Club Nautico where we arrived on Lady Kis
The pictures on this page prove the old adage. There is little that
we can tell you that is not here in full color. Cartagena is a very
nice Caribbean port with a wonderfully well-preserved old city
that is filled with balconied, red-roofed, pastel-painted colonial
buildings, all with a central courtyard or three.
Pegasus sculptures at head of Pegaus Docks
In addition, the old city preserves much of its fortifications including
long sections of city wall that you can walk along and have captivating
views of both the old city and the water. The city authorities have
accommodated the city to modern traffic by building a peripheral road
outside the old city walls. That makes arriving in the old city
by car quite an adventure as one minute you are riding outside the walls
and then suddenly, a quick left turn into an unnoticed tunnel in the wall
and voila you are in the maze of narrow streets that define the Casco
Clock Tower Gate and Cathedral Dome
The central part of the old city, however, is a pedestrian-only zone,
which caused us a small problem on arrival because the hostel we were
looking for was in that zone and so inaccessible to our taxi. In the
end we caused some local entertainment as we trundled our heavily-laden
luggage carts along the narrow, uneven streets sweating and cursing in
equal measure looking for the place.
In the end, and fortunately for us as we would have taken it immediately,
the hostel was full and so Jan was sent off to explore and found the much
nicer Hotel Centro. It advertizes itself as a four-star hotel, which it
is not, but it is a very lovely place and well worth the $30 that we paid,
including a nice hot breakfast.
Plaza de las Coches (former slave market)
Statue of Pedro de Heredia, founder of Cartegena
The city was a joy to explore. Small enough to be easily covered on
foot, turning every corner brought another great view. There are
several squares like the one pictured here, with a statue or sculpture
to adorn it, often with tables set out by nearby restaurants for
coffee or snacks or even a full-blown meal.
Cathedral Dome, seen from Museo de la Inquisicion
If you don't want to eat 'in public', you can choose one of the dozens of
very nice restaurants that offer daily specials at terrific value. The
quality of food is very good and the surroundings are delightful. We are
not gourmets, but think that even they would find something to please
here in Cartagena.
Cathedral in heart of Old Town
No Spanish Colonial city worth its salt would be without its cathedral.
Cartagena was no exception. Surprisingly, however, the cathedral didn't
show the tender loving care of an active congregation. Perhaps parish
money was scarce because there were several other churches in the old
city and perhaps the congregation is small given how much of the city
is devoted to tourism. That is a shame. Maybe some tourist taxes should
be dedicated to maintenance of this important piece of history.
Colonial building on north side of Parque de Bolivar
We also found several museums in the old city that were more than worth a visit.
The former headquarters in Cartagena of the Inquisition is now a musuem with a
small collection that isn't nearly so interesting as the building itself which
overlooks the main square in town, called Parque Bolivar. The square is a lovely
place to sit in the late afternoon and watch the world go by. Nearby is the Zuni
Gold Museum which has a surprisingly good collection of pre-Columbian gold as well
as a nice history of the local pre-Columbian Indians. But best of all for both of
us was the Naval History Museum. On two floors it has a very comprehensive history
of Cartagena and the Atlantic Coast of Colombia including fantastic models of the
country's Spanish forts and a very impressive collection of boat models covering
everything from the Phoenicians to modern day battleships. Our favorites were the
models of the Egyptian triremes, the Roman warship, and the Spanish galleons. Not
to be missed.
Calle de Arzobispado (Archbishop Street)
Centro Hotel and flags of USA, European Union, Colombia, and Cartagena
The photo above is our hotel, although the window of our room gives onto
the side street. We were eternally grateful for the efficient air-conditioning
in our room, because sudden downpours notwithstanding it was always hot and
steamy. We ate breakfast every morning in the cafe that occupies the corner
of the block and the building and liked watching street-life as we ate.
City Wall - Baluarte San Lucas
We spent a very hot couple of hours one morning walking along the
top of the city wall. We knew it would be warm and so we set off
even before breakfast to try and beat the heat.
City Wall - Baluarte de Santa Clara
View toward sea
City Wall - Baluarte de Santa Clara
View toward Old Town
It turned out to be a very good
idea as the early morning light was just perfect and we ended our
walk in front of one of the old city's fanciest hotels (seen behind
Jan in the photo above) where we
stopped to cool off before walking through the still shady streets back to our
hotel and breakfast.
Castillo San Felipe (Saint Philip Fort)
Gerry braved the heat one fine day to go and visit the remains of the
Castillo San Felipe just outside of the old city. His reward, other than
drenched clothing was some fine views of the city and some interesting
wildlife as well (see below). Maybe our friends Rose and Eduard from the Netherlands
would recognize this specimen, but we have not been able to.
Bird on waterfront near Castillo San Felipe
We don't know the name of the bird
City view SW from Castillo San Felipe
Bocagrande district in upper right
The list of Spanish forts we have visited is growing so long we think we will
have to dedicate a special page to them especially as we
assume that we will find many more as we venture further into South America.
Bocagrande district 2 km south of old town
One Sunday afternoon, just after a quite heavy downpour (the remnants of
which you can see in the photo above) we set off to
take advantage of the cool weather to walk the two kilometers or so to
the tip of a long arm of land that stretches out into the water from
near the old city. Called Bocagrande (large mouth) it is now the resort
area of Cartagena for Colombians.
Bocagrande beach on a Sunday after a storm
One side of the spit of land consists
of one beach area after another. Inland are two blocks of tourist devleopment
such as hotels and restaurants and stores selling beach paraphernalia. We
got here just in time for dinner, ate a pleasant meal and then walked back
to the old town.