Holiday in Colombia (10): Cartagena

The last full day of our holiday in Colombia was devoted to a tour of the Caribbean city of Cartagena.  I have wanted to visit the old town since I saw the film of the book “Love In The Time Of Cholera” whichwas set and shot in the colonial quarter.

There was a lot to see and rain was threatened, so our guide Julio took the group off at 8 am. First we drove to Castello de San Filipe de Barajas just outside the city walls. The castle was originally built in 1536 and then expanded in 1657 as part of an elaborate system of fortifications to protect the Spanish colony from the British, the French and the Dutch, but it was not always sufficient and Sir Francis Drake managed to occupy the town for a while.  We were introduced to a sophisticated system of defences including an extensive network of narrow tunnels.

Our coach returned us to the old town where Julio took us on an informative walking tour.  Every street and square has its delights with wonderful doors, windows and balconies, but we had visits to three particular and very different locations.

We went to the Museum of Pedro Claver and heard the story of how this Spanish Jesuit monk (1580-1654), who lived in Cartagena for some 40 years, actively intervened to rescue many African slaves and personally baptised some 300,000 of them into the Catholic faith. Subsequently he was the first person in the New World to be canonised. 

Another visit was to the Museum of the Inquisition. I have never been to a location devoted to the Spanish Inquisition and I confess that previously I had no idea that the Inquisition was applied to Spain’s colonies. The inquisition – which lasted from 1610-1811 – was an horrific act of barbarity perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church and, when it ended, the office of the inquisitor in Cartagena was ransacked and all the instruments of torture destroyed,  Today’s museum provides fascinating historical facts and reproductions of a few of the means of torture and death. 

A third stop was to the so-called Emerald Museum. This does provide interesting displays on the location of emerald mines in the world and in Colombia and the differences between different types of emerald, but it is also an expensive shop which tempted Silvia with some beautiful earrings costing over £500.  

Our walking tour – which included a refreshment break – concluded at 1.30 pm. Silvia and I broke off from the group to find a place for lunch – “Atahualpa” in Plaza Fernandez Madrid – just in time before the heavens opened with thunder, lightning and some heavy rain which went on for a couple of hours. In the evening, Silvia and I hooked up with two other members of the group, friends Alison and Louise, for cocktails in the local square and then dinner at a fish restaurant called La Mulata” in Calle Quero. The old town was buzzing. 


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