I have never really been someone that enjoy doing guided tours together with a big group. But I read so much good about the Free Walking tour with Real City Tours, www.realcitytours.com, that i thought why not give it a try. After all i do have over a month in this city. Here are my thoughts:
Said and done, i managed to sign up after trying for a couple of days. Guess it's a good sign when the tour is fills up really fast. They do one tour each morning and one in afternoon and you can sign up a day and a half in advance. Anyhow, met with the group down town at 14:24, yes 14:24 not at 14:25 or 14:30. The guide told us that people tend to be more in time after they changed it to 14:24 rather then 14:30. Hmmm the work of the human brain!!! The group was a mix of all sort of nationalities and we were around 20 of us. Our guide checked us all in and then we set off on a 4 hour tour down town.
Some of you might think "4 hours walking, are you mad???" but no its far away from just walking. Of course the tour cover some km and we saw a lot of the parts and squares of down town but the best thing about this tour was not the sights. What made the tour so interesting in my opinion was our tour guide who told us the stories around Medellin. This was not just covering a boring history lesson but also personal stories how it was to grow up in a city like Medellin during the Escobar years. The guide was born in the US with a US mum and Colombian dad, moved to Medellin as a kid and grow up here except for a couple of years when the family had to flee back to the US due to the violence the narco years caused. They were only in the US for a couple of years and then they moved back. You could really tell that what the guide was telling us was genuine and she had a good "diplomatic" standpoint being raised in a mixed family.
There was always time for questions at each stop and everyone was encouraged to ask whatever they wanted, after all the tour is call the "real city tour" so they are not offended about any of the questions asked. The guide of course touch on the subject Pablo Escobar, or Paul as she referred him as. She did this since most people from the area do not want to have him as the front figure and most known person from Medellin. I can guarantee you though that this was the most common topic when questions came though. Escobar and FARC. At one stage it got a bit to much about politics for me but i guess it defence on what interest the tour group has.
As mentioned only some of the tour covered the narcos years, the tour also included the complete history of Medellin from when the Spaniards arrived hundreds of years ago up to today. This was done with great fun story telling.
Places we visited included Parque Boliviar that also house the beautiful Metropolitan cathedral, here we were told that what ever we do we should never go behind the church. Unless we get mugged then we can visit with a police because most likely our possessions would be sold there, also if we want to pick up the most hard core "ladies/men that entertain men for money" then this is the place. Joke aside, this was one place she really pointed out that this is not the place to be. Botero plaza that hosts the sculptures that the artist Fernando Botero gave to the city. These are so cool. Parque de las Luces, I would call this more a square then a park. This use to be one of the most dangerous areas down town until they decided to transform the square and put some monuments there. This to drive away the black market that booming here. So instead they planted some greens and build approx. 300 pillars (that light up at dark). It was meant to be 365 pillars, one for each day but to cut cost they only build the 300. The former House of Justice that now houses a shopping mall only containing stores selling counterfeit goods. No i don't promote a trip to this place.
This tour was perfect to get my head around down town, get my warnings on whats a go zone and a no go zone. But most of all what made the whole tour well worth it was the tour guide and her story telling as I mentioned in the beginning of the post. Did it feel like 4 hours? not at all.... Was it really free? Kind of, the tour guides salary contains of the tip that is paid. So it was basically up to me to decide how much to pay. Great concept -bad guide no tip, great guide more tip.
I decided that it was time for a career break. So handed in my notice to the company who I worked with for the last ten years. It's time to pack my bag and depart from Amsterdam which been my home town for the last 4.5 years. -"Amsterdam, it's not you it's me and I need a break!". Read more
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