08 Aug A day in Medellin
We rolled into Medellin just in time to see the sun rise over this mountain valley. After a pit-stop at the home of our new friends Jaun Paulo and Laura (<3), we were off to see the city. The city’s metro system includes a gondola ride up the mountain to the public library and a neighbourhood known as “the hole” (think Kensington market, but Colombian). The whole city is built of brick and is nothing short of breathtaking. The library was interesting for us because it was built to transform a community; 10 years of paramilitary violence (from 1992 to 2002) was ended by adding the largest library in the country, with tons of community services including child care, computers, classes and theatre, all for free. They brought the gondola up to the neighborhood on regular public transit (75 cents Canadian to ride anywhere in the city) and the combined tourism infrastructure, library development and increased security transformed the neighborhood from a terrorized society into a vibrant community.
After the library/gondola tour we headed to the Medellin Flower festival. For two hundred years the indigenous population have been preparing flower arrangements, and carrying them on their backs down the mountain into the city. These are the largest and most beautiful flower arrangements you have ever seen, weighing in at 75 kilos or more each. This region is one of the worlds largest flower producing region and exports most of the flowers we would see in Canada. Absolutely spectacular! Brilliant. We climbed onto rafters just in time for the action to pass by, and we had a perfect viewpoint to see hundreds of citizens parading with flowers on their backs, interspersed with crazy dancing floats and marching bands. The excitement of the crowd was totally different than parades at home…everyone in the city came out to the parade and cheered on the paraders!
The sun set on our perfect day and we walked home on a closed highway in the middle of the city. The lights of the city could be seen extending into the mountains. The city looked much the much the way it did when we arrived this morning, only now, we were thoroughly in love with it (and each other). Hooray!