So today we visited the large and very busy city of Cartagena, Columbia. This was obviously a prosperous, “money is here” city with many high rise buildings, but also the poor were represented. All I could think of was “Drug Money at work”. We had a great time riding the Hop On Hop Off bus and seeing all the major sights. The Walled City is a great combination of various types of architecture. Driving down the very narrow streets with their extremely colorful buildings with their overhanging balconies reminded us of New Orleans in many ways. Even the street vendors were selling just about anything you are looking for. Traffic is NOT getting any better as we jump from one country to another. I picked up something I heard in a movie that talked about “those little cockroaches” --- and that’s how I feel about these damn taxis. They just run up, down, across streets, sidewalks, driveways, etc. just like little, nasty bugs, while CONSTANTLY blaring their horns. Anyhow, there is much to say about this city so I’ll save it for the Travel Journal’s History Lesson section.
Our last day at sea the Norwegian Sun’s standard singers and dancers put on another show for us. I have to admit, that group of super talent put on six different shows during our cruise and each was better than the one before. In a lot of the performances, the regulars were better entertainers than the “professionals” the ship brought in.
Also on the last night a “sampling” of the crew took the stage for some well deserved applause from the passengers. Two of our very favorite, a Chinese cabin steward and a Filipino dining room employee who had the major responsibility to get passengers to wash their hands with disinfectant when entering the dining room also took to the stage. They were just super folks who did what needed to be done without any complaints. The folks who tried to get passengers to wash their hands were know as the “Washy Washy” gang.
Lastly, a picture of my “office” next to the bar. My computer and my double Bloody Mary are on display. This bar does not have large glasses, but every time I stopped by a large glass magically appeared just for me. Yes, I definitely took care of the bartender who went out of his way to take care of me.
Overall, we had a great time on this cruise and highly recommend it to all our friends and family.
Your History Lesson: The city of Cartagena, known in the colonial era as Cartagena de Indias is a major port founded in 1533, located on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region. It was strategically located between the Magdalena and Sinú rivers and became the main port for trade between Spain and its overseas empire, establishing its importance by the early 1540s. During the colonial era it was a key port for the export of Peruvian silver to Spain and for the import of African slaves under the asiento system. It was defensible against pirate attacks in the Caribbean. It is the capital of the Bolívar Department, and had a population 971,592 as of 2016. It is the fifth-largest city in Colombia and the second largest in the region, after Barranquilla. The urban area of Cartagena is also the fifth-largest urban area in the country. Economic activities include the maritime and petrochemicals industries, as well as tourism. The city was founded on June 1, 1533, and named after Cartagena, Spain, which in turn was named after Carthage in Tunisia. Settlement in the region around Cartagena Bay by various indigenous people dates back to 4000 BC. During the Spanish colonial period Cartagena served a key role in administration and expansion of the Spanish empire. It was a center of political, ecclesiastical, and economic activity. In 1984, Cartagena's colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The historic center is surrounded by seven miles of defensive walls. These were complemented by fortifications along the coast, making Cartagena a militarily impregnable city. The walls, made in several stages, were designed to protect the city from continual pirate attacks, with construction beginning in 1586.
The Convento de Santo Domingo, founded in 1551, is the oldest church in Cartagena. In 1588, two years after Francis Drake's assault on the city, the church was granted 500 pesos by a royal decree to proceed with repairs of the building, which was not affected by the English attacks. It was occupied by the Dominican religious order until the 19th century. The body of Saint Peter Claver is located in its main altar.
The city's increasing importance as a port for the export of Peruvian silver from Potosí to Spain, made it an obvious target for pirates and corsairs, encouraged by France, England, and Holland. In 1544, the city was pillaged by 5 ships and 1000 men under the command of the French pirate Jean-François Roberval, who took advantage of the city still without walls. Heredia was forced to retreat to Turbaco until a ransom was paid. A defensive tower, San Felipe del Boqueron, was built in 1566 by Governor Anton Davalos. It was supposed to protect the anchorage and the Bahia de las Animas, a water lane into Plaza de lar Mar (current day Plaze de la Aduana), but the fort's battery had limited range. Then the French pirate Martin Cote struck in 1569 with 1000 men, ransacking the city. A few months after the disaster of the invasion of Cote, a fire destroyed the city and forced the creation of a firefighting squad, the first in the Americas. In 1568, Sir John Hawkins of England tried to trick Governor Martín de las Alas into violating Spanish law, which forbade trade with foreigners, by opening a trade fair in the city to sell goods. This would have allowed Hawkins to ravage the port afterwards; the governor declined. Hawkins bombarded the city for 8 days, but failed to level it. Then Francis Drake attacked in April 1586 with 23 ships and 3,000 men. Drake burned 200 houses and the cathedral, departing only after a ransom was paid a month later. Spain then commissioned Bautista Antonelli in 1586 to design a master scheme for defending its Caribbean ports. This included a second visit to Cartagena in 1594 when he drew up plans for a walled city.
The Asiento contract signed by Britain and Spain in 1713 granted exclusive rights to Britain to sell African slaves in the Spanish West Indies. The first slaves were brought by Pedro de Heredia to work as "macheteros", clearing the underbrush. By the 17th Century, Cartagena had become an important New World slave market, centered about the Plaza de los Coches. Europeans began to bring slaves from Africa. Spain was the only European power that could not establish factories in Africa to purchase slaves and therefore the Spanish empire relied on the asiento system, awarding merchants (mostly from Portugal, France, England and the Dutch Empire) the license to trade enslaved people to their overseas territories.
The reconstruction after the Raid on Cartagena (1697) was initially slow, but with the end of the War of the Spanish Succession around 1711 and the competent administration of Juan Díaz de Torrezar Pimienta, the walls were rebuilt, the forts reorganized and restored, and the public services and buildings reopened. By 1710, the city was fully recovered. At the same time, the slow but steady reforms of the restricted trade policies in the Spanish Empire encouraged the establishment of new trade houses and private projects. During the reign of Philip V of Spain the city had many new public works projects either begun or completed, among them the new fort of San Fernando, the Hospital of the Obra Pía and the full paving of all the streets and the opening of new roads.
In 1762, Antonio de Arebalo published his Defense Plan, the Report on the estate of defense on the avenues of Cartagena de Indias. This engineer continued the work to make Cartagena impregnable, including the construction from 1771 to 1778, of an 3400 yards long underwater jetty across the Bocagrande called the Escollera. Arebalo had earlier completed San Fernando, and the fort-battery of San Jose in 1759, then added El Angel San Rafael on El Horno hill as added protection across the Bocachica. After Vernon, what is called the 'Silver Age' of the city (1750–1808) began. This time was one of permanent expansion of the existing buildings, massive immigration from all the other cities of the Viceroyalty, increase of the economic and political power of the city and a population growth spurt not equaled since that time. Political power that was already shifting from Bogotá to the coast completed its relocation, and the Viceroys decided to reside in Cartagena permanently. The inhabitants of the city were the richest of the colony, the aristocracy erected noble houses on their lands to form great estates, libraries and printing establishments were opened, and the first café in New Granada was even established. The good times of steady progress and advancement in the second half of the 18th century came to an abrupt end in 1808 with the general crisis of the Spanish Empire that came from the Mutiny of Aranjuez and all its consequences.
For more than 275 years, Cartagena was under Spanish rule. With Napoleon's imprisonment of Charles IV and Ferdinand VII, and the start of the Peninsular War, the Latin American wars of independence soon followed. In Cartagena, on 4 June 1810, Royal Commissioner Antonio Villavicencio and the Cartagena City Council banished the Spanish Governor Francisco de Montes on suspicions of sympathy for the French emperor and the French occupation forces which overthrew the king. A Supreme Junta was formed, along with two political parties, one led by Jose Maria Garcia de Toledo representing the aristocrats, and a second led by Gabriel and German Piñeres representing the common people of Getsemani. Finally on 11 November, a Declaration of Independence was signed proclaiming "a free state, sovereign and independent of all domination and servitude to any power on Earth". Spain's reaction was to send a "pacifying expedition" under the command of Pablo Morillo, The Pacifier, and Pascual de Enrile, which included 59 ships, and 10,612 men. The city was placed under siege on 22 August 1815. The city was defended by 3000 men, 360 cannons, and 8 ships plus ancillary small watercraft, under the command of Manuel del Castillo y Rada and Juan N. Enslava. However, by that time, the city was under the rule of the Garcia de Toledo Party, having exiled German and Gabriel Pineres, and Simon Bolivar. By 5 December, about 300 people per day died from hunger or disease, forcing 2000 to flee on vessels provided by the French mercenary Louis Aury. By that time, 6000 had died. Morillo, in retaliation after entering the city, shot nine of the rebel leaders on 24 February 1816, at what is now known as the Camellon de los Martires. These included José María García de Toledo and Manuel del Castillo y Rada. Finally, a patriot army led by General Mariano Montilla, supported by Admiral José Prudencio Padilla, laid siege to the city from August 1820 until October 1821. A key engagement was the destruction of almost all of the royalist ships anchored on Getsemani Island on 24 June 1821. After Governor Gabriel Torres surrendered, Simon Bolivar the Liberator, bestowed the title "Heroic City" onto Cartagena. The Liberator spent 18 days in the city from 20–28 July 1827, staying in the Government Palace in Proclamation Square and the guest of a banquet hosted by Jose Padilla at his residence on Calle Larga.
The Downtown area of Cartagena has varied architecture, mainly a colonial style, but republican and Italian style buildings, such as the Cathedral's bell tower, can be seen. The main entrance to downtown is the Puerta del Reloj (Clock Gate), which exits onto the Plaza de los Coches (Square of the Carriages). A few steps farther is the Plaza de la Aduana (Customs Square), next to the mayor's office. Nearby is San Pedro Claver Square and the church also named for Saint Peter Claver, where the body of the Jesuit saint ('Saint of the African slaves') is kept in a casket, as well as the Museum of Modern Art. Nearby is the Plaza de Bolívar (Bolívar's Square) and the Palace of Inquisition. Plaza de Bolívar (formerly known as Plaza de La Inquisicion) is essentially a small park with a statue of Simón Bolívar in the center. This plaza is surrounded by balconied colonial buildings. Shaded outdoor cafes line the street. The Office of Historical Archives devoted to Cartagena's history is not far away. Next to the archives is the Government Palace, the office building of the Governor of the Department of Bolivar. Across from the palace is the Cathedral of Cartagena, which dates back to the 16th century. Another religious building of significance is the Iglesia de Santo Domingo in front of Plaza Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Square). In the square is the sculpture Mujer Reclinada ("Reclining Woman"), a gift from the notable Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Nearby is the Tcherassi Hotel, a 250-year-old colonial mansion renovated by designer Silvia Tcherassi.
A 20-minute walk from downtown is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, located in el Pie de la Popa (another neighborhood), the greatest fortress ever built by the Spaniards in their colonies. The tunnels were all constructed in such a way as to make it possible to hear footsteps of an approaching enemy. Some of the tunnels are open for viewing today.
Once a district characterized by crime, Getsemani, just south of the ancient walled fortress, has become "Cartagena's hippest neighborhood and one of Latin America's newest hotspots", with plazas that were once the scene of drug dealing being reclaimed and old buildings being turned into boutique hotels. The Bocagrande (Big Mouth) is an area known for its skyscrapers. The area contains the bulk of the city's tourist facilities, such as hotels, shops, restaurants, nightclubs and art galleries. It is located between Cartagena Bay to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west, and includes the two neighborhoods of El Laguito (The Little Lake) and Castillogrande (Big Castle). Bocagrande has long beaches and much commercial activity is found along Avenida San Martín (Saint Martin Avenue).
The beaches of Bocagrande, lying along the northern shore, are made of volcanic sand, which is slightly grayish in color. This makes the water appear muddy, though it is not. There are breakwaters about every 200 yards. On the bay side of the peninsula of Bocagrande is a seawalk. In the center of the bay is a statue of the Virgin Mary. The Naval Base is also located in Bocagrande, looking at the Bay.
The Rafael Núñez International Airport, is the busiest airport in Colombia's Caribbean region and the fourth in passenger traffic in the country. The code of the airport is CTG, having flights to almost all airports in Colombia including Bogota's El Dorado International Airport. Excessive operational costs and easier connection travel and better prices had led to the shifting of the Rafael Núñez's international connection passengers away from Bogota to the nearer Tocumen International Airport in Panama and Queen Beatrix International Airport in Aruba. Also more companies prefer to serve the Colombian market from Cartagena, due to better geographical and atmospheric conditions.