Click, clack, click, clack, click, clack – the typical sound of horseshoes on cobbled narrow streets in the ancient town of Cartagena de Indias reverberates from the front of the colourful old town houses, like it may have sounded during the last centuries.In this part of the town you feel sent back in time as you still find traces of the medieval architecture, when the Spaniards build it in 1533. Even the impressive town wall around the old city is still largely intact.
My daughter Naomi and I arrive in the late evening after a four-hour bus drive from Santa Marta. We check in to a stunning boutique hotel, which is tucked away in a quiet back road just a five-minute walk from the city park. I doubt that there are more than ten guest rooms, which gives the establishment a cosy atmosphere. The doorway and the courtyard are tiled with multi-coloured Arabic mosaic. A small swimming pool takes most of the place in the patio, so that you’d better be sober, as not to fall into the pool, when you want to retire to your bedroom after partying. The sounds of the town are well blocked off, as all living goes inwards to the courtyard as it is common for Old Spanish colonial manors. The staff is as lethargic as can be and isn’t much of a help as a source of information for our coming explorations. It seems that they are rather tired of tourists asking the same questions always. We don’t bother and pull our information from the Internet.
The next morning we walk a small section on the ancient city wall to see the Caribbean Sea and the modern city on one side and the old city on the other. Then we squeeze ourselves on the narrow sidewalks next to the buzzing streets between little market stands of street vendors, which offer primarily fruit, shoes and local crafts. Maybe this scenery compares not much of a difference to old times. Unlike then, in the night the horses’ coaches are now full of tourists and in the day the streets are chock blocked with the typical little yellow taxis and other traffic, trying to squash through the tight alleys. How nice it would be, when some provisional politicians would decide this little gem of a medieval treasure to be a car free zone?
We spent two days in Cartagena de Indias and enjoyed Mediterranean food in abundance, delicious but hopelessly overpriced. Retrospective the ancient city wall, the plentiful flowers at the windows of almost every town house and the horses’ coaches leave an unforgettable pretty memory. A downturn is, that the old town is very touristy and visitors are expected to pay high rising prices comparable with those at the French Riviera. Hopefully Cartagena can preserve some of its charm and original spirit into the future.
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