Founded in 1533, Cartagena soon became the main storehouse for treasure plundered from the indians waiting for shipment to Spain by galleon. Consequently it attracted pirates like moths to a flame and had to be heavily fortified to resist frequent sieges by buccaneers like Francis Drake who sacked the port in 1586. Its fortifications were so powerful and extensive that they made it possible for Don Blas de Lozo and only 2500 men to successfully resist a siege by 186 ships, 2000 cannons and 25 000 men under Edward Vernon in 1741.
Today's Cartagena has preserved the old city and its fortifications, it has developed its beaches into a tourist haven and has become Colombia's second port after Barranquilla.
|Lonely Planet CIA|
Most of the ancient city walls have been restored giving the Old City a unique character found nowhere else in the Americas.
The restoration of the Old City is so authentic that you can forget time and be shocked to find this four lane speedway when looking over the wall's parapet.
These spotlights turn the Old City into a shining jewel at night.
The Puerta del Reloj was the main gate between the inner and outer fortified parts of the city. The remainder of the inner wall was taken down to make way for Avenida Venezuela. The gate used to be called Boca del Puente for there was a drawbridge over a moat where the road passes now. The clock tower was added in the 19th century.
The Heredia Theater, named after the founder of the city is part of Universidad Tadeo Lizano on the northern sea wall.
This beautiful house on the corner of Playa de la Artilleria and Calle de la Factoria overlooks the northern city wall towards the sea.
You could spend hours strolling in the "El Centro" quarter just to feast your eyes on views like this one on the corner of Calle Santo Domingo and Callejón de los Estribos.
Calle Vicaria Santa Teresa also in El Centro.
I did not find anything for less than 20$US in El Centro so I stayed in Hostal Valle on calle Media Luna for 5 US$ per day. It was nicer inside than outside and I had a balcony.
Fuerte San Felipe on the 40 meter San Lárazo hill is only one of the several forts defending this strategic city.
Construction of the Fuerte San Felipe began in 1639 and proceeded in stages until this upper redoubt built in 1762. San Felipe was undoubtedly the greatest and strongest fortress of all the Spanish colonies.
The impressive Fuerte San Felipe was stormed many times but was never taken.
You can see Bocagrande's modern tourist hotels in the background and the Caribbean beyond.
Depending on your viewpoint and values you can see Bocagrande as a tourist haven or as a tourist ghetto. I used to love such havens ten years ago when I was still a hard working careerist needing a week off to unwind and do nothing once in a while to avoid burn-out. Acapulco was my favorite, I almost bought a studio there!
Now I see these resort towns as tourist ghettos where tired business people come for a quick fix of rest and recuperation. I have visited many of these places and find them remarkably similar. Chile's Viña del Mar, Argentina's Mar de Plata, Uruguay's Punta del Este, South Africa's Durban Beach and Australia's Surfer's Paradise are more akin to each other than they are to the country where they stand. The physical environment and the canned "cultural shows" might vary but the rest is so identical that I'm convinced they copy each other's features.
I am not writing this as a criticism, ten years ago I would have loved this place and I can sincerely recommend it to anyone looking for a week of rest and recuperation. We all change with time and now I am more interested in understanding how other people live. That is what I went to do on my next destination, Trinidad.