We had an interesting two day trip to visit Cartagena with friends John and Bev of Dandelion.
Thanks to Bev for the use many of her photos from the trip.
The trip there by a small bus was both interesting and hair raising. The scenery ranged from mountain to mangrove to beach to vast shanty towns.
The driving (passing 4 vehicles (two pantechnicons, 1 truck and 1 car in one go is representative) at once on a solid line with a blind bend) was “technically” good but very scary.
Cartagena is much bigger that Santa Marta and in its scale has lost some of the charm and friendliness that typifies Santa Marta. It is an interesting place to visit with much to see. As you approach the city, you pass through miles of shanty towns that remind you of the overall welfare of the populace. This is reflected in the more aggressive approach of the street vendors and beggars.
Cartagena is hotter and less windy than Santa Marta – hence our decision to stay at Santa Marta and visit by bus.
There is a very modern new city with highrise buildings and first world commerce that we did not visit. The old city has beautiful architecture and some well preserved buildings and old infrastructure. It houses however an expensive tourist orientated commercial establishment, similar to that you see surrounding the cruise ship environments of many of the ports in the Caribbean.
We stayed in a hostal in the old lower town area where many locals live and ply their trade. This was a much more appealing environment and we thoroughly enjoyed wandering the streets both day and night. The delightfully part decayed architecture, the street art and music, the street traders and the cafe restaurants and bars all combine in a uniquely pleasurable melange.
We even managed an after dinner dance at our favourite street cafe!! (Video to follow if I can solve the loading technology glitches on WordPress).
The Santa Fe Castle was a fun visit. An enormous effort over many decades to protect Cartagena from the predations of the acquisitive (mainly the English and French, who found preying on the Spanish easier than the hard lifting of pillaging and subdueing the indigenous pops).
Cartagena was further protected by an extensive wall around the more affluent (i.e. not the local pops) part of the city. We got up early one morning and walked the wall before breakfast. It gave us a fine spatial perspective on the city.
We visited the Peter Claver museum and the attached church. Claver dedicated himself to the evangelisation and care of the slaves (the “slave of slaves” was his marketing byline) which was not particularly popular with the Spanish authorities but probably helped to keep the slaves subdued and at work (with the promise of salvation after their lot on earth if they turned the other cheek).
There was also a museum remembering the Inquisition. It was less detailed and informative than we had imagined. The text of many of the exhibit descriptions was amazing in how it unapologettically “justified” the various aspects of the inquisition in the context of the time. Sort of “if you were of a different culture or didn’t tow the Catholic party line, then you had it coming to you”. Which was probably true back then.
and finally ….. ta daaaaa …. !!!! We stumbled across this bizarre Russian Submarine Pub. Totally out of context with the environment but very very well done with amazing attention to detail and full of genuine artifacts that must have had a whole lot of background to explain. Could not find anything online explaining it but we had great fun there having a few cold beers in the heat of the day.