Cartagena, Colombia

Centro Historico

We have been in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, for a month. The marina is a quick 10-minute walk from the heart of the city which, as far as we are concerned, consists of two or three parts:
Centro Historico
The Centro Histórico—a fully restored World Heritage site of luxury hotels and high-end restaurants (the kind that serve a thumb of lobster meat in the middle of a white porcelain disc the size of a manhole cover, garnished with two red nasturtiums and a tiny puddle of beetroot coulis in the shape of a tadpole…or sperm…beside it, for $40) tucked inside 11 kms. of ancient fortified walls.
Cartagena de Indias
And the less well-restored but more vibrant Getsemaní quarter…a maze of smaller rainbow-coloured houses, informal cafés, bars and grog shops, amazing street art, clichéd hipster hostels that get their design ideas from Pinterest, wonderful public sculptures, and a not entirely artificial ‘La Vie Bohème‘ vibe. (Also of practical interest is the sector La Matuna, a swarming commercial area of bargain department stores, Chinatown-like warehouses that sell anything you can imagine, and a rash of small mobile and smart phone accessories vendors).
Sitio Getsemaní
Sitio Getsemaní
Founded in 1533 by the Spanish commander Pedro de Heredia, Cartagena de Indias is often called “a living museum of the 16th-19th centuries”. And, amazingly, it still is…inspite all the tourists, boutique ice-cream shops, and the hundreds of infinity pools or Sisley-of-Paris spas hidden within the rustic outer walls of old colonial mansions, this city is still very much a part of the daily lives of local inhabitants (who cannot afford to live here, but come into the walled city everyday to work, shop, beg, busk, or just stroll around and enjoy their own city).
Cartagena de Indias
It is a photographer’s dream and nightmare…not a street exists that does not cry out to be photographed; I’ve had to go without my camera, some days, just to be able to enjoy the place for itself, and not endlessly succumb to the mindless consumerism of photographing everything. It is like so much eye candy that the teeth ache just looking at it all.
Cartagena de Indias
Centro Historico

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11 thoughts on “Cartagena, Colombia

    1. You can still find them to buy, bronze or iron, but they’re 100 dollars each, a bit much for someone like me, with a year of travel left to do, and not a lot of money to do that year of travel with! But I like the word ‘coveting’, sort of puts me in mind of wandering the city at 4 a.m. with a screw driver and a hack saw.

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    1. Thanks to the sensationalism of the media…they love doing stories that feature seedy or violent images of S. American countries. Cartagena’s a clean, beautiful city, with conveniences and boutiques, and probably not worse street crime than you’d find in, say, Miami.
      The cocaine business is big business, SERIOUS business. It doesn’t walk the streets or have anything to do with ordinary people, everyday lives. It’s something that goes on between investment bankers, politicians, and people like that, way up at the top. It’s a billion-dollar busness with and a huge and lucrative overseas market comprised mainly of North Americans.

      What Cartagena is NOT, is an Antonio Banderas movie, with guys in mariachi hats, public shoot outs on the sidewalk, or in small dingy bars! LOL It used to be like that, back when Colombia adopted the United States’ “War on Drugs” approach to things.
      These days, it is legal to possess one gram of cocaine, $3 on the street, for personal use, and that has wiped out small-scale crime among normal citizens.
      Legalising cocaine was the most enlightened thing Colombia did, after wasting years and billions of dollars on the futile and never-ending “War on Drugs” approach.

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      1. Too true! I was in Puerto Vallarta last year and there incident with small time thug groups in a turf fight. It was all over my local news (Canada) but the day it happened we were downtown PV and didn’t notice a thing. The Canadian embassy issued a travel warning but to put in perspective that very same week there were two drive by shooting in one of our local cities. Sometimes I wonder what sensational news the rest of the world gets about good old “safe” Canada! 😉

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        1. There seems to be an unspoken rule in the world’s media that first-world countries get pretty much only rose-coloured coverage that glosses over the street crime, homeless, breakdown of ethics, playground shootings and redneck homicides…and third-world countries (or countries that won’t play by US rules) get only negative representation, no matter how many positive things they can show. When I think of Canada, I think of lakes, canoeing, and Margaret Atwood’s novels. LOL

          A friend arrived in Haiti from Tennessee after seeing TV footage of buildings burning in downtown Port au Prince. A week later he drove past the very same public square and buildings, and there was no sign of fires or smashed windows…they had used old footage. The news is a tool for manipulating people, it doesn’t seem to be interested in truth.

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