I got to Medellin, “the world’s most innovative city,” with a chip on my shoulder. I was secretly hoping to like Bogota better, having spent two months there before first stepping foot in everyone’s favorite Colombian city. But Medellin has an undeniable appeal. It is progressive, the climate is perfect, the setting is dramatic, the women are beautiful (only the women, apparently), the people are friendly, and the city has a fascinating, though tragic, recent history. At it’s peak in 1991, Medellin had 381 murders per 100,000 people - the most on record anywhere. For comparison, the current global murder capital sees much less than half of Medellin’s mark. The hawkish crackdown that eventually turned the city and country around was controversial, but productive. 15 years later, Medellin is fighting the drug war with strategic “democratic architecture” projects; trains, gondolas, libraries, parks, and public art. The focus has been on poorer neighborhoods, and the results have been outstanding - a clean, safe, modern, and vibrant city. The nightlife is also legendary, though we were too tired from days overloaded with sightseeing to give the bars and clubs much of a chance.
I came to Medellin looking for things not to like, and had a hard time finding any. I missed some of the grit, professionalism, and diversity of Bogota, but nonetheless left Medellin eager to return.