Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We Entered Through The Big Mouth

When we pulled into port in Cartagena, Columbia  I didn't expect to see modern skyscrapers.  I don't know why, but since all the countries we had been to so far didn't have New York-worthy skyscrapers, I just figured this wouldn't either.  But it is the fifth largest city in Columbia, second largest after Barranquilla, so it makes sense.  This skyline is known as the Bocagrande (Big Mouth) and is where the majority of the tourist facilities are located.

We boarded the buses at the dock and prepared for our tour of the old and new areas of the city.  The first thing we did was stop at the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas (Castle of San Felipe de Barajas), a large fortress positioned at the top of a hill, considered to be the greatest fortress ever built by the Spaniards in their colonies.

Our guide gave us an extensive presentation on the history of this fortress, but since we did it standing in the blistering heat on the sidewalk next to the fortress, I was too hot to focus on what he was saying.  I'm pretty sure I blacked out from the heat.  

 A little hardware store we passed on our bus tour.
A plaque on the wall that indicates Indian Crafts (Artesanias India) from Cartagena de Indias (Cartagena of the Indies), which is the official name of the city, founded in 1533 by Pedro de Heredia and named after Cartagena, Spain.  
Below are Las Bóvedas (The Vaults) which used to be dungeons.  There are 23 cells that prisoners were held in but which are now shops and boutiques.  
Each dungeon shop has a number above each door.

The Old Town of Cartagena is its biggest attraction.  Thick walls surround the city and were built to protect the city from its enemies.  The city is colorful and displays fine examples of Spanish colonial architecture.
The walled city area is best seen on foot.  We began our walk here and were guided through the walled area with stops along the way.
Our first stop was the Palacio de la Inquisición (Palace of Inquisition), located in Plaza de Bolivar in the historic center.  Here is Ed standing at the palace entrance.
The palace has been called one of the best examples of late colonial, civil architecture.  It was completed in 1770.
 Crumbling walls and irons bars.
The Inquisition Palace was the eighteenth-century seat of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Cartagena. 
It was where the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition - commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition - tortured, judged, and convicted men accused of crimes against religion.  Torture devices on display inclued La Garrucha, the rack, the guillotine, the witches' scale (which would determine whether or not a woman was a witch based on what she weighs.  WTF?), 
A plaza located just outside of the church we visited.
 There were street vendors selling everything from bracelets to hats to belts to purses.  Everything was beautiful and so colorful.
I don't know why I didn't buy one of these bags.  Or five of these bags.  They're so fantastic.  And I'm a purse/tote bag freak.  I love bags.  I didn't shop a lot on the trip but not getting one of these for myself is one of my biggest shopping regrets.  At this point, they were hurrying us back to the buses because this was the last stretch of street before we got to the parking lot area, but I seriously don't know what I was thinking that I didn't at least grab one of these.  I guess I'll just have to go back.
On our way out we saw a low-clearance area (not for buses) with taxis exiting old town.
And people sitting in the window openings of the high walls surrounding the city, looking out onto the Caribbean Sea. 
Cartagena is absolutely a city I would visit again.  We didn't have nearly enough time to walk around, shop, eat, etc.  We weren't able to have any time on our own because we were part of the cruise ship tour and had to do everything as a group.

This is the last of the cities we visited on our cruise.  After this we would be on our way to Fort Lauderdale.  This ends the long blog posts to recap each of the cities we visited. Although I'm still not sure how I feel about 32-days on a cruise ship - there are some things I can pick on if pushed - overall I had a great time and think a cruise it a great way to see so many countries on essentially one trip.

From what I learned from the other passengers on board, some who have been on as many as 70 cruises, I know what I'd research for any future trips.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2014:  Getting Ready For The Really Big Shooooo
2013: You'll Know You're Getting Close When You See The Zebra
2012: You Can’t Go Wrong At ShopRite
2011: When The Feelings Get Too Strong For Words
2010: Looking For Loads In All The Wrong Places
2009: CTRL Freak
2008: 1. Cut String 2. Walk
2007: Amish Down The Lane
2006: The Competition Is Stiff
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!

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