Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Castillo San Felipe de Barajas
This morning we got up early to start the day before it got too hot, especially since we were starting at what today is called the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, the fortress of Cartagena, on the Hill of San Lazaro. Obviously this was a strategic location as it dominated the approach to the city both by land and by sea. It was called it the Castillo de San Lazaro. This fortress is one of Cartagena’s iconic landmarks. But it is the history, dating back over 480 years, which makes it the tourist attraction that it is. Built by the Spaniards in 1536, with pieces of coral in the wall, this is a castle that has been invaded over the centuries by pirates, admirals and barons all trying to access the wealth of Cartagena which included profits from the shipping industry and the slave trade. And yet the fortress still stands. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We walked up the ramparts, filled with vendors, to the very top where there was a great view of the city, both the old town and the new town.
There was a large flag at the top and Vicky unfurled it so we could see it in all its splendor. There are two stories about the colors of the flag. The first is a love story (Cartagena and Colombia are very romantic). A young man fell in love with a beautiful young girl with blond hair (the yellow of the flag), blue eyes (the blue of the flag) and red lips (the red of the flag). The other story is that the blue represents the open sky and oceans, the gold the sun and the red for the blood shed for independence.
We walked up and down stairs, in and out of tunnels. The tunnels all have low ceilings as the Spaniards were short. But the French and Pirates were not, so it made if more difficult for them to attack. The tunnels were all constructed in such a way as to make it possible to hear footsteps of an approaching enemy and everything creates a loud echo which made it sound like there were many more Spaniards in there than there really were.
They must have done something right as no one ever took over this castle.
That afternoon we drove to Palenque, but that is a story all its own. Please see that post.
Colombian ice cream – or not
We got back to the hotel and had some time to rest. Ah, I thought. Good time for ice cream. We had heard that Colombian ice cream was the best. And I had noticed an ice cream shop just on the corner of our street. So, while Andy rested, I walked over to get us some ice cream to go. Turns out it was a gelato shop. Oh well. I got some anyway and we enjoyed our afternoon treat.
Porton de San Sebastian
That evening we made it back in time for a quick rest and dinner. Tonight’s dinner was at Porton de San Sebastian. A wonderful fish restaurant. This time we had a reservation and were shown to our table for two. We were seated next to a Colombian couple who chatted with us the entire evening. They gave us suggestions for Medellin, our next destination, showed us pictures of their children and were all together friendly and giving. And let us take pictures of their food.
The food here was wonderful, as we expected it would be. What is better than fresh fish caught locally?! And as in many restaurants here, everything came with rice. But not white rice. The local rice is usually coconut rice.
We strolled around the old town for a while on the way back to our hotel. The streets were filled with people walking hand in hand. Couples enjoying their time. Families with children. Vendors of all sorts. Lights everywhere. It was almost magical.