US: “No, I think we’ll skip Medellin. We’re not big city people really, and we already went to Bogotá.”
EVERYONE WE EVER SAID THIS TO: “Oh no, you really should go to Medellin. They have a great metro system.”
Whenever we heard this, we didn’t quite know how to respond. What’s so great about a Metro? We weren’t quite sure that Medellin’s could possibly be so amazing, that it would warrant a special trip.
Eventually we were convinced to head to Medellin by our new friend Tatiana, who thought it was inconceivable that we would miss out on what her hometown had to offer. She promised that we would be amazed by more than just the Metro and that the city was actually much safer than its reputation (past and present) would have you believe.
Having spent a few days in Medellin, we are on the bandwagon too. We are now singing the praises of their Metro to anyone who will listen.
A trip across town on the train took just twenty minutes and cost only one dollar per person. To travel that great of a distance, in such a short period of time, in a city where more than two million Colombians call home, was astonishing.
The other mind-blowing part about this transportation system is that we did not see a single speck of trash or graffiti on any of our trips. We always saw people mopping and even scrubbing out trash cans. (Mom, they went way above and beyond your standards. You would have been impressed.) It was so clean, I could have eaten off the floor had they allowed food or drink inside the stations or the cars.
It is obvious that they are extremely proud of their system, and we would often see or hear reminders about appropriate behavior while riding. (“In the stations, walking is better than running!”) There were always police officers present so we always felt safe and secure, even though most them looked to be about 16.
But that is not all, folks. To include more of the Medellin population, especially those in the poorer neighborhoods on the steep surrounding hills, they decided to connect the Metro trains with the “Metro Cable.” In other words, for the skiers among us, they connected the trains with a gondola system.
To fill one of our days in Medellin, we decided to ride gondola to admire the amazing views and just for the thrill of the ride. For only one dollar per person, we rode the train across town and then boarded the gondola with locals who didn’t seem quite as enthused as we were. As we were peacefully lifted from the city center to the upper reaches of the hills, Joe was left asking himself where all the ski slopes were.
This ten minute ride, with ever-growing views of the city, was met by another gondola (this one cost about $2) which headed to Medellin’s Arvi park. Our initial thought was that this park would simply be a small overlook with some benches to enjoy the view. After we keep riding for 20 minutes over the hill and through forests, we eventually arrived at something much different.
Using our steadily improving Spanish, we learned that the park was huge and offered many long hikes, campgrounds, horseback riding, and restaurants to enjoy. Needless to say we were less than prepared for this adventure, and didn’t have much time, so we just walked around for a little bit and got some food.
It was nice to see that with a few bucks and a nice ride you could escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy nature.
This interconnected system is the most unique we have ever seen or ridden on. The stark comparison between the racing busses in Bogotá (Yes, some would race each other to get passengers), and the organized system in Medellin is amazing. In addition to the organization, there were far fewer exhaust-spewing busses revving their engines trying to run you over.
The metro system was wonderful to use and Medellin did a great job implementing their vision. Soon, they are going to add dedicated bus routes from the Metro stops to further increase its usability.
Don’t worry, although we are easily amused, there was plenty more to see and do in Medellin. You’ll hear about that another day.