Friday, January 27, 2017

Traveling: Impressions From Cartagena, Colombia

(Drivebycuriosity) - I have traveled in Europe, Asia and all over the US. Now my wife and I are visiting Colombia, our first trip to South America. We started in Cartagena and stayed 5 nights in a beach resort maybe 3 miles from the city center. The place is perfect to collect some first impressions from an unknown continent  - terra incognita.

Cartagena is a harbor town on the southern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The Caribbean city has a population of about 900,000, roughly the same as San Francisco. The main attraction is the historic old town build in colonial style and surrounded by a city wall. Cartagena's walled city and fortress are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This district looks like a beautiful outdoor museum, but the the place is very touristy. The streets are filled with horse carts and the air is full with horse stink. Seems the poor animals are the last slaves America´s.

We really enjoyed our stay there. Even that the tropical city is close to the equator we didn`t suffer the steamy tropical heat I had experienced in Singapore at the same time of the year. Instead we enjoyed a pleasant spring climate with temperatures swinging between 74-84 F/22-29 C and a surprisingly low humidity. It also was also refreshingly breezy.

We stayed in a modern international hotel located on a thin stripe of land between the ocean the bay of Cartagena just east of the city. On one side is the Gulf of Mexico with a broad sand beach - on the other side is a busy street and behind a mangrove swamp.

Fortunately there were no mosquitoes, bugs, moths and other insects who are typical for such an environment. I seems they had fought a successful war against the bugs. The flip side is they I didn`´t spot any butterflies. There are no geckos who feed from flies. Instead we spotted flocks of majestic Frigatebird birds who were sailing in the sky. Their wings can span a up to 2.3 metres (7.5 ft) and they use the wind current to stay aloft for days (wikipedia).

The hotel was almost empty and the majority of the tourists are Spanish speakers. It looks like that most tourists come from Colombian metropolises like Bogota and Medellin. There were not many Americans and few Europeans and I didn´t spot  Asian tourists. Maybe the violent history & the negative reputation of the country scared the travelers away. But nobody bothered as and we didn`t spot the beggars and drug addicts who are frequent on the streets of Manhattan or San Francisco.

Thanks to the relative absence of international visitors few people speak English, not even in the restaurants. But the people are flexible & friendly, so we were able to communicate our basic needs (getting dinner etc) with them anyway.

The food there was a pleasure. Restaurants serve a lot of seafood - what you can expect at a Caribbean coast - even that I didn´t spot any fisher boat there. The delicious food is often flavored with tropical spices. We really indulged in the breakfast buffet at the hotel with a lot of tropical treats and juicese - and the local coffee is awsome.

It seems that Colombian are not so much into beer. In Cartagena´s old town we discovered a cool looking bar which offered craft beer. The Cerveza  Apóstol there from the tap was the worst beer I ever had. It was very bitter & sour - maybe it was just too old and it had turned. But we got comforted by the imported Malbec the restaurants aeyre serving (seems they don`t grow wine in Colombia). Another comfort was this funny piece of street art which we spotted in the maze of the old town.

It seemed to us as that Cartagena is an undiscovered jewel.

No comments:

Post a Comment