A Busy Day in Cartagena – Day 56

Wed 28th Mar

No kitchen facilities where I’m staying – it’s called a hostel but is definitely more of a cheap hotel so I go out for some breakfast.

I go to a lovely little place called Beiyu and they do great scrambled eggs with a wedge of what seems like haloumi cheese.

If ur hungry or have to be somewhere at a certain time – factor this in when going out for food. They can’t multi task at all and work on a table by table basis and food orders (even with as little as 2-4 people ahead of u) can take over 30 mins to arrive. If the mantra of mañana mañana exists in Spain, they’re on a whole new level here….Colombian minutes means double what they tell u!

Cartagena was founded in 1533 by Pedro de Heredia and it became a famous as a land of many reassures (those buried with indigenous people) and prospered from the slave trade – actually being named the official slave trading centre.

With so much wealth in the city, rich people built some of the fabulous houses that still stand today in the old city. But with wealth came problems and Cartagena was prone to many pirate attacks (5 alone in the 16th Century including one by Britain led by Drake). These attacks led to the fortification of the city with the building of the 12ft walls that encase the old city that it is now famed for. It is here, in the fortress in Plaza de Santa Teresa the tour starts with Edgar our tour guide and his yellow umbrella. There’s a fairly large group of us from all over the world along with me, Rose and new friend Hanz.

Edgar tells of of the semi naked female statue u see around Cartagena – who is called Catalina who was of the Kalamari tribe. She was the daughter of a chief and kidnapped in 1509 and deported to Spain where she lived with an adopted family until returning with Pedro de Heredia 20 years later, being used by him as a translator/interpreter to broker desks between Heredia and the tribes people. Her legend has grown over time and in 1974, a statue was commissioned by Zambrana.

This image has been adopted by many organisations – including the Cartagena film festival which uses Catalina as their Oscars!

Another person we are told about is Pedro Claver. Famous as the patron saint of slaves who devoted his life to abolishing slavery. There is a lovely church in Plaza de la Aduana named after him.

Around here are loads of cool statues by Eduardo Carmona that depict what Volombuan people do…

including Palenqueras – women in traditional dress selling fruit from a basket on their head. U have to pay them to take a photo thou so here’s one by Carmona!

Then we head to one of the city’s most famous landmarks – the clock tower and gate.

This used to be the main entrance in the walled city. The view of the gates were instructed by the festival de la dulces that was going in for Easter.

Our tour takes us to Bolivar Square – the guy who fought for and liberated Colombia from Spanish rule (refer to Bogotá page for more info on this). Then on to the cathedral

and onto the famous view of its tower.

Botero’s work is throughout Colombia but only one piece is in Cartagena and that is La Gordita. Edgar told us if u run her hand u will come back here but I’ve read if u run her breasts, u will find love.

The old town oozes wealth and this apparent in the beautiful colonial buildings and streets around

and also the upmarket shops and restaurants in the neighbourhood. We are told that one house we are stood outside us in the market for between 5 & 7 million dollars!!! The streets and houses are beautiful though….if I had the money…!

We end the tour outside the theatre

tip our great and very knowledgeable guide and go for some lunch.

In contrast to where we were this morning, there’s a market I’d read about that not many tourists visit but I wanted to go to see how some of the real Cartagena. It isn’t all designer shops and mansions in this extremely poor country and city. The 3 of us head off on a local bus to Bazurto market. Depending which bus u get depends which side u get off at. We catch the same bus as for Playa Blanca (Pasa Caballos) and get off by the river. U know when to get off as the fish smell hits u before the market is in sight! We wander round, breathing through our mouths to help with the strong wafting fish smell.

Stall after stall of today’s wares from the local fishermen. It’s a bustling place full of twists and turns like a rabbit’s warren. From fish to fruit and veg, into home and kitchenware, electrical items, pharmacy stalls to clothes.

This place has it all.

It can be a bit intimidating and I’m not sure if I’d have felt comfortable on my own but the locals seemed more intrigued by us more than anything else and most were quite friendly….even the crazy avocado man who had smothered himself in it (he was slightly too crazy to ask for a photo!).

We decide we’ve had enough and head back. We talk on the bus between the difference in where we were this morning and where we’ve just been and it’s crazy. I read that 600,000 of the city’s 1 million population are poor.

We jump off the bus at Castillo de San Felipe but the queue is massive and because it’s late in the afternoon have to give it a miss. I may go back next week thou…

We head home to rest and shower before meeting up again this evening when Maria who will have finished work will join us too.

Just incase tonight turns into a heavy one (who am I kidding…incase) I pack my bag ready to leave tomorrow before going out!

The 4 of us head our, traipse around Getsemani for somewhere to eat but can’t agree on anyway so we all get a bit of street food and eat in Plaza de Trinidad. This place is awesome at night and is just bustling with activity and all the vendors, bars around it, steeet acts make it the place to be. The best place is a little shop in the corner that sells big bottles of beer for only 3400 (less than a £1). Even better the cocktail woman by the food stalls – opposite Demente.

They’re 10000 each but she pours sooo much rum in they’re well worth it!

Being in Colombia we all head off to a salsa club to end the night.

Watching 2 people on the dance floor I am in awe! Wow….these guys can move! My basic step, right turn and cross body lead etc is not enough to dance in here in front of these guys! Cue a few more beers, get chatting to some people and twinkle toes comes to life! Really want to go to salsa school in either Medellin or Cali.

Head back home with newly made friends via a beer in Parque Centenario, a chat with hostel security bloke and pass out around 4am!

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