Cartagena, Columbia was our next port of call. This historical city is a world heritage site and one of the best examples of Spanish Colonial Architecture for the period. It has been on my-bucket list for a long time. Cartagena is the center of tourism for modern-day Columbia. The city has a population of almost one million and is the fifth largest city in Columbia. Named after Cartagena, Spain, it was founded in June of 1533.
In 1586, Sir Frances Drake arrived with a powerful fleet and quickly took the Cartagena from the Spanish, destroying about one-quarter of the city in the process. After this disaster, when Spain regained control, she poured millions every year into the city for its protection which explains the fortifications still evident today.
This trip will give some insight about the place to see if it is worth returning to in March, when our niece visits us in Panama.
Today, our ship arrives in port at noon to a beautiful 28-degree partly cloudy day. I am glad the schedule brings us here later in the morning as it is a spectacular entrance that must be seen to be appreciated. Sneaking into such a beautiful port before sunrise would should be illegal.
As we arrive, we find by a modern city of high rises all around the bay. The history of this place remains hidden to you until you leave the harbor area and seek out the old section of town.
Cartagena contains intact mid-15th century Spanish Colonial fortifications. The walled city it a great example of the way a city needed to look when it was necessary to have fortifications to protect the occupants from pirates, plunder, and other countries who took a liking to your place.
Wandering the streets is fascinating. They are narrow with walls built right out to the edge of the sidewalk. Second floor balconies on the front of many of the buildings sport bright colorful plants spilling over the edge of the balcony to give a beautiful display of color to the street below. The walls of the houses define the outside edge of the home and tend to follow the property line. Rooms typically line the inside of the exterior walls. Interior courtyards contain a garden. There are huge double doors on the front of the houses, large enough for a horse and carriage to pass through to the interior of the house. Remember it goes back to 1533!
We visited the Palace of the Inquisition where the not so very pleasant history of how the Catholic Church forced money from local residents using torture for over 200 years, was explained. When the practice was eventually abolished, the residents of Cartagena promptly burned the place to the ground.
Cartagena is a wonderful combination of new and old, with lots of colorful restaurants, coffee houses, hotels, and fascinating things to see. It is a place to wander and absorb history. Do not be rushed!
I must return to this place without the other 1,799 passengers, so I can absorb more and learn about life here in days long ago.
There is an interesting cruise ship terminal in Cartagena. There is a nice boardwalk through native vegetation, which has a large number of birdcages. A closer look reveals that many of the cage doors are open and the birds are using the canopy in the immediate area. They are people friendly and are fed centrally, where they ignore the people. McCaws, Parrots, Monkeys, Deer, rabbits, and other native birds and animals conduct a noisy existence in the immediate area. If you close your eyes, you will swear you are in the middle of a very noisy jungle. It is a wonderfully appropriate and unique approach to cruise terminals. If you are in Cartagena, make a point to have a look at this place.