Medellín. It's loud, it's extreme, it's passionate, smelly, warm, open, lively, thriving, dynamic, dirty, colorful, transforming and utterly beautiful. I fall in love at first sight. It's like an open wound that started to heal, a glaring ray of sun after a devastating storm, an eternal spring that has no memory of winter. By intention.
One of the first paisas I meet - an energetic beauty with an explosion of red hair - tells me that the secret to this city's happiness is the ability to forget. Live in the now. Wipe out the past. Reset your memory to zero. I yearn to find that very switch in my head. But I suspect it's not as easy as it may sound. The body has a memory, too. Even if the mind begs to differ.
Before I embark on this venture - "last minute" doesn't even come close to describing how this trip came about - a half Colombian friend tells me not to come back before my senses haven't recovered from winter. That I should stay until I'm capable to taste the wilderness on my tongue, listen to the birds chanting their symphonies, smell the herbs that fill the warm air and announce a much softer autumn. Medellín manages to get me there in just three days. Do the colors shine brighter only because the canvas is black, I ask myself. I guess part of the answer is "yes".
And I relax, forget, let go. From a marathon of work. From the death of my mom. From too many months without a trip to the unknown."You start to die slowly if you do not travel.....if you do not listen to the sounds of life.....if you avoid to feel passion and their turbulent emotions, those which make your eyes glisten and your heart beat fast..... if you do not go after a dream....and run away from sensible advice." Pablo Neruda is damn right. And this is exactly what brought me to Medellín.
Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, so people say. Maybe it takes a hechicera to know the magic of transformation, to see a wonder unfolding, to discover a flower that slowly frees itself from a dark shell of tar. A long way to go yet, so the paisas say, but still....
Allow yourself to lean back and get carried away through the barrios of Medellín - no risks, but side effects: you may want to storm the next travel agency and book a flight to the city of eternal spring :-)
Even non-coffeeholics and meat lovers will feel Colombia's pull from a plethora of tastes. Get prepared to awaken your tongues from a deep winter's sleep. Thanks to the two genius Toucan Cafe & Tours (for a truly inspiring trip to coffee land) and Real City Tours (for an unforgettably tasty and funny fruit market visit), even the most exhausted turista will be transported to sensory nirwana.
It's impossible to retell the stories behind the graffitis of the notorious Comuna 13, a quarter once knee-deep in war, with not so much of a difference whether the violence came from left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary, the country's police, a certain drug lord (tip: avoid the E-word), various gangs, or all of them. The graffitis have their own language, styles and symbols - from hope to strength to wisdom to unity, family and love. The guys from Casa Kolacho - a center of Hip Hop artists in the Comuna - do an amazing job in making us gringos understand how it must have been to grow up there. Huge respect! I wouldn't like to miss a single second of this mind-blowing tour. Dive into the language of color - it may look very different in 5 years from now...