I hate to be ignorant.
Look at me, in Cartagena, facing a monument to Cavite heroes...
Cavite heroes... what is that?
Cavite was a very important port in Manila bay, that in 1647 was attacked by the Dutch fleet. The Spanish sunk the Dutch, and kept control of Phillipinnes.
It's nice, this simple monument to Cavite heroes. "Cavite heroes", don't you know? Let me explain...
Cartagena was never in my plans. However, I spent a week in La Manga del Mar Menor and, being so close, I couldn't skip it.
Well, it was a good surprise, and now I don't know how to mention it: Is it Cartagena a nice visit to those who stay in La Manga de Mar Menor beaches, or is La Manga a great beach for those who visit Cartagena?
Cartagena was on of the most important naval bases in Spain, and its military relevance is easy to understand today.
Built in the 18Th century, the Arsenal occupies a large area, with a remarkable door.
In a hill facing the city there's a castle named Castillo de los Moros, but I don't know from where did it get the name. It was built by the end of the eighteen century, when the moors were gone long time ago. It has a Neoclassic style, with French influences and it is reasonably preserved.
Cartagena's city hall is a modern palace, built with a triangular plant about hundred years ago. The unstable soil, and errors in the construction quickly ruined the building that was closed to recovery, only finished in 2006. Located in a central area, by the sea, its marble facade is really pretty, and, it seems the interior staircase also deserves the visit that... I skipped.
The castle's hill is well gardened, and prepared to help the visitor to understand the history of Cartagena, in its History Interpretation Center, located in the castle. To visit it you may either walk uphill from town, or to use the panoramic lift situated in calle Gisbert
The rich history of Cartagena is well exemplifief by the Roman theatre. Discovered in 1987, and rebuilt until 2003, this theatre was started in the 5fth or 3rd century BC, and used until the 3rd century AD, when a market replaced it. In 435 the whole city was destroyed by the Vandals. Later on, after Byzantine, Visigoth and Muslim occupations, in the 13th century, a cathedral occupied the place, using stones from the theatre, that burnt totally in the 16th century.
In 2008 a museum was opened, in a complex solution to take people from the entrance at sea level to the high location of the theatre. The ingenious museum passes underneath a palace and a church until revealing the theatre at the end.
A modern well designed Audotourium that will add to the cultural development of the area.
Opened in 2011 it has already hosted many concerts.
I have heard the acoustics are excellent from people who have been.
If you area visiting check if there is anything of any interest to you.
Pick your time to visit as it is popular with schools. You either like kids or hate them but I must admit the Spanish kids are well behaved and listen to their teachers :) A very interesting couple of hours which is good value. Check the local press as some times there are free days. I have heard the food is good value too but have never eaten there.
Not recommended in the heat of the day but a leisurely walk form the port to the lighthouse is quite enjoyable. I'd drive if I had the choice and usually do. You get a great view of the city and the surrounding area. it's a great area for fishing too. Not many watering holes on the way but a couple of nice restaurants. It's not a scenic walk as it's past the container port but you get an insight into the area.
Recently opened tourist attraction tastefully done. It takes you through the history of the area and gives you a good insight as to how people lived and how the area developed. It's fortunate it was finished before the current economic slump. Obviously it can be very hot in summer so go prepared. There is a reasonably priced cafe at the entrance / street which you can sit watching the world go by. Also you must go in the Cathedral Bar at the exit for a well deserved cool beer and view the ruins through the glass floor.
Not really a tip, this....just an opportunity to upload some photos of Cartagena from the ship. For some reason, lots of passengers were content just to stay on board...the view must have put them off exploring, but I can't really think why.
While waiting for the ship to leave, I spotted a fishing boat returning to port, the air around it swarming with seabirds.
From the harbour, I saw adverts for boat trips around the bay, visiting various naval fortresses on clifftops and headlands. Unfortunately I didn't have time to take one of these, but as our ship was leaving Cartagena, we got to see some of these forts up close. Actually, Cartagena port was one of the more spectacular ports...arriving by sea is certainly an excellent introduction to the city, and leaving, we got the sunset over the cliffs to the south. One or two small beaches hid themselves in bays underneath old forts, which might be worth exploring if you have time.
I'll say it again....look up occasionally. It might look like a drab shop front down at street level, but look above and there'll be picturesque balconies or ornate street signs waiting to be photographed. If you've got time to explore, just get lost in the maze of streets between the old city walls. Cartagena isn't huge, you won't get so lost that you end up a quivering wreck on the cobbles...you'll hit the wall at some point, which you can follow round to the seafront. But it really is the best way to explore. There are plenty buildings worth looking at, one or two with mini museums inside...your challenge is to hunt them down. Although parts of the city are quite rundown and seedy, it does feel a safe place to wander around...the only time I felt unnerved was by the hill called Monte Sacro, but that is quite a distance from any of the main attractions, and anyway the litter around the hill doesn't encourage you to climb it...but the rest of the city is great to walk around.
Off the tourist trail (as if Cartagena wasn't off it enough), I found Plaza de la Merced. This slightly seedy yet shady square was full of Moroccans and a local group of musicians beating a rhythm on a drum and singing halfheartedly. Actually, this area had quite a lot of Moroccan and Arab shops, and there was even a mosque. Needing a bottle of water, I headed into one of these shops, and my Spanish completely failed me, so I shocked the shopkeeper by asking in Arabic. He ran out the back to get his teenage son, who was equally shocked...this is one of the joys of speaking a language people don't expect you to know. They asked what I was doing there, and I said I'd come in on that ugly big ship in the harbour. They'd been in Cartagena for some years, it was nice, they said, but Morocco was more beautiful...well, I sort of knew that already.
So this area is the place to come to speak Arabic and buy sticky Arab sweets like baklava, which you can eat in the plaza a few blocks away.
Oh yes, the architecture...well it's a mixed bag of modern and old, restored and decrepit, drab and colourful. I love how every building is in a completely different style and state of repair. Close to the plaza, look out for the Casa de la Fortuna, housing some more Roman relics...you have to pay to enter, but you can still go down to the ticket office and have a peek if it is closed for lunch (they have long lunches in Cartagena...another good reason never to get on a cruise ship, as you're always sightseeing in the hottest part of the day when lots of attractions are shut).