Cartagena is renowned for being one of the most beautiful cities in Colombia. I can’t attest to that, as I’m just in Medellin now and have only seen the two cities thus far. But Cartagena undoubtedly has a special charm due to its location on the Caribbean coast, colonial architecture, and the striking and foreboding wall that surrounds the old city.
Cartagena was first founded in 1533 by the Spanish commander Pedro de Heredia. After the Spanish had plundered all of the gold from the tombs of the local Calamarí indigenous people, the city thrived as a popular port from which to ship gold and silver back to Spain. Of course, this is during a period of history where French and English pirates were stealing everything they could get their scurvy-ridden hands on, and hijinks ensued.
The Spanish had worked very hard murdering and enslaving the native people in order to steal the resources that were inconveniently located under the land they called home. They weren’t about to let some jerk off pirates swoop in and steal what they had already rightfully stolen. Not to mention, said pirates were English, and even French for god sake. I mean, come on.
What ensued was I imagine one of the most ambitious feats of engineering in the New World up to that time, if you ignore all that stuff built by the Aztec, Maya, Toltec, Inca, etc. During the 17th century, the Spanish Crown contracted the services of the best European engineers to construct fortifications that are still some of Cartagenas most impressive features. These included almost seven miles of wall surrounding the old city, which took over 200 years to complete.
But anyway, enough history crap. Most notable for me was that after arriving here sleep deprived and checking into the stuffy sweat box of a room I’d booked, my sacroiliac locked up and left me half crippled for a couple days. I managed to hobble around a bit, but my exploration was far more limited than it would have been otherwise.
Down by the clock tower
Once the gateway to the old city, and still Cartagena’s most famous landmark, El Torre del Reloj is a touristy but nonetheless very cool area between the traditional old city and the poorer area of Getsemani.
Cool used book market
It’s always the surprises one runs into while traveling that make things interesting. In this case, it was the open air book market down at the end of Calle 32.
And of course, some random street scenes
Yeah, it’s romantic looking, ain’t it. There’s a reason they shot some of that classic film Romancing the Stone here back in 1934 or whenever it was.
Hey, don’t visit this fine city without indulging in some delicious seafood pickled in lime juice. They do it up quite nicely here at the place with the big hat on top.
Do you like cold beer?
If so, this unpretentious corner establishment seemed to be the go to for local aficionados after a hard day’s work. At less than a buck a piece and served icy cold, it was hard to beat.
And, of course, a couple of critters. Because what’s traveling without meeting some new animals?
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed. I’ll be swinging back through Cartagena before I head home in May, both to see more of the city and also visit some of the surrounding area. Nice to get some beach time before going back to the old US of A and whatever might await, such as martial law or mandatory daily viewings of The Apprentice reruns at the local re-education center.