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Downtown Medellin, Colombia

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Downtown MedellinEl Centro, or downtown as it is often referred, is an amazing experience and one that I shall never forget for many reasons. If you beleive anything you read about El Centro, then you probably wouldn’t dream of going there.

I took me a while before I got the courage to go downtown, and that was because I had heard plenty of bad stories. Additionally, Tony, my (taxi) guide drove me through it and told me what I needed to know.

Sure, like any large metropolitan city centre, it has it’s fair share of crime and poverty, but what hits you more is the vibrancy of business and the major hub of local commerce. During the day, the streets are paved with locals going about every which way possible to make some money to feed thier families.

For blocks upon blocks, there are market stools, street vendors, tiny shops selling almost anything and scores of people handing out flyers. The place is “alive”.

The first time I went downtown alone, I went to go and buy a pad for my Spanish tuition. I told myself, I would get in and out and not “pass go”. Needless to say, I spent an entire afternoon walking the streets, around and around, just absorbing every last little detail that I could.

Commerce

Fruit Seller MedellijnThere are one or two major roads that go though downtown, and these are always bumper to bumper with buses, trucks, taxis and locals doing anything they can to move thier products from A to B. It could be a wheelbarrow, a pushbike with a huge basket on the front, a man-made table on wheels, or anything else that allows people to get their product to their buyer.

The side streets are loaded with taxis, and other traffic trying to avoid the main streets. Traffic lights are chaos and rarely followed. Pedestrians are ignored, and street vendors do all they can to maximise the jams by selling into the car windows while the traffic is stationary. I remember two guys with a cart full of fresh fruit doing an absolute roaring trade on one particular corner.

 

Police Presence

Colombian PoliceLike many other places on my travels, this place was littered with Police. If I had been worried about coming here during the day, I think it was for no reason. Most streets were packed with people, and as long as you didn’t wander off the beaten track, and stayed in the main areas, you were no more than 2-3 blocks from law enforcement keeping the peace.

I talk about this in more detail in my Police blog, but it was comforting to see random youths stopped, searched or moved on for any other reason.

The areas surrounding the main metro stations were some of the most vibrant. There were people everywhere – some with a purpose, many without. Not one time did I feel in danger in a place where I though would be as bad as many other cities.

I occasionally sat in a bar and enjoyed an hour drinking a beer in the afternoon heat and watching the world go by in this amazing place. It had a bad and unwarranted reputation as a nasty place, but I loved it there…….

About Adrian Britton

Sometimes I will talk about things that are interesting, and sometimes I won’t. Sometimes it will be a bit of a laugh, and sometimes it will just be a downright rant about something going on in the world – I’m often accused at moaning a lot, and I consider myself quite good at it !!

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