Cartagena de Indias, Colombia – Pearl with dirt rim

People tend to call Cartagena “Colombia’s Paris”. That seems to be a bit exaggerated, but the old town El Centro is really beautiful and the term “Caribbean Pearl” seems to be more appropriate (although the sea is brown). Colourful palaces with archways, wooden balconies and inner courtyards covered with greenery alternate with colonial churches and cloisters, souvenir shops and designer boutiques. El Centro and some other districts are surrounded by the historic town wall. It is 11 km / 7 mi long, not very high but wide, solidly constructed and partially walkable. Cartagena de Indias, as it is named correctly, was the place of transshipment for gold and silver from the South American colonies to the Spanish mother country, and therefore again and again stroke by pirates’ attacks. After the devasting assault of Sir Francis Drake in 1586 the building of the massive construction began, but was finished only in the end of the 18th century.

Ironically the Spanish conquerors had to storm their own, nearly perfect defence fortification only 20 years later. Cartagena had then announced independence, but the Spanish royal house sent a fleet to recapture the city. After four months siege when thousands of people had starved to death or died due to illness Cartagena had to surrender. A stark contrast to the historic appearance on the town wall is the super modern peninsula Bocagrande that can bee seen from there. Surrounded by kilometres long sandy beaches very modern skyscrapers, hotels, and glass palaces in Miami style rise up. People here tell a joke: The only difference between Bocagrande and Miami is, that in Bocagrande English is spoken…

But outside of the areas interesting for tourists Cartagena is little attractive and in many parts dangerous, especially at night. Cartagena is so to speak an expensive pearl with dirt rim, as most visited city in Columbia still a must.

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