(Day 95 – 99)
24.02.2010 - 28.02.2010 35 °C
Both of us have really been looking forward to coming to Colombia, (since the planning stages of our trip last year) and are so happy to be here. It is the one country that all the backpackers we have met along the way, have unanimously voted as their favourite in South America. We heard this so often that we even changed our flight tickets to have more time here! High expectations indeed, watch this space to see if they were fulfilled by the time we leave end of March..
We were slightly worried about the “danger” factor through the country but most of the trouble we heard about seemed to have happened elsewhere. We are nevertheless on our guard as usual and will try stick to the beaten path were we can.
In any case here we are in Cartagena. We are not staying in the old town itself as the accommodation is pricey, but in the rather more gritty area of Getsemani, which is just a few streets away. Our hostel is an old colonial style home with a courtyard in the middle. It could be a fantastic place but isn’t great, on the plus side we have our own en-suite bathroom which is something of a luxury these days! And a cute little café next door which sells the most delicious cheap food ever.
The Old town of Cartagena (full name: Cartagena de Indias) is unexpectedly charming, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cartagena was founded in 1533 and was one of the first Spanish cities in the new World. The city was targeted by pirates several times in the 16th century; the most infamous attack being in 1586 when the city was held hostage for more than a hundred days. After this, the Spanish started construction of the fortifications that are now the city’s hallmark.
The scenery though, is so ordinary looking from the airport and around our hostel (dry and hot) that it was a welcome surprise to enter through the walls of the old town and discover the place. Small streets shelter the most colourful buildings, have bougainvillea flowers of every colour hanging from their balconies and it is just gorgeous. Although it is on the Caribbean Sea, it feels a bit like being in the Mediterranean too at times. We spent a lot of time wandering the streets, and relaxing in the afternoons. Whilst the town could have been discovered in less time than the 3 days we spent there, it was a welcome respite after the happy rush in Rio.