I drew this looking down calle Don Sancho from a tiny spot of shade along the murallas (the stone walls that surround the fortified city) in the midday heat. You can tell I was deeply impressed by the cathedral’s dome, as I seem to have drawn it twice as large as it should be…it’s all dome, and no church underneath!
One of the most entertaining ways to explore Cartagena de Indias is through books. Besides reading two novels, simultaneously, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that are set in the Cartagena of old, I spend my evenings reading a marvellous book called “Plazas y Calles de Cartagena”, written in the 1940s by Raul Porto…one of the city’s respectable, scholarly and most avid citizens. In it are gathered the histories, nomenclature, legends, rumours and quotidian information of every single street in the historical centre and Getsemani
Of calle Don Sancho the book says: “no young person of the neighborhood could possibly survive in house No. 36-51 (currently occupied by the offices of ‘El Mercurio’) because of the headless ghost of a priest named Marin, dead for more than three centuries, that was sure to appear. One thing is certain, the house has a reputation for being haunted, and by 9 in the evening there is no young man that will come near it…”
Walking these old streets with all these marvellous stories rattling around in my head adds yet another layer of fascination to the experience, and where other visitors may be standing in a nondescript cobbled plaza between park and church, I thrill with my ‘special insider’s knowledge’ that I am standing on the spot where the conquistador Pedro Heredia’s house (he is the founder of the city, and his was the first house of stone ever built) used to be. Eavesdropping on city tours I can confidently say that not one of the local guides herding tourists around has ever given such a detailed and interesting narrative of the town as reading a couple of books does.
The heat was so withering up on the bare battlements that I caved in and bought a hat–my first!–from one of the many vendors who prowl the walls, pestering tourists–the only people crazy enough to walk around the fortifications at high noon.