One of our favorite activities when we arrive in a new city is to take a walking tour. It is a good chance to get a feel for the layout of the city and quite a few cities even have free tours (well, free other than a tip for the guide). So, we were off bright and early (well, after Robert got an arepa con queso) this morning for a walking tour of Medellin.
The tour was good, and the stories we heard about the history and culture of Colombia were very interesting, but unfortunately there was not nearly enough walking for our liking as the tour was confined to a pretty small geographical area.
One highlight of the tour was hearing the guide explaining the role of the church in Colombia. According to our guide, the church isn’t here to prevent wrongdoing. Rather, it is like soap. Once you get your hands dirty, you wash them off at church. One of the more honest theories of religion we have heard in awhile…
So, in downtown Medellin, the church that used to cater to foreigners now caters to love merchants (i.e., prostitutes). We were there before noon, but the love merchants were already open for business (albeit not depicted in the below photo).
Another church has a market set up alongside it where you can buy plenty of fake goods but, more importantly, you can buy porn. Lots and lots of porn. And the covers of some of the porn movies (they had both straight and gay porn in case you were wondering) were graphic — more graphic than pretty much anything I had ever seen in public before. For real, some of the things pictured I didn’t think were anatomically possible…and I know some of the things pictured were only possible through the use of a surgeon (and not necessarily a good one)….
And, there is also a church where the lady boys congregate…
But the tour wasn’t all about churches. We also saw a tower of lights that has been installed in what used to be one of the most dangerous squares in the city. We are going to have to make our way there one night to see them all lit up.
We saw some interesting old buildings, including the former Palace of Justice (sadly, now, a shopping mall for cheap clothes). (And, if any of you are wondering, the stores here are already full of Christmas stuff. Unreal, huh?)
We also saw a crazy sculpture depicting the history of Colombia. (No, we don’t understand what it is trying to say).
And, we saw a ton of Botero sculptures. Apparently, although each sculpture is worth millions of dollars, Botero donated them to help improve the city.
It wasn’t all about walking and history though. We tasted one of the famous drinks of Medellin — guarapo juice — which is sugar cane juice and lime. At 35 cents a glass, I think we are going to be having quite a bit of this yummy treat! (Yeah, no, we aren’t too worried about the ice at this stage in our travels…maybe we should be…guess we will find out…).
After the tour, it was time to taste the dish that Medellin is famous for — bandeja paisa. Basically, this is a plate of meat and starch. This one included rice, a slice of plantain, some avocado, an egg, beans, some sort of rice cake type thing, chicharrone (yum), beef, and a sausage. All of that cost under $4. Surprisingly, Robert didn’t love it, but I bet he wouldn’t mind trying it again at a different restaurant…