Cartagena – La Heroica

17 Aug

Although our time in Colombia began in the city of Bogotá, our adventure really began in the steamy, colonial city of Cartagena, pronounced Carta-hena with a slight roll of the r. As an addition to my stress, we were to land in the dark (read, early evening) and had to catch a taxi to our accommodation. As with most of our experience of Latin America, only negative experiences are  written about, and an Internet search on safety and taxis can bring a fresh wave of panic, but our experience has been nothing but positive. We were given a ticket with the neighborhood and a price before we got in the taxi, so the usual question about the cost was not required. We arrived in the very safe neighborhood of Castillogrande, were welcomed by our hosts, and encouraged to venture out to find dinner at night. And what a wonderful evening we had. We found a healthy dinner, artisanal Italian Icecream and a stroll along a widely paved sidewalk complete with palm trees – all which could rival, and was reminiscent of the Gold Coast. The next morning we caught the local bus, an experience in fumes, loud music and bad driving, and hopped off at the entrance to the “old” part of town.

Cartagena was founded on 1 June 1533 by Spanish commander Pedro de Heredia, and got its name from the same town in Spain. The city became prosperous and wealthy which made it a target for pirates and thieves, and Spain soon intervened, constructing castles, forts, and a iconic wall that surrounded the city. When all construction was completed the city was almost impossible to take, and to this day many of these building and part of the wall still stands.

We strolled the streets, awed by the colours and flowers, marveled at the intricate nature of each detail on each facade and found ourselves intrigued by the fruit vendors, who were selling fruit we had never seen. I bought a Colombian dessert, which I’m still not sure the name of. Essentially two circular wafers, with Arequipa (caramel) and coconut smothered between them. We tried uchuvas, a orange ball like fruit that comes in a paper leaf and whose texture is similar to a cherry tomato, only the taste was fruiter.

At 3 o’clock we met “Edgar”, a local man who runs free tours of his city. From here we received an overload of information about the history of the city and Colombia, something we soon found that we knew nothing of. He covered everything, from the independence of the city, to Bolivar (who was influential in the independence of many South American counties) and his role in the city, and of course, the impact that Pablo Escobar has had on the country. Edgar was so passionate about his country and educating others that we finished the tour feeling inspired, and continued chatting about the country as we watched the sun go down over the walls. After a day spent exploring the area we were staying, we packed up and headed to our next destination, Taganga.