Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day 5: Cartagena, Columbia

From the cruise ship we could see that we were coming into a "world class" city... with sky scrapers and everything... the "big smoke." Cartagena has about 1.1 million people in the city proper and 1.24 million in the metropolitan area. We wondered, is this the drug capital of the world?

When our ship tied up to this pier, Shirley took this photo from our balcony, not knowing how much things would change in a just few minutes.

Just 15 minutes after taking the first photo of the empty pier, we came back to look and could not believe our eyes... Wow! Where did all those tour buses come from so fast?

We decided to take an organized Princess tour today so that we would be safe from all the drug lords, etc... so we signed up for a Princess Walking Tour of the old part of city. On the way to the old city we went past a huge old fortress. Roque, (pronounced Rocky), our tour guide, said it is the largest of its kind in the world... but was that really true?

I think one has to take what they say in these parts with a grain of salt. Roque also said that with their new President they no longer have a drug problem in Columbia... and that all the girls under 20 were still virgins. So maybe that fortress wasn’t the largest in the world... but it was still pretty impressive.

11 miles of tall, rock walls surround the old part of the city of Cartagena. In 1984 this part of the city inside the walls was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Between 1751 and 1810 these walls and the massive fortress were constructed with the help of money from Spain. I guess one can only be attacked so many times before you decide you have to find a way to protect your property and your life.

This area was first settled in the early 1500's but was constantly attacked by pirates and had been totally destroyed several times, hence the massive security measures. Shirley poses at one of the corner turrets. It looks like the walls are plenty thick and will stand forever.

To walk down the narrow streets in this "Old City" part of town, I was reminded of the old part of Quebec City, also surrounded by massive walls with narrow streets and neat architecture.

Second story balconies overhang the street and are often covered with vines and flowers. The character of the architecture in this section of town is definitely a notch above what happens with the low budget construction today in most of the rest of the country.

These narrow streets were laid out long before the automobile; hence they are very narrow... perfect for pedestrians, but today there is very little room for cars here.

We noticed that not all the streets are the same width... this one has been designated as NO PARKING AT ANY TIME. Check out the lovely steeple down the street.

Other streets have one side parking, and one way traffic.

Here is picture of Roque, our tour guide... in the yellow hat. He was really good, but we were so focused on taking pictures we missed a lot of his dialog.

Many people signed up for carriage ride tours... and we saw at least a half a dozen groups of carriages. The cruise ships are a big boost to their economy.

From the outside this church looks fairly ordinary and not all that large.

But inside the sanctuary is deep, the ceilings are high and the carvings and details are quite impressive.

We came upon a town square that had tables with umbrellas where you could have a meal or a drink.

I took pictures from all angles of this bronze sculpture of a voluptuous, naked lady who was laying around on a pedestal in the square... what a beautiful piece of work!

Want to buy a hat? More than once we turned down the invitation from guys wearing more than a dozen hats at a time.

We welcomed the chance to get into an air-conditioned art gallery after being on the street in the heat for over 90 minutes. This metal cubic sculpture was just outside this Museum of Modern Art. I specifically asked if all the art in the gallery was done by South Americans and got an affirmative answer. There were a number of pretty good quality pieces on the walls in a variety of media, plus sculptures. It was a very enjoyable stop for us.

There are endless opportunities to take pictures of ladies in colorful skirts and baskets on their head... for a dollar. From this distance we avoided having to pay the lady.

But we were too close to this poor man and his decorated donkey when we took his picture... so he asked me for a dollar.

I didn't even realize at first that taking a picture of Lorne by these statutes would cost a dollar... but after I clicked a hand came forward... and Shirley gave them each a dollar.

Then our tour guide took us past a group of boys who put on quite a show of street dancing. The opportunities to leave money in this town are endless.

Our last stop before boarding the tour bus to go back to the ship was inside this emerald shop. We were all cordially greeted and given a glass of passion fruit juice with ice. Wow, was that a hit! Shirley immediately asked questions about a number of emeralds... and I was sure we would not get out of there unscathed. But I was wrong. I felt badly for the shop keepers, as I do not think any of us made a single purchase in their store.

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