Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Colombia chapter Caribbean Coast has to say about the Cartagena neighbourhood of Getsemaní:
“Cartagena’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a maze of cobbled alleys, balconies covered in bougainvillea, and massive churches that cast their shadows across plazas.
But then there is the outer town, full of traffic, the working class, and a chaotic nature that can leave you dazed and confused in minutes. It is here that Cartagena becomes a typical workhorse South American city.
Getsemaní, the outer walled town, is less obviously impressive with its modest architecture, but as it’s far more residential and less sanitized, it offers plenty of atmosphere and is well worth exploring.
In recent years it has become the home of backpackers in the city, but gentrification is coming astonishingly quickly, and the area is full of trendy restaurants, packed cocktail bars and salsa clubs, and now almost as many boutique hotels as the inner walled town. A beautiful walkway, the Muelle Turístico de los Pegasos, links Getsemaní with the old town.”
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
I don’t think I realized that our hotel was in the Getsemaní district, but I knew it was just outside the walls of the old town. On our first morning in Cartagena, we set off early (for us) to explore the broad stone walls and the quaint streets of the old town before breakfast. Obviously, we weren’t quite early enough at 7:30 as the lanes and byways were already bustling with people getting ready for their busy day. We saw students on their way to class, vendors readying their stalls for the first customers, street sweepers clearing away the last of the previous night’s litter and several people scrubbing the stone walks in front of their shops.
We didn’t get out to explore the Getsemaní district until later that afternoon. We retreated to our room, relaxing, and enjoying the air-conditioning as the temperature was 32C and it was relatively humid. The heat and humidity didn’t feel too oppressive, especially because there were lovely breezes blowing throughout the day.
We stepped out again shortly after 5:00pm and turned south along the waterfront until we encountered another set of huge stone walls that were built to defend one of the town’s flanks. We climbed to the top of the broad wall and strolled along, taking in an entirely different view than the one we’d seen early in the morning. In fact, we could see across to the huge fortress built on a neighbouring hill – reputably the largest fort the Spanish built in all of South America.
We made a large loop through the neighbourhood and eventually ended up in the Parque del Centenario, located across from the Clock Tower entrance to the Old Town. Plenty of locals were out enjoying the fine evening with their families, and we even saw a large group of young girls training on an outdoor rollerblading track. You go girls!
By now we were getting hungry so we set our course for a small restaurant that Anil had found by reading reviews on TripAdvisor. It’s called Novo Kebab Grill and it certainly lived up to its rave reviews. We met a couple of Sikh men from Vancouver at Novo - they were some of the few foreigners we saw on the streets of Cartagena.
Our tummies full, we headed back to our hotel and retreated to the pool deck for a couple of cold beers before calling it a day.