“This place is so clean, you could eat on the floor!” That was my husband’s first reaction upon entering the subway station in Medellin Colombia. Floors, stairways, and walls were spotless. Metal fixtures were highly polished, so unlike the grit in the corners we see so often in our own subway stations here in the USA. People were friendly and helpful. It took only moments for us to purchase tickets and find the right platform to enter a train going to city center.
Outside the station, vendors sold food and drinks. The quality was top notch and we enjoyed an ice-cold jugo of blackberries with milk. Even the food preparation and eating areas were spotless; food preparers kept care of their own refuse and workers were quick to gather up anything that landed on the cement.
Our ride was primarily above ground, allowing us to spot sights that looked worth exploring. At times, we hopped off at the next stop so we could go back and explore. Other times, we just marked an area on our map so that we could later visit a stunning church or a park. And we talked with everyone who offered a smile. How else to pick up travel gossip?
Palm Tree Hostel, we came into contact with travelers from many nations. A Chinese couple urged us to travel the part of the system where it turns into a tram. They reported that they not only got fabulous views but also walked back through the hillside barrios, home to lower-income residents. Kids had run up to touch their skin, shouting, “Chinos, chinos!” Perhaps not that many Chinese tourists had passed their way. A German couple had ridden the tram at dawn in order to enjoy the early-morning pastel sky.
We postponed the tram ride, hoping for a clear day, but the cloud cover stayed with us. Late one afternoon, we went and what a treat it was. Traveling over the barrios was an education in itself: the architectural creativity went from none (hastily constructed shanties) to permanent structures looking as if they were designed by artists. One thing most of them shared: a beautiful view down the hillsides.
I am not going to address poverty in this entry but will cover it separately. It was apparent on that trip and also apparent was the camaraderie in the neighborhood. One thing that struck us was the range of things important to the residents. Some homes were dirty and disorganized while others were covered with flowers and artwork.
Some travelers reprimanded us for riding the subway, saying it could be dangerous and cabs were much safer. That was not our experience. We enjoyed it, felt safe and secure, and recommend you do your own investigation. Our pictures are not very good, due to the weather.