colombian diary - 4th chapter - mixed weather and mixed feelings in medellin

Arriving at the outskirts of Medellin, we heard a deafening thunder followed by a bright lightning - something had exploded. Welcome to Medellín.

Fernando Botero "La Muerte de Pablo Escobar"

We understood that we didn't experience a violent attack in the former murder capital, but that there was a thunderstorm coming down on Colombia's "city of spring". What gave us a hint? For instance the torrential rain that washed us towards our hotel. Oh man, I don't wanna get stuck at my - however very nice and comfortable - hotel room! Since a couple of years ago during hurrican Mitch I had to spend scary days in a hotel room in Tegucigalpa while outside people lost all their belongings including their lives, extreme weather conditions make me extremely nervous.

These paintings at the organic shop and restaurant "Salud Pan" not only cheered us up, but also gave us faith (that brighter days would come).

Since due to the unpredictable weather it was difficult to plan a day out, I thought a touristy group trip would be the best option. And it actually was. Being the only Europeans on a busload of mostly Latinos, we visited El Templo Roca where the whole town got ready for palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday at El Nuevo Peñol. 

We took a boat ride on Lago Guatapé where a lovely Colombian family shared a laugh and their aguardiente from a tetra pak with us while we were manoeuvring around the remains of Pablo Escobar 's former mansion.

Gringas - always a welcomed fairground attraction. 

The main reason for doing this tour was the view from La Piedra. After climbing 750 steps, you have a great view of the picturesque composition of numberless islands. I'm sorry, guys, I took my pictures when there were darkgrey clouds and shitty light so they look nothing like the ones I saw on the internet. Please be so kind to google them from others if you want pretty; or look at mine if you go for a rather melancholic version.

Lunch with a view - and with lovely Indian people from Chicago that we befriended during the trip. 

Islands in the liquid sun.

Last stop Guatapé, the charming little town where every house shows stucco according to the owner's trade. 

The next day it cleared up a bit, and we visited the center of Medellín.

Medellín is the way I was afraid Bogotá would be - dirty, aggressive, lost, many  poor, homeless people, groups of pathetic prostitutes lingering around churches. Godforsaken places - called 'Parques', definitely not being parks - full of sketchy people.

Going hooking between the statues at Parque Botero between the Museo de Antioquia and the Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe seems to be nothing like "Irma la douce".

Enjoying a well deserved ice cream while serving and protecting.

Everybody knows Medellín's rough, violent past. Many of these lost souls had to flee from their little piece of land on the country side, threaten, scared or chased away by one of the fighting forces, either the paramilitary right, the left wing guerilla or a drug cartel. Eventually they got stranded in the city. Like the lady that has been pushing all her belongings in a shopping cart across Plaza San Antonio for decades. She has lost her husband and kids by one of these groups and is now saving every peso she can afford, so one day she'll be able to return to the place she fled from. How I know this? Juan told me. Who Juan is? The guide at Real Walking Tour Medellín who guides groups through downtown, pointing out special places and narrating the country's, the city's, and the people's (hi-)stories; and it's only thanks to his energetic and entertaining attitude that after following him and his anecdotes for almost four hours, you're not too depressed. Because when you get to the root of it, all of them are more or less atrocious and depressing. Like the one of the two Botero birds on Plaza San Antonio (one of Medellín's most dismal places): During a rock concert in 1995 someone placed a backpack with a bomb in Botero's bird statue, and it killed 25 people including a pregnant woman and a 7 years old girl. Until this day nobody knows officially which group is responsable for this barbaric act. It was the very Fernando Botero who forbit the mayor of Medellin to clean the ruins of his work. Now there is a plaque with the victims' names, and Botero donated a second bird that symbolizes peace and hope for the new Medellín.

Fernando Botero "El Pajaro" and "El Pajaro de la Paz"

As a reference to the sufference of her people, Colombian photographer Erika Diettes created at the Museo de Antioquia her "Relicarios". From 2011 to 2015, the artist visited families all over Colombia who are mourning their disappeared loved ones, listened to their stories and got a 'relict' that once belonged to the victims. Some relatives even travelled from secluded places just to hand Diettes the treasured objects. Sealing these 'tokens' individually in cubes of rubber tripolymer, Erika Diettes arranged these 'gravestones' into a graveyard of rememberence.
For me this year's most impressive exhibit so far.

Erika Diettes "Relicarios"

Erika Diettes' work is one of the current exhibitions at the museum. Their permanent collection consists of many huge, fantastic Boteros and paintings and sculptures he donated from his private collection including Wilfredo Lam, Frank Stella, Alex Katz and many more.
There is also a room for the children and the childish who can put on a uniform and incarnate Botero's painting "Pedrito" that shows the artists son who tragically passed away at the age of four; why does everything have to have a depressing twist to it in this city?!

Thank you, Fernando, for letting me have the honor to be "Pedrito" for a couple of minutes. 

Did I inspire you? Planning on going to Colombia?
Get detailed information on the most interesting destinations that I've travelled bye:myself.

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