Thursday, 28 March 2013

Cartagena, Colombia

Hello from Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. We have been in Colombia for about 5 days now, in the run up to Easter (apparently today is Holy Thursday?). The last couple of days in the historic port of Cartagena and before this on the Caribbean close to Tayrona National Park in Northern Colombia. Not quite picture postcard Caribbean sandy beaches, but it was certainly very hot and sunny and it was nice to relax and take it easy for a few days on the beach.

Cartagena is probably Colombia’s single largest tourist destinations and was once the largest and most important port in South America. The historic centre is a world heritage site and houses an amazing collection of colonial forts, houses and churches dating from the 16th century onwards. Overlooking the old town is Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, the largest Spanish fort built in the Americas. Following the English in 1586 and French in 1697 sacking the city, the Spanish thought it would probably be a good idea to improve the defences and so built this huge fort between 1656 & 1741. Unfortunately for the English lead by Sir Edward Vernon in 1741 the fort had just been finished and therefore after besieging the city for 56 days, Cartagena remained Spanish. The hero of this defence is now my favourite Colombian historic figure, a one-eyed, one-armed and one-legged Sailor by the name of Blas de Lezo (a photo of his statue can be seen below).

I have spent the last couple of days exploring the old city and enjoying the nightlife of this energetic city. After Venezuela it is a bit of a shock to the system to be in such a major tourist centre (the cruse ships all stop here, so there are lots of loud Americans with more money than sense), but it has been really interesting to learn more about the Spanish conquest in Colombia.

Next stop is Medellin in the West of the country. Medellin was once the drug and murder capital of the world during the times of Pablo Escobar, so it will be interesting to see how the city has changed. One of the things I am most looking forward to is a change in the weather as Medellin is supposed to have a pleasant year-round climate (it is located at 1495m above sea level). After weeks and weeks of 30+ degrees day and night, it will be nice to hopefully experience some cool weather again.

Happy Easter


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