First port of call! A new port for us. It was a short day here – had to be back on the ship at 12:30 p.m. We took a ship’s excursion – “A Stroll through the Old Walled City.” We were told by many others who had been here before that if you could only do one thing, see the old walled city.
We began by coach from the port (really not an attractive one) to the old city. To get there we went through the more modern part of Cartagena. It is a sprawling city of 850,000 inhabitants – a bustling maritime and industrial center. However, the charm lies in the old walled city.
The first thing you see outside of the city walls is the large fortress of Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, rising 135 feet above sea level. It is the highest point in this city. We only stopped to take pictures, but inside it is quite large with underground tunnels. It was built to stop the pirates who came to sack the city. It was a very imposing structure.
Our next stop was to see the Dungeons (Las Bovedas) which are now little shops selling local handicrafts. They have been used for many things since they were used as dungeons – sleeping quarters for the military, etc.
Our bus took us to the beginning of our walking tour – at the Heredia Theater. With its neo-Classical style, it is considered one of the most beautiful theaters in S. America. We could only take pictures from the outside.
Walking through the old walled city did take you back in time with the old colonial architecture. The streets were narrow and sometimes winding. There were two things that stood out to me during the 1 1/2 walk. First, there were beautiful balconies on so many of the buildings – some had beautiful flowers attached, some were beautiful wood. Secondly, the next most interesting thing to me were the doors. On most of them there were sharp little points sticking out (my table mate described them perfectly – little metal nipples!) The number of them on the door indicated the wealth of the person living there – the more, the wealthier. And most doors had a smaller door in it to walk through and further down a larger door for carriages.
The Plaza de Boliver was a large square park with lots of green plants, pretty fountains of water and in the center was a statue of Simon de Bolivar on his horse.
One of the most interesting stops was at the Palace of Inquisition. This was one location where the Spanish Inquisition was practiced for many years. It is now a museum which features some of the torture apparatus that was used to get the “accused” to confess. One such apparatus was a scale that determined whether or not you were a witch. If you weighed more than 120 pounds, you must have had the devil inside of you to weigh that much. Conversely, if you weighed less than 40 pounds, you were light enough to fly which was considered to be supernatural as well. In both cases you were put to death! Upon all the deaths, special bells were rung. While the weighing was not cruel, there were many other cruel methods of torture on display.
We went on to the San Pedro Claver Plaza where the church honoring this patron saint stands. There is also a bronze statue of him standing with a slave – indicating he considered them both equal.
It was then time to meet our bus again and head back to the ship. Even in the mid morning hours, it was really hot – in the 90s with 94% humidity. The air conditioned bus and ship were more than welcome.
Tonight before dinner was another cocktail party – this time with our travel agency group. We met a lot of nice people and enjoyed more champagne.
Another great day!