

Once off the bus we walk a little further uphill. He tells us the history of the area. We learn stories, even personal stories of his own, about how the residents lived in fear for many years. In 2011 the government started a series of improvements to the community, including an escalator. The area gradually evolved into a safer and visited area by tourists (to the dismay of some locals). These tours try to bring dollars into the community and minimize the disruption to the locals. Hopefully our tour did not cause too much distress.

Fascination with busy power poles

We learn about one of the most famous graffiti artists of the area Chota 13 (@chota_13). We learn that he started a school in the barrio. The school is dedicated to teaching the children art and hip hop dance to keep them out of violence.

We stopped at a bar for a pit stop. The bar displays pictures of celebrity visitors. They were especially proud of the visit by former president of the USA Bill Clinton.

We stopped for some frozen mango.

Around the corner from the mango place there is a fun black light gallery. Some of the art is best seen with 3D glasses.

Eventually we start heading downhill back toward the train station

The soccer match we attend tomorrow: the two local teams

We say goodbye to our tour. The tour from Comuna 13 Medellin Graffiti was money well spent.

Before we head back to El Poblado we stop at the Museo de Antioquia so M can see all the Botero artwork. I am able to save her some time by showing her the interesting exhibits like the religious art wing.

We stop to try some cheese balls.

We head back to El Poblado. We find a very busy dog walker and some more street performers.

I try tonight to meet up with another friend I knew in college who happens to be in town. We try to stay out late to meet up with her but our schedules don’t align. They don’t even head out until late and we do our partying early. We did stay out late enough to witness just a little bit of fun of the neighborhood.

37 Park Medellín

Zona Rosa area of El Poblado

We shared a good amount of Sangria.

We stopped at one last bar where we had lots of street entertainment.

Dance groups in El Poblado

At least we had one night of fun in our vibrant neighborhood.

Tomorrow is our last day in Colombia and we plan to attend a soccer match. Wish us luck.

Cartagena

It is my first full day in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. I have a couple days here alone before a friend comes to meet me. I’ll save the major sights for when she arrives, now is the time for me to enjoy the city leisurely.

Fortunately I wake up early enough to take advantage of the free buffet breakfast at the hotel. A friendly kitchen staff member greets me and asks how I would like my eggs. I enjoy coffee and the buffet of fresh fruit along with my eggs.

Against better judgement I have been eating a good amount of fresh fruit in Colombia but it isn’t until my visit to Cartagena that it has an effect on me. The bacteria in Cartagena is different than other parts of Colombia. I have some mild stomach discomfort here (the water quality has something to do with its lower elevation).

After breakfast I wander around to explore and stop to order a fun cocktail and a snack at Lobo de Mar.

I am once again in another town where the buildings are painted in vivid colors. It is a beautiful sight to see.

I grab a beer and rest in the courtyard of my hotel to escape the heat and book some tours.

my hotel

The next day or so is about the same; I take things easy.

I see on a map the home of Gabriel García Márquez (the famous Colombian author) but I cannot find it. While I really like the novel Love in the Time of Cholera, I had a annoying experience reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. Many praise the novel but I find it impossible to follow. There are so many characters introduced in different timelines and they all seem to have similar names. I’ve tried to read it three times and still have not been able to complete it. I am unable to locate the house.

I did see this boutique hotel in his honor…..the map shows that this hotel is right next door to the house. If it is there I did not see it.

Gabriel García Márquez on the wall

There is also a fortification around the city “Murallas De Cartagena”. One can walk along the walls as I did a few times during my visit.

More city photos

Botero statue

One plaza has a bunch of sculptures by Edgardo Carmona, a local sculptor.

Street Arepa

I soon find one of my favorite places to have a drink in town – Cuba 1940. I watch live music here a couple days later. (Cartagena really makes me want to party, lol).

While people watching I’ve seen Captain America, Iron Man, Deadpool, Spiderman, Edward Scissorhands and a large-bellied man dancing shirtless in a hula skirt. Being Friday night people must be out for birthday celebrations or stag nights. Cartagena is a fun city.

Later on I treat myself to a nice meal at Agua De Leon restaurant. The restaurant is busy but they are able to seat me at the bar. I still have a view of the live band playing up front.

Ceviche
Mac n cheese de langosta

The next day …

I have a travel partner again! My friend M has arrived. I’ve checked out of my hotel and transferred my belongings to the apartment where we will spend the next couple days. Unfortunately when we arrive they want all cash payment. We are both confused because we thought we had prepaid. Additionally the booking had no specification about paying in cash. We don’t have that much cash on hand so we ask if we can pay later after we are able to withdrawal more money; hopefully we have high ATM limits. After we gather the funds we have a really hard time finding a person to pay. Our days are similar, we return after sightseeing and we still not know who/how to pay. It makes us a little irritated and anxious. Eventually we learn that there is an office that is not often occupied. One day we find a person in the “office”. They seem ready to leave but we make sure that we pay for our stay and get a receipt. Whew! Glad that drama is over! Luckily our next hotel is prepaid by credit card.

Area outside the hotel

Once we drop our bags off we hit the ground running. We first head out for a beer at the pub around the corner.

We then walk around town a bit. We end up catching the tail end of a wedding. It is fun to see local wedding traditons.

Finally we share a Colombian version of a charcuterie platter. We have an early morning cruise scheduled tomorrow so no late night for us.

Medellín: Day 1

My view from my hotel room

I have just left Bogotá DC Colombia and now I am in Medellín where I continue my Colombian travels. I am here for a couple days but I take things easy because I will return with a friend in a couple weeks. Medellín is one of those cities I wanted to spend extra time in and get the feel of. Slow travel is my style so spending lots of time in a city makes me feel like I don’t miss out on too much and at the same time don’t have to rush my travels.

Medellín was once the most dangerous city in the world and now is a popular place for tourists to visit. Medellín is no Disney World but you are very unlikely to get murdered on its streets anymore. Pickpockets are still an issue as in any big city but if you keep your wits about you then your visit should be relatively pleasant. It is pretty tough to get around if you don’t have some understanding of Spanish. It might be easier to visit in a tour group if you have no grasp on the Spanish language; I know enough to get by (or to be dangerous they say).

I am staying in El Poblado which is a 30 minute cab ride from the airport. El Poblado is very popular with tourists due to its safety, comforts and party like atmosphere at night (think South Beach). I am not much of a partier anymore but it is neat to hear the music and fun on the streets below, even if I choose not to partake. (side note: The weather reminds me of back home in central Florida where it gets hot & humid and randomly rains throughout the day. My first things I notice on my drive from the airport is the intoxicating smell of delicious BBQ from street-side grills and then pouring rain for the rest of my ride.)

As for accommodations, I took advantage of my friend’s great research skills and decided to stay in the same hotel that I will stay in later in my trip. It is an upgrade to my normal travel but it is my last month of traveling so I don’t have to be as budget conscious. The friend I am traveling with is a fantastic planner so I trust the research she put into the hotels. She made a good choice.

My room

My first night is uneventful as they often are because travel days wear me down.

On my first official day I am heading down to Plazuela Nutibara.

Medellín has a tram that can take me across town but I don’t yet have the courage to take it (Don’t worry I’ll be on it by tomorrow). I take a very scary taxi ride down to the Antioquia Museum to look at art (and more Botero).

Outside the museum at Plazuela Nutibara are lots of Botero statues:

Inside the Antioquia Museum I find more Botero art.

I really love Botero’s expressive animals.

I like this mural by Pedro Nel Gómez.

I take note of other Colombia artists.

Liberación, La Boca Roja – Wilfredo Lam

I really like the work of Carlos Correa and similar artists. I wish they had prints for sale.

There is a religious art room that doesn’t have your average gothic or renaissance art.

While the museum has some great art, the layout and organization of it is confusing. I see signs for exhibits but the doors are shut and locked with seemingly no reason. (Just a note in case someone wanders around the place confused like I was.)

After the Antioquia Museum I wander to a nearby park (Parque de Bolívar) where I walk around and people watch.

I walk down nearby streets and as time passes I get further away from what would be considered commercial tourist areas (Though most tourist areas have the feeling of more crowded with locals than tourists). Not wanting to get lost I turn back and head onto main shopping streets. Streets are busy with consumerism (shops and street vendors) as well as street entertainers.

guama – I didn’t try this until my next visit to town.

I eventually walk to Parque San Antonio. It is a large outdoor space. I hear music playing all around.

There are some Botero bird statues. There are two because one is destroyed from a bomb in 1995 killing 29 people. The destroyed bird remains and a new one is placed nearby. They serve as a reminder of that day.

A little further down I come to a bridge area. I seem to be walking in the general direction I need to in order to reach the my hotel. However since I am not really familiar with the neighborhoods I decide to call it a day and take a cab back to my hotel area.

After the cab drops me off at El Poblado I walk around to get a feel of the area. I later order dinner at an Asian fusion restaurant.

I enjoy the performance artists at the red lights. This guy juggles on a tight rope.

Pezetarian Medellin (temporarily closed)

The restaurant is on a street that becomes lively at night. I am missing out on the fun tonight. Perhaps I’ll partake in a few weeks when my friend visits me?

Bogota Museum Day

La Candelaria area of Bogota

I am still in Bogota Colombia and will spend the day visiting museums.

Colombia is still new to me and the public transportation is intimidating so I end up using the Cabify app to call a taxi to take me to the main tourist areas.

I start first at the Museo Botero to get a good look at some of Botero’s chunky art work. His pictures and sculptures are so much fun to see.

Love the chubby animals and the expressions they hold.

Along with the Botero art the museum contains pieces from other artists.

Max Ernst

After the Botero museum I head over to the Museo de Oro. I really have no interest in gold but the museum is highly rated so I give it a try anyway.

I see lots of gold pieces but what is great about this museum is organization of items and customs by different indigenous groups of the nearby regions (pre-Hispanic societies).

I like the exhibit on the extensive drainage channels built by Zenúes indigenous people. The channels are built to handle the regular floods of the region while still being able to maintain agriculture. It is pretty advanced for its time.

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the area of La Candelaria.

I once again used Cabify to order a taxi. I had a hard time getting taxi to pick me up. I used a taxi app but practically had to push someone out of my cab when it arrived because people were trying to flag down cabs that would never stop. I am leaving Bogota tomorrow but if I ever return I will definitely learn public transport.

Bogota is such a nice city that I could have used a couple more days in exploring the region. Maybe someday I will return.

National Gallery of Victoria

Kaws at NGV International

Today I am visiting museums – specifically a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). There are two locations of NGV in Melbourne, The Ian Potter Centre (Australian art) and NGV International (extensive collection of international art). Note: The international location is temporarily closed as of time of this post.

I first stop at the The Ian Potter Centre since it is on the way for my walk to the NGV International. I catch the free exhibit by Lucy McRae, an Australian artist.

Nearby the The Ian Potter Centre
Nearby the The Ian Potter Centre

Lucy McRae: Body Architect

I watch a short film by the artist:

Institute of Isolation, 2016, is an observational documentary that contemplates whether isolation, or extreme experience, might be used to build human resilience in the context of space travel and off-planetary existence. McRae ponders: what happens to people when they are travelling for decades in a very, very small space? What will the body and mind need to endure and how will people prepare? – From NGV website

The artist’s main inspiration of her art is the question How will technology transform the body?

The museum exhibit contains videos and photographs that show her thoughts on body and technology.

I skip the other galleries at the Ian Potter NGV because there are special exhibits at the other museum that have timed and limited entry.

NGV International

Artwork by Kaws and Keith Haring

The theme today is NYC -> coincidently the city I recently moved away from. The artists featured in the premium exhibitions are from NYC.

The first exhibit I visit is KAWS: COMPANIONSHIP IN THE AGE OF LONELINESS.

I love his take on pop culture personalities.

Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines

The next special ticket exhibit is the Haring and Basquiat combination gallery. The museum highlights a number of works from both artists; both were prominent in the art world during the same period. I have seen pieces from both artists at museums around the world but this is the largest collection I have seen from both artists thus far.

Keith Haring

Jean-Michel Basquiat

After I finish my viewing of the NYC artists I move on to some other exhibits while time allows. Normally I am not interested in fashion but the fashion exhibit below pulls me in.

Comme des Garçons by Rei Kawakubo

I also watch another art film but this time by Iranian artist Shirin Neshat.

Dreamers

I see some rooms with other collections: Picasso and such. However I am especially drawn to the animal art in the NGV Salon. The salon holds interesting 19th century artwork. Unfortunately I have to discover these rooms quickly because the museum is closing. I hope to return someday to get a closer look at the artwork.

After the museum closes I wander around the nearby Arts Center where I order a cocktail and get a snack. Museum days wear me out so I head back to my part of town sooner than later.

I take a different tram back to Collingwood today. It drops me off near a brewery called Stomping Ground Brewery & Beer Hall where I try a couple beers before settling in for the evening.