Cartegena, Columbia

Posted on Tue 02 January 2018 in Panama Canal Cruise • 3 min read

Today we were in Cartegena, Columbia. We only had a couple of hours in the city because tomorrow we are going to the Panama Canal and we need to be "in line" at the canal pretty early in the morning.

Our guide met us at the cruise terminal and took us around the city. Our first stop was at the main fortress: Castillo San Felipe de Barajas.

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

Cartegena was a very important city in colonial times and had many forts to protect it. In 1741, the British attempted to take Cartegena because by controlling Cartegena, they would control all of the trade routes from Europe to South America, effectively conquering all of South America.

Blas de Lezo, admiral of the Spanish defence, sank three ships in the harbour to delay the British. This delay allowed the Spanish's greatest ally--disease--to work. By the time the British arrived at the fortress, they were not in good fighting condition and lost the Battle for Cartegena de Indias.

Blas de Lezo

After getting a look at the fortress, we drove to the Convento de la Popa, the primary monastery in Cartegena. From this monastery, we had a panoramic view of the entire city.

Panorama from the "La Popa" Monastery

We drove back to the old town of Cartegena for a walking tour. The entire old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As we walked around, our guide pointed out some interesting things about Cartegena. One thing that was very interesting was that the size of someone's front door was an indicator of their social status. The bigger the door, the larger carriages you could fit in, the more wealthy you were. Additionally, the type of knocker on the door indicated the owner's trade. For example, the fish denoted a fish merchant.

We also went to an emerald museum (it was also a shop, you could really spend a lot of money on the stuff there). The museum was pretty interesting though. The guide showed us some different types of emerald and explained how they were mined.

Overall, old town Cartegena reminded me of New Orleans. It had a uniquely American (in the general sense) feel, but felt like a European city.

At this point we got back in the car and drove around the new town. It wasn't hugely impressive, it seemed like any big city. Notable was the fact that most of the tall buildings were high-rises, not office buildings. Our guide said that most of the people living in the high-rises were people who got rich off of oil.

Our guide then dropped us back off at the cruise terminal and we got on the boat. We didn't end up leaving until an hour after the planned time because 12 people were not there by the planned departure time. Eight showed back up, but four did not and we left them behind. Funnily enough, they were the people in the cabin right next to us.

After eating lunch on the boat, I spent the afternoon playing chess with Alex. I mainly was teaching him some stuff to help him improve his chess game. He's a good leaner, hopefully I didn't teach him to poorly.

This evening's show was the Island Magic Steelband, a steelband from Trinidad and Tobago. The band consisted of four members: one of them played the bass steel drums, one played the steelpan, one played a double steelpan with lower tones, and another played traditional drums. Unlike most steelbands which play reggae, they played classical and Broadway music. They were really good and I quite enjoyed the show. I wasn't the only one who enjoyed it either, the theatre was packed and they got two standing ovations.