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Cartagena in Colombia

Dmytro Cherkasov • 7 minutes read • October 17th, 2015



made, um... an unexpected impression. Really, what kind of picture do you expect to see when arriving in a city founded by the Spanish in the sixteenth century? That's what we saw. Nothing like the view of the old town with castles, cathedrals, and rich history. In the rays of the rising sun in an orange haze on the horizon, we saw a very modern silhouette with high-rise buildings. Where are the pirates, drug dealers, and the ruins of Spanish forts? Did we actually go to the right place?

It turned out to be the right place. Welcome to Colombia! The country is named after Columbus, discoverer of America. Although now there is evidence that, maybe, Columbus never reached the shores of the continent and stopped at the Caribbean Islands. That's just a hypothesis, however. The population here, as in all countries of the region, is a mixture of Spanish, African-Americans and Indians.

Let's go back to Cartagena. It is a large city of Colombia with a big port. There is the biggest oil terminal there. Although, that's not how the history of the city began. The Spanish used Cartagena as one of the main transit points for the export of treasures of South America. Loaded with treasures, ships then went to Cuba, and from there to Spain.

Above the port, on the mountain, is the monastery of La Popa. I'm curious whether it's a female or a male monastery.

Let's get straight to the point. Here's the view of the old town itself. That looks more like what we'd expected to see.

Our first stop in Cartagena was the 

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

. The size of the construction is impressive. This is only one of the whole system of fortifications around the old town. Not surprising. I have already said that it was a transshipment point for treasures exported to Spain. For each Corsair, as well as for the sworn friends of Spain, such as France and England, Cartagena was a desired and alluring aim. Needless to say that sometimes even these walls could not protect. One of the most successful attacks was carried out by famous Francis Drake. It served as a reason for a serious strengthening of the city. However, even after that, Cartagena was taken by the French fleet of Baron de Pointi.

The next attack on the city was carried out by the British. It happened during the war for Jenkins' ear. The reason for war was strange. The captain of the Spanish coast guard intercepted a trading brig under the command of Robert Jenkins, loaded with contraband rum. The Spanish captain cut off the ear of Jenkins with the words: 'Tell your king that I will do the same with him if he dares to try something similar'. After his return, one-eared Jenkins had a speech in the Parliament, triggering a wave of outrage, and the government declared war on Spain. Here, during the war, the squadron under the command of Admiral Vernon attempted to storm the city. The British were so confident of winning that they pre-made medals picturing General of the fleet Blas De Lezo standing on his knees. The irony was that on the medals he was depicted as a handsome General, but in real life, he had the nickname of half-man since he only had one leg, one arm, and one eye. He received his injuries while participating in numerous battles. It is perfectly illustrated by this monument to don Blas De Lezo.

The British suffered a crushing defeat. Mosquitoes played a significant role in their loss. Ground troops suffered heavy losses from yellow fever - about half of all the victims. The Spanish victory was only overshadowed by the death of Blas De Lezo. Unfortunately, for the one-legged General, it was the last battle. English medals were in the hands of the Spaniards, and defenders of 


 were awarded them.

But enough about the war... Then we walked down the streets of the old town on a vehicle with a capacity of one horsepower - at least it looked "nice".

It's for the best. A leisurely walk through the narrow streets of the old town allowed us to truly view the life around.

Generally, the old town is a very touristy place with attractions are everywhere.

I think if we had more time, it would be better to walk around on foot. Fortunately, almost all attractions and museums are close to each other.

The decoration of the balconies is a national sport. Each year, the city holds a contest for the most beautiful balcony. The winner does not pay property taxes during the whole year.

Another feature is the door handles. They come in different shapes, most often in the form of a beast. All have a special 'beater' at the bottom to knock on the door.

Our walk ended at the St. Peter Claver Square, near the Cathedral with the same name. He became famous for preaching and caring for black slaves and local Indian slaves. 

The whole Square was packed with tourists and surrounded by many shops that sell local emeralds.

Although the houses around are old, they are all renovated. The old town of Cartagena is included in the UNESCO world heritage list.

The Square itself is small.

This was our acquaintance with Colombia. Don't know about other cities, but Cartagena seemed a calm and beautiful tourist city. It's amazing, because, honestly, I thought that Colombia would be much less friendly.
Author: dmytrocherkasov
Translated by: Gian Luka

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