My latest, a story about Zagreb's coolest neighborhood for The New York Times

The revival of Medellín

Posted by anja | December 7, 2009 | Colombia, Ex-blog, Medellin, South America

It’s been an intense week in Colombia. I am writing this from Cartagena, a magical town on the country’s Caribbean coast. On my Sunday afternoon stroll here, I felt like I’ve stumbled into a Gabriel García Márquez novel.

I arrived yesterday morning for a whirlwind two-day stay. After the mad dash around Medellín, I’ve decided to take it easy in Cartagena. To laze around, meander aimlessly, sit in city squares, and take siestas. What a luxury, paired with sea breezes and the chirp of nighttime cicadas.

During this time, I’ve been mulling over my four-day stay in Medellín. I’m still short of words to describe it so I thought I’d post a couple of short video clips, taken around town. I kept on forgetting to bring my camcorder so these are shot with my photo camera, hence the bad quality. Still, I hope to convey a few everyday moments, as the city goes about its regular business.


The barrio of Santo Domingo (where both videos are taken) used to be a no-go zone during the era of Pablo Escobar, Colombia’s most infamous drug lord. Even the police didn’t dare to enter these gang-ruled shantytowns. Five years ago, the hilly neighborhood was transformed with the introduction of MetroCable, an aerial cable car that goes up to the top of the barrio, thus connecting the inhabitants to downtown, and hence jobs. In the past, the walk – the only way to get up and down – took 2.5 hours in each direction from the top of the hill. And that was just to the first stop of the metro. Now, the MetroCable whisks the barrio people up or down within 10 minutes.

Less than a decade ago, these hillside slums in the city’s northern part were the epicenter of cocaine-related violence and murder. The social and cultural revival was spearheaded by the construction of Parque Biblioteca España (Library of Spain). Not only are the vistas amazing from this spectacular building but it’s also become the center of educational and recreational activities for the neighborhood. On the day I visited, children were happily playing in the daycare, many of whom come by themselves to while the afternoon away. These days, life in Santo Domingo goes on as in any other barrio – donkeys, street vendors, music and all.

Blog Comments

Love this! I was in Medellin a couple years back and loved it. Never knew Botero was so bad-ass. And paragliding over the city was pretty sweet too.

Have fun in Cartegena. And don't miss Playa Blanca.

As usual, a very nice piece of journalism. Short, but au point :).

I didn't make it to Playa Blanca, Lauren! I had only two days in Cartagena, regrettably. Will simply have to go back.

Thanks, Hoji!

Glad you enjoyed Medellin. Every positive visitor experience helps to open the window a little further on what modern life is like in the city.

Aside from Venice when I was 21, it is the only city where I uttered the words "I want to live here" when I arrived.

And I'm happy to say I did just that, spending 5.5 months there in early 2009. I still miss my routines there, the mountain views, Spring weather, affordable mojitos, and my friends, both the Colombians and expats.

ovih 15 sec drugog videa bilo je dovoljno za mene koji cijeli dan bos u boroletama (u stanu) osjecam ljeto. i sad jos taj hlad, mahanje repa i neodoljiva melodija u pozadini.. ne treba nikakav kvalitetniji camcorder, ako mene pitas 🙂

That must have been an amazing 5.5 months in Medellin, Dave!

Super, drago mi je da si bio sa mnom u Kolumbiji tih 15ak sekundi, Domagoj. I to bos u boroletama. 🙂

Enjoyed this post as I plan to make it to Colombia in the next year.

Colombia is a beautiful country and Medellin is the city of the eternal spring.

Add a comment

*Please complete all fields correctly

Related posts

Happy 2014
Posted by anja | January 2, 2014
It was a pivotal year, yet it felt somehow quiet. Perhaps because I write this from a quiet place. But it wasn’t so most of the year. My husband &...
Posted by anja | May 31, 2013
  In May 2011, I visited Kenya. On the 10-day sojourn, I went to three national reserves, got charged by a bull elephant, witnessed a fresh cow blood drinking ceremony...
Posted by anja | May 27, 2013
  In winter 2006, I fulfilled a long-awaited dream – I traveled to Cuba. Among the highlights was the afternoon I spent marching with the Cuban people through the streets...