Published: August 5th 2008July 31st 2008
As described by ´Lying Planet´ my misguide book, Cartagena is supposedly the ´Architectural Gem´of South America. Unfortunately as with most cases of having high hopes, mine were dashed...but only slightly.
The old town of Cartagena is idyllic as a postcard shot and about as authentic as MainStreet Disneyland. Touts, and gemshops abound in an area that is actually very small and can be walked in an afternoon with quick feet...a day if you are sluggish.
Now about Cartagena.
It was a main port for trafficking the wealth pillaged from the new world and thus was a prime target for pirates. After many sieges and the ravages of pirates Cartagena was walled in as a defense.
Of course in Colombian time, this took a little while. So after about 200 years of construction, in which there were MORE sieges, the walled portion was finally completed. Today Cartagena is a bustling city with about 1.1 million people. Of course hardly any of them live in the beautiful old town (GENTRIFICATION!!!) but there are alot who still seem to be nearby in the more realistic neighborhood of Getsemani. This felt more like a real city, and while it
was probably a TAD bit more dangerous, I felt like I was still in Colombia. Not Universal Studios.
All told, I was really doubting if I could get any local contact in Cartagena as everyone seemed to be a tout, vendor or prostitute (Cartagena is chock fulla whores). I´d even struggled in the much lauded dance clubs as most of the girls there were working (and not on thier vallenato
But I was wrong to doubt myself. Naa the Connectifier got himself invited to another local homecooked dinner, saw the movie ´Hancock´ in Spanish AND somehow ended up crashing a birthday party for Martha and her friend Martha (I couldn´t mix up the names! Yeah!). We danced Salsa, chatted and laughed as Martha(s) taught me how to differentiate between the Putas, Chicas and Mujeres (use google translate if ya don´t get it.) We stayed till early morn and the ladies actually left me to go get more drinks. I felt so outclassed ;-)
In all , Cartagena is OK. Just don´t limit yourself to the Disneyfied bits.
There are more photos below