Day 11 |
Oct 19, 2011

Cartagena, Colombia

By Maria Patricia Silva Rodriguez, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 10° 25’ N 75° 32’ W
Weather: Heavy rain in the morning
Air Temperature: 25°

I made a quick stop for coffee and then to the Bridge to see the co-ordinates of Cartagena port. For me, visiting the land of Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the best thing in the world! Many foreigners know the Caribbean coast of Colombia due to his work. One of them “One Hundred Years of Solitude” was his masterpiece. In 1982 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, which began the “boom” of Latin-American writers.

At 8.30 in bus number 1, I started my visit. Cartagena was suffering for the three past days heavy rain and floods. Once in the bus trying to get the downtown was a really “nice” traffic jam. Everybody needs to go to the center but all main streets were covered by water. It was very interesting to see how the people tried to move from one side of the street to the other without getting completely wet.

The city was formerly known as Cartagena De Indias. It was founded in 1533 by Don Pedro de Heredia and is recognized internationally as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our first 10-minute stop was at military fort of San Felipe de Barajas to take pictures and appreciate the walled city that was built over 121 years of construction by slaves. There is also the statute of Don Blass, the man who had only one arm, one leg and one eye and was considered the most furious man during the colonial times.

From the fortress it was a short drive to Las Bovedas (the dungeons) – a place used as a military barracks. The construction is attached to the walls of the Santa Catalina Fortress. From the top of this construction, the Caribbean Sea is visible. Here, in each dungeon there is now a market with good opportunities for shopping high quality handicrafts, such as brightly decorated cloth, woodwork and jewelry. Also in the place it is possible to see woven bags, tiny purses, necklaces and earnings made with two different palms – the iracua and the caña flecha.

From the markets, our next stop was The Heredia Theater – an amazing place built to resemble the Old Theater of Cuba. The theater is built in the place where the Mercy Church once stood in the year 1625. It has been restored many times and now is a cultural center. It was such a magical experience to walk through the boxes and sit in the balconies. Our local guide explained how the ceiling was painted by an important Cartagena artist, Enrique Grau, who died 6 years ago.

During the guided walk to visit the old city, I felt like I had been returned to the colonial times. The historic colonial city has the most beautiful and colorful architecture, like a very old Spanish town such as Seville in Spain. I enjoyed so much to walk through the narrows streets, admiring the flowering balconies and multicolor buildings.

From there, after 20 minutes walk, the next highlight point was Bolivar Square (Plaza de la Inquisition) with the statue of liberator Simón Bolívar. Just across from this little plaza is the entrance of one of the most impressive places “Palacio de la Inquisicion” – a brutal museum that shows how the people were tortured if they didn’t follow the church rules or were not loyal to the king of Spain. Walking into these rooms is just heartbreaking. Our visit finished with a short lecture about the Colombian constitution.

Continuing from the Bolivar Square, just two blocks away is the beautiful square of San Pedro Claver with a monastery built in his honor in 1580 and reconstructed in the 17th century. Is a small square full of modern sculpture and surrounded by nice buildings and the Modern Art Museum.

Our bus was waiting to take us to the Casa Roman – an incredible private home. The owner, Teresita Roman, is famous in Colombia for her cookbook. It was an amazing house with extravagant nineteenth-century Moorish architecture, copied mainly from the Palacio de la Alhambra in Seville. Inside the house we also saw her private collection of about 1,400 dolls including the famous Colombian pop singer Shakira. It was a very bizarre collection. This was the last stop, and at around one o’clock we headed back to the Silver Explorer for lunch. Back on board, I ate a nice meal at The Restaurant and prepared myself for our afternoon activities.

After lunch it was possible to return to the town, however I stayed on board meeting people in the Panorama Lounge to share stories of our travelling experiences. At 5 in The Theatre there was a well-attended briefing about our visit tomorrow in San Blas and a recap about Cartagena highlights. Later in the evening I attended the Farewell Cocktail Party hosted by Captain Adam Boczek, which was followed by an incredible Captain’s Farwell Dinner. Time to say goodbye to Cartagena, but I’m looking forward to more great adventures on the Silver Explorer!