Sunday, 28 September 2014

Cartagena: Land of the Pirates

Welcome back! I've not written for a couple of weeks, because I've been Just. So. Busy! However, this weekend I've got a bit of downtime, and I intend to capitalise on it to tell you lovely people all about what I've been up to these past few days. Apart from the time I spent sitting at home, planning lessons, and running around Barranquilla, being sociable (I know, it's a hard life), I managed to get a bit further afield and visit the beautiful city of Cartagena de Indias!

The atmospheric Cartagenero seafront
Having heard many good things about the city (it's Colombia's most popular tourist destination), I decided it was about time I went to see for myself, so I headed off on Saturday morning to catch the bus westwards along the Caribbean coast and see what everyone was raving about. Arriving along the seafront, I caught glimpses of wind-blown palm trees, huge creaking ships, and the famous walls of Cartagena's historic old town, having served to protect the core of the city from pirates and invaders for hundreds of years.

Walls, looking to the sea
After a brief pause to gather my bearings, I headed to the beach to enjoy the delightful Colombian sunshine and clear blue sea. Unfortunately, it was at that moment that the weather decided to cloud over, so there was rather less sunbathing than anticipated! However, I managed to cheer myself up with a nice little raspao - a flavoured ice drink not unlike a slush puppy - my first taste of the traditional beverage (and hopefully not my last!).

Raspao on the beach - yummy!

Once evening arrived, it was time to visit the centre of the old town, starting with a stroll along the top of the city walls. The canon alcoves were full of couples, enjoying moments together in the gathering dusk, and lamps emitted a hazy yellow glow, giving the whole scene a wonderfully historical, romantic feel, only added to by the
Dancers in Plaza Bolivar
presence of horse-drawn carriages in the streets below. We wandered down into the amber twilight, passing by street sellers and dancers, through squares with fountains and into open plazas with beautiful old cathedrals like the one you can see below. Historically, the city is fascinating - having been a former indigenous village, the arrival of the Spanish colonisers in the 16th century transformed it into a busy port town, making it attractive prey for pirates and looters of all persuasions. After multiple attacks (including a take-over by Sir Francis Drake), the city developed an intricate defence system, comprising of numerous forts, batteries and even underground tunnels (which came in very useful in subsequent invasions). You can't help but imagine the city's adventurous past, walking through streets that are so obviously laden with stories to be told.
San Pedro Claver Cathedral
In the lamplight

But sadly, I didn't have enough time to investigate all that I wanted to of Cartagena de Indias. Once the weekend was up, I resolved to return as soon as possible, to capture more of the magic within those walls. And as a matter of fact, I did go back the very next week, although not quite in the way I had anticipated. But that's a story for another time - until then, adios!

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