Cartagena de Indias, “The Jewel of the Colombian Caribbean”, “The Heroic” “La Bella” are several of the nicknames that people use to refer to this beautiful place. Personally, I like to call it the Heróica, more as a tribute to its brave people, which endured stoically, attacks of pirates and snares of enemies throughout history. However, when I label it “La Bella”, I do not do it in a bad way, either, because I must admit, it is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and I say it without the desire to partialize myself towards that beautiful city.
WHY IS CARTAGENA THE HEROIC?
The heroic word comes from hero, and this comes from the Latin heros, which in turn, comes from the Greek ἥρως. Bla bla bla.
To not complicate us much with this, heroic means brave, who has committed heroic virtues, who is strong and loyal, and Cartagena de Indias amply fits perfectly into this description.
Cartagena, “La Heroica” was proclaimed by Simon Bolivar, due to the great admiration for the courage and heroism of its people, who, with a small contingent of men, resisted behind the wall, the attacks of the invaders, General Pablo Murillo, with whole families besieged, without food and resisting hunger and disease, for 105 days. There the first republic succumbed, which Colombian historiography knows as the Boya Homeland. who assaulted Cartagena.
Cartagena de Indias has been a city especially associated with pirate history, yes, in the best style of the picturesque Hollywood movies, considering that it was there, where there were numerous attacks by pirates from Europe, who found in Cartagena, the perfect place to plunder at that time, which in turn converted it into the most important fortified city in South America and the Caribbean.
Today things are different!
With the passage of time, Cartagena has perfected its urban area, conserving its historic center and becoming one of the most important ports in Colombia, the Caribbean and the world, as well as a very important tourist destination worldwide. In fact, its historical center better known as “The Walled City”, was declared as “National Patrimony of Colombia” in 1959 and “World Heritage” in 1984 by Unesco. In 2007, due to its attractive military architecture, it received the award of “The Fourth Wonder of Colombia”.
Walking through the Walled City is a journey through time. It is allowing oneself, the opportunity to live the past in the flesh, its to delight in things that are sometimes so simple, that, by that simplicity, can be appreciated more. To mention an example, without it sounding so romantic, I want to mention the little spot. An access to the Walled City that perhaps for most of the local passers-by, goes unnoticed. But for those who, for the first time, had the opportunity to visit the city, who invited us to think and imagine, the voices of those men who defended that entrance, those children playing on the other side, while they were isolated. You can almost smell on the stone, the fragments of the history of the city.
Continuing the walk, I found all kinds people, always willing to help and with an attitude of service that I must admit, I was a little surprised , because to be honest, I expected a little more hostility from the people, especially from what I had heard about sellers, but to my surprise, on the contrary, I was always very well looked after and received, of all the places I decided to visit.
ON BOARD THE HOP ON -HOP OFF TOUR
First of all, it is very important to remember that you must print the ticket before, better from home, so that you can present it at the moment of entering the bus. If you buy online, you will receive an order / voucher and that document must be printed and presented to board the bus.
Most of the people take the bus near the stops of their hotel, which is a good idea in view that they leave either before breakfast or lunch (depending on the time), sunscreen, caps and ready for adventure. In my case, it was different. We wanted to start touring the Walled City, eat all the goodies in the area and then take the trip on board the tourist bus.
It was 5:39 pm and together with my family we boarded the bus. Took a chance, if, after all, 90 minutes of walking, it’s just 90 minutes of walking, what a bummer.
Our next stop was the Castle of San Felipe and although we had all the desire to get off again to check it out, the stenth no longer allowed us to … it shall be tomorrow! We agreed with my family, for now to follow the route. However, before continuing, I must make a small parenthesis, to express my surprise at the magnitude of such colossal architectural work. The local authorities have done an excellent job maintaining that place, because despite the years, the Castle of San Felipe, looks as robust and colossal, as if it had been built a few years ago.
Continuing with the tour, we went through the Museum of Rafael Nuñez, I didn´t know who that man was, but on the tour they explained it to me that he was a president of the Republic of Colombia and that he had lived in that place. One day I might write the details of such a famous character, but for now, I must continue with the journey, and we are moving towards the Boquetillo, or entrance to the Walled City.
To not dwell on the stops much, because it’s like telling the beginning and end of a movie and nobody likes to be told, well … “there could be someone like that, I do not know”. I’ll focus better on things that I consider vital that the tourist should know about the site. As a tip for the tourist, from my perspective as a parent.
What to take with you after leaving the hotel?
- Ready a backpack and get ready to fill it with:
- 2 bottles of water per person and keep them as cold as possible.
- Sunscreen, put it on and take it with you, so you can, in a few hours, use it again.
- Carry a credit card, so you do not carry so much cash.
- Have local currency at hand.
- Caps or hats and make sure they are tight enough so they do not fly off at the time of the tour.
- Small bags, because you will be hungry, with so many delicious things to eat. and want to save something and enjoy it later.
- Carry your phone sufficiently charged, and with enough space in your memory, because there are so many beautiful places in Cartagena and so much to see, that you will want to take pictures of everything.
- Phone charger, or extra battery, you know … just in case.
HOW TO INTERACT IN THE PLACE?
The people in Cartagena de Indias are very kind. They know that they live from tourism, and it is part of the business to be educated. But that same thing is what this kind of people expects from the tourist, for that reason, as the famous saying goes,”When in Rome, do as the Romans. So it is important to consider the following:
Say hello if you are greeted. (It seems logical, but it is not always).
If you want to take pictures with people, be polite to ask if they agree.
In the case of the Palenquera woman, typical character of the city of Cartagena, if you want to take a picture with her, she will kindly agree, but you must buy some of her fruit.
Avoid confrontations with street vendors. If you want something, buy it. Otherwise, a simple, educated, but firm no, is enough to avoid a bad time.
The food is delicious and fresh in most places. Enjoy the culinary delights of the place with confidence, but if you have a doubt, it is better to look for the next food stand. Sometimes, it is good to listen to one’s instinct.
Public transport is not the best in the city, take advantage of using the Hop Hon – Hop Off bus bus, also to get around. After all, it lasts 2 days and you can get on, and off as many times as you wish.
If you embarked on the Tourist Bus (Hop On Hop Off call in English) make sure you save the ticket (in Colombia ticket) so you can also use it the next day.
Tomorrow we will use the Hop On – Hop Off bus again during the morning and in the afternoon, they will come for us to go to know the Rosario Islands, which, being so famous, we really want to get to know it, but that will be reason for a next topic.
Until a next opportunity.