Tuesday, November 2, 2021

[CARTAGENA] Intramuros By the Sea


Spaniards. You know the drill. THE THPANIARDTH ARE COMING! AAAAAHHHHH! Oh wait, we are the Thpaniardth. THE FRENCH! THE FRENCH are coming to take away the land we took away from the nativeth!! AAAAAHHHHH! PIRATETH!! AAAAAHHHHH! We need to build wallth around thith town! AAAAAHHHHH! THTHTHTHTHTHTH! AAAAAHHHHH! If they had to do it in Intramuros, there’s no way they couldn’t have NOT done it in Cartagena. After all, this city was their first colony in the Americas.


Also referred to as Cartagena de Indias to distinguish it from the Cartagena back in Murcia, the modern-day Colombian city is touted as the country’s most popular among foreigners, most of them docking at the port because Cartagena is often included in ferry cruises plying Caribbean routes. With its eternal tropical summer as the default weather all year round, my Airbnb host in Medellin could only sigh a gasp of envy as I told her I was headed to this coastal city in the department of Bolívar. Beach and sun, who are we to resist?


But I have problems of my own when it comes to the Caribbean. I don’t know if fellow travelers experience the same thing when they have already been to a certain region several times and the tourist attractions begin to fade into one another, as if becoming this one big hodgepodge of everything similar. In Cartagena’s case, the pastel-colored houses, most of them yellow, were probably the culprit for me. Anyone who has been to the Caribbean would have experienced an overload of such pastel tints.


But I have to give it to Cartagena, they chose the right shade of yellow. With most of the houses in the walled old town brightly jaundiced, you just couldn’t help but keep ogling them as they glimmer under the sun. Of course, there are still some faded blue and green hues here and there, but the overwhelming yellow all around probably has a certain psychological effect that makes everything literally bright, as if it makes you want to wear a smile all throughout the day. That is Cartagena for me.


But one of the city’s distinguishing features setting it apart from its other Caribbean cousins are definitely its walls. Intramuros in Manila has them. San Juan still has some left, also overlooking the sea. Cartagena’s walls are a bit lower than what I am used to as far as Spanish colonial fortifications are concerned. The important thing, though, is they are intact, and the contrast it gives you as it teams up with Cartagena’s modern skyline of burgeoning skyscrapers to the west is surreal to some extent. When the teacher gave a homework about contrasts, Cartagena went the extra mile. And then some.


My sightseeing within the walls was limited to taking photos of several cathedrals and their imposing domes. Given the above 35C temperature and the sun becoming fiercer and fiercer as I was gallivanting after lunch, my body kept issuing me threats to the tune of, “If we don’t go back to the hotel now, I’m going to dehydrate the fuck out of you, you little shit.” I am covered by a comprehensive travel insurance, but I know when to take my body’s warnings seriously. And so I dropped by a pharmacy to buy a liter of water before calling an Uber to go back to Bocagrande.


My sightseeing on the walls was also limited by the fiery hot weather, but I believe the sights I saw there as well as the photos I took more than made up for the almost-dehydration episode I suffered. The walls extend farther east towards the direction of the airport, but I only explored the western area. Look north and you see the Caribbean Sea. Turn your gaze to the left and you’ll be awestruck by Cartagena’s skyscrapers in the horizon, with the ancient canons pointing towards them as if waging a war against modernity. Look south and you’ll find the old town’s yellow houses and cathedral domes.


All in all, my time in Cartagena was short. If I were to be the judge, though, this city wins the Tourist Draw award if I compare it with Bogotá and Medellín. All three cities have their own set of charms for the curious visitor, but Cartagena is definitely the undisputed queen of the Colombian north.

[CARTAGENA] Intramuros By the Sea

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