FRIDAY, APRIL 6, 2007. MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA. With over 2.2 million people, Medellin is Colombia's second largest city after Bogota and the capital of Antioquia province. It is located in the wide Aburra Valley in the Central Cordillera at an elevation of about 1400 meters. Medellin is infamously known for the Medellin cartel and its former leader, Pablo Escobar (Escobar was killed by the Colombian government in 1993 after escaping from prison). When Escobar was in charge, Medellin was the cocaine capital of Colombia. Medellin is a modern city with little remaining colonial architecture. It has a modern center, with slum barrios covering some of the slopes. Colombia's only mass trassit metro system opened in 1995. The system is at ground level outside and elevated within the city center. With over a half dozen colleges and universities, Medellin is Colombia's university city. The student population is quite evident when walking the streets. Lacking colonial architecture, Medellin's main tourist attractions are its museums.
SUNDAY, APRIL 8, 2007. MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA. Yesterday, Jeff called a friend of a New York City friend who has a friend in Medellin named Jenny. Jenny, her cousin Sandra, and friend Carolina picked us up in the city center and gave us a quick tour of the city by car, before we enjoyed an evening of sangria, appetizers, and great conversation. Today Jenny and Sandra drove us to the small town of San Antonio for lunch in the mountains above Medellin. In the afternoon, we visited a beautiful, modern shopping mall with many Western stores (e.g., Guess, Calvin Klein, Sony, Mont Blanc). I was quite impressed by the mall as it was better than a typical American mall. Later, we went to the Mel Gibson movie Apocalypto, set in pre-Columbian Mayan civilization. The movie was entirely in the Maya language with Spanish subtitles. Accordingly, I didn't understand more than a few words in the movie; We thought it would be in English with Spanish subtitles). The store is about one tribe's capture by another and one member's subsequent experience. It was an intense, gory bloodbath a movie, but still somewhat entertaining, particularly the later half chase scenes (Jenny and Sandra walked out less than halfway through the movie; Do NOT take the kids to see this movie).
We plan to stay in Medellin one more day before heading to Bogota.