What used to be called 'Old...
What used to be called 'Old Caldas', in the Central mountain range to the south of the department of Antioquia, is today divided into three departments: Caldas, Risaralda and Quindío. This is the so-called 'zone of the Antioquenan colonization' that developed during the last century when whole families from Antioquia, exasperated by the civil wars which devastated the region, organized expeditions to isolated, rugged areas where they felled forests and founded cities.
The coffee plant adapted marvellously to the mountainous terrain and climactic conditions. Its cultivation spread to the point of providing the major part of the country's coffee, which is the nation's principal export commmodity. Excursions through the coffee region pass by landscapes and villages of great beauty. Traditional coffee haciendas, beautiful in their architecture and covered in flowers, emerge from coffee plantations. In the villages the buildings are also notable and form part of what is known as the architecture of colonization.
The coffee region is also a land of deep-rooted traditions, folklore, crafts and festivals. Local dishes, served in the famous fondas, are proverbial, notably the bandeja paisa, which consists of generous helpings of red beans and ground beef, ripe plantain, chicharrón (pork crisp), rice and the indispensable arepa (corn crumpet).
The city of red brick and green mountains
First, an important note. The city is located in departamento de Antioquia, not Magdalena. I have no idea why it was placed here.
Medellin is a very nice city, instantly likeable and enjoyable, even though it lacks major sights or preserved history. It is clean, has well-developed and maintained infrastructure, friendly and hospitable people.
The city is located in a valley in the Andes, as most other cities in South America. Its altitude is ideal in that it is neither cold nor hot - about 27C every day of the year. Locals take advantage of that by building a lot of pleasant parks and open air cafes.
The locals are, as they describe themselves, 'regionalistas' - they are very proud of their city. The people from Medellin are called Paisas. The most famous person from here is Fernando Botero, the artist famous for making statues of fat people and animals; incidentally, he does not look so himself. Visiting his museum and the plaza in the front is a must for visitors. Other interesting sight is Cerro Nutibara with a Pueblito Paisa on top, a recreated Paisa village square. You should also visit one of the parks, the best ones are Lleras and Parque de Pies Descalzos.
jmbredeck's new Medellin Page
Can't wait to visit Medellin? Intrigued by the fact it's the only Colombian city with Metro (above ground)? Relax. You may be disappointed when you arrive and learn that the Art Museum is essentially one very large Botero collection. In Medellin you are expected to enthusiastically like Botero (which I don't.) Colombia has hundreds of other visual artists and it (and Medellin as well) seems to me a bit pathetic by insisiting that Botero is their only artistic ambassador. As for the Metro -- not many people use it because it isn't convenient or flexible. When you get off, you are still obligated to take a bus or taxi to your final destination. City planners studying Medellin should also look at Bogota and their Trans Milenio (bus) system -- at least it picks people up and drops them off where they want to be.