Travel To Medellin

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Let's open today's travel with Rick Steves travel writer Dave Seminar. He took his whole family to many in Columbia which used to have a reputation as the headquarters for a dangerous drug cartel. Our interview was recorded just before the global lockdowns kicked in. Hey. Thanks for having me on the show wreck. So you went to Medigene I, mean the image of Medina's like scariest a generation ago is one of the most dangerous cities on the planet. That's right. But but it certainly isn't any longer. I mean these days the murder rate in Medellin is lower than New Orleans Saint, Louis Chicago and several other cities as well. It's an amazing turnaround and. Tourism. Is a booming part of the economy I was just there. My son loves it so much. He bought a condo there and I was there for years this last year with him and we were standing on his balcony and and everybody was blown up fireworks and My son had a Colombian friend there with him and and we were talking about. It and when the Colombians see those fireworks, they remember in the days of Pablo. Escobar. That's what they would explode when they made a deal in the United States with the with the drug trade they're not making deals with the drug trade anymore with the Pablo Escobar outfit that's just celebrating. So they've gone from supplying America's cocaine habit to actually building A. City on live biting entrepreneurs. That's true. They I Columbia is still does produce eighty percent of the cocaine I mean to be frank. However look I went there with my ten and twelve year old sons and my wife, and I would never take them to a place that I thought was too dangerous. So I really consulted with a lot of different people before. Going, there, however, my parents and several other people said, Columbia. You're taking your sons to Columbia you nuts but I did my research and I talked to enough people who had had great experiences there that I felt comfortable doing it and we spent two weeks traveling all around the country and I felt very safe. The whole time tell us about the public tour. It was interesting. You know my wife said Pablo Escobar to are you sure that that's appropriate for our sons who are ten and twelve years old side I called one of the tour companies that had good reviews on trip advisor and he said Oh yes our tour is good for children aged six and up said really okay. Well, let's do it. We thought maybe we can teach them. Okay. He's a bad guy you know here's the. Evils of drugs and teach them a little bit about why the drug violence in and I thought maybe they a lot of it might go over their head but I thought well, they'll learn something. Let's do it but you go through a you goes through your neighborhood community thirteen, which is now trendy. It's filled with street art and is just a festival of good living not good living. It's still a poor area but a festival of happiness. Community Thirteen is sort of an interesting area I've I've found it to be one of the more disappointing stops to be honest with you on the tour I mean, it doesn't really have much to do with Pablo Escobar although it was a neighborhood that was wracked by gang violence, and then in two thousand eleven, the government installed a series of escalators there the idea was. Allowing people to be able to move safely through the community, get from their hilltop neighborhoods down to where jobs and transportation and things of that are. But when I was there in July about the experience maybe if you traveled at a different time of year, you might have an off more authentic experience, but it was absolutely full of tourists which really shocked me because here is. Sort of an impoverished neighborhood that has all credit to them. I. Think it's wonderful. They found a way to turn the violence of the neighborhood into a marketable commodity, but it was absolutely crawling with tourists and I sort of felt like, wow I really don't like going to places that are too full of tourists. So for me, it fell a little bit flat to be. Quite honest. But maybe if I visited another time of year, I would have I would have liked more. No, I don't think. So I mean I was there in the winter but to me, it was a former violence ridden gang ridden community that now is a kind of a tourist trap and it just like an amusement pier in San Francisco, almost or something like that. And what was really fun was the street art I mean, the street art was like it's like going through an art gallery and it's all this edgy colorful tropical kind of street art and you've got it all together by escalators I can imagine before those escalators came you know ten years ago you would have desperately poor people and You'd have the intimidation of the gangs and all of that and and the high murder rate and today there's there's not a hint of that and the escalators let people connect and I think you know the way Columbia has invested in its infrastructure has given poor. Barrios the confidence and the feeling that this is progress and changes possible and and one thing great about going to Medine is you write these cable cars because the city is in a very mountainous area and the poorest communities are pushed way up the mountain sides. But these cable cars, they're just like cable cars had a ski resort. They connect the people in the poor neighborhoods with the good jobs and the good shopping and the good entertainment down in the valley floor and writing these cable cars was just a kind of a celebration of community to me what was your experience on those cable cars? Well I love the cable cars just like you know I took the cable cars up to the park. RV. which is it's a long ride as interesting things that you take two different sets of cable cars. You can take one set of cable cars, which sort of goes through some of the rough hillside neighborhoods, and that one is actually fairly quite cheap to go through and actually when you're. On that first cable car, you're actually getting ordinary people who live in those neighborhoods coming on and off of your Gondola but then to go on the second. Gondola. which takes all the way up the mountain up to the park RV, which is just fantastic and I do recommend that that significantly more expensive so that that second cable you know Gondola is more for tourists in it's it. Would be too expensive for people who live in the humble neighborhoods. But as a traveler, it's worth it's worth it to do

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