A Quick Stop in Medellin

Just a quick flight from Cartagena to Medellin and we were in an entirely different climate and different part of the country. We had 1.5 days to explore Medellin which was not nearly enough! We got to our hotel and we were able to have an early check in which is always nice. We dropped off our stuff and walked around the neighborhood to try to figure out what was around. It turns out it was hot and we didn’t really know where we were so back to the hotel we went for some relaxation and napping. The adventure was going to have to wait until the next day!

I decided to take the 4 hour free walking tour from Real City Tours and I am glad I did! Our guide was called Monsa and she was a super enthusiastic Paisa with personal stories to share at every stop.

The history of Medellin starts well before the written history but since there are no records, people don’t know much about it. Because of the location of Medellin, the people were cut off from the rest of Colombia until the train tracks opened up. Basically they are a mix of the Basque and Jewish people that all came together and were “discovered’ by Christopher Columbus and that is how you get the Paisa people from Medellin.

Unfortunately many people associate Medellin with Pablo Escobar or Narcos and we think that what we see on Narcos is the truth. Medellin is very conflicted with Escobar and find that it is a generational thing for the feelings towards Escobar. The younger generation looks up to him while the generation that lived through his reign, think he is absolutely awful. Then there are those who are in between about their feelings for him because even though he murdered lots of people, he built houses and gave back to the community. So how many houses allow you to atone for one murder?

Anyhow, Medellin was once the most dangerous city in the world and they have worked very hard to clean up and change their image. Although the government was in charge, Escobar really ran the city and you either took his bribe or you were killed.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton and President Andres Pastrana signed a bill called Plan Colombia. Basically this was foreign aid we were giving to Colombia to help clean up the cartels and the left-wing insurgent groups that were reigning over Medellin. While this seemed like a great idea, the government was paying people per insurgent killed and some of the less honest people were murdering innocent people and dressing them in insurgent clothing to collect the money. Nothing is ever a perfect system.

While the cartels have moved out of the city and Medellin is working to turn once dangerous areas into beautiful parks and hangouts, there is still a lot to be done!

For example, this church is a common hangout for prostitutes. There are a lot of hotels around the area that are rented by the hour and after the men have sinned, they come to church and confess and all is forgiven. You have to love how forgiving religion can be. 😀

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at are these large out of proportion statues? Artist Fernando Botero donated these and many more to Medellin in an effort to show how Medellin is changing. It is said that each statue is worth $2.2 million USD. You can tell where people like to touch the statues because of the difference in color. Apparently, no one ever actually grows up!

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e tour was over but a few of us were not ready to leave. Out guide took us to a little local bar and we all chatted and listened to music being played from vinyl and enjoyed a few beers. It was a great end to a very long day of history.

Another Bulgarian city

I decided that I couldn’t just spend one day in Bulgaria and be done with it, so I headed to Plovdiv. Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria but it feels much smaller. I originally only booked two nights in the this town and ended up staying for five nights! I stayed at this great hostel called The Crib and was cooked a traditional breakfast every morning! That may have been another reason that I extended my stay. I went on another free walking tour and actually learned a lot about the city.

This stadium actually runs underneath the main pedestrian street and is 240 meters long. It was said to be able to seat up to 30,000 people. It has nothing on USC!

 Ancient Stadium

Ancient Stadium

The theater still hosts concerts and weddings today but for a hefty price.

 Ancient Theater

Ancient Theater

This statue sits outside of a building where he was having an affair with one of the local ladies. His hand is strategically placed because the affair was not really a secret. 🙂

 Milyo the Crazy

Milyo the Crazy

Some views of Plovdiv from various points around the city.

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One day in Sofia

I arrived to Ten Coins Hostel in Sofia, Bulgaria around 7:00am absolutely exhausted! Why so exhausted? Let me recap the previous 14 hours. Rushed to my bus since I was an idiot and had the wrong time on my computer and barely made it. Took a 12 hour overnight bus from Athens to Sofia that I barely slept on because of a crying child. Found my way to the hostel via the metro…exhausted.

I did not expect a bed to be ready so early in the morning, but I was delighted to be able to drop my luggage and sit. I ended up falling asleep at a kitchen table with my USC hoodie on and my teddy bear as a pillow. The hostel owner woke me up about 10:00am and told me there was an early checkout and he had a bed ready for me. I immediately crawled in with all my clothes on and finally went to bed.

Flash forward to 2:00pm when I woke up and needed to get my day going. I went into the city center and walked around for a bit and had a great lunch (12 USD for two beers, a salad and fish). Then I went on a free walking tour with Free Sofia Tour and took in the sites of the capitol of Bulgaria.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

View down the street

View down the street

Bulgarian crest

Bulgarian crest

Central public bathouse

Central public bath house

Creepy empty train station

Creepy empty train station

I also maybe accidentally bought some new shoes. 🙂

New shoes...whoops!

New shoes…whoops!

Anyhow, fun facts I learned on the tour:

– Sofia s over 6000 years old

– Bulgaria was established in 681 and the name has never changed

– Apparently when Bulgaria joined WWII they declared war against the USA and UK thinking nothing would happen since they were so far away. The US bombed Sofia.

– People from the country still come to Sofia to take a selfie at the communist department store as this was the first place moving stairs were in Sofia

Sick in Budapest

Budapest is an absolutely amazing city! Unfortunately, I was sick most of the time I was there and only did a walking tour which means I will have to go back and really experience the city! The walking tour gave me a general overview of Budapest including the history and some fun little facts.

One of the attractions in Budapest is the natural thermal baths which is something I plan to do when I go back. However, we were told that the water from the thermal baths is used at the zoo in the hippo area because the water has the same ph and mineral content as the Nile. What does this mean to the hippos? This means that Budapest is one of the biggest exporters of baby hippos to other zoos.

Needless to say, the little time I spent adventuring was absolutely fantastic and I would 100% add this to a must see for everyone.

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Basilica

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Opera House

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View of the Basilica from the street

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Riverbend

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Chain bridge

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