Here I am in nothing but a towel, sitting in a giant purple and yellow hammock on the balcony of my hotel room. Swaying from one side to another, listening to the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore line. Birds chirping as they fly overhead, pelicans diving into the water making a splash as they scavenge the water for food. It’s 31 degrees Celsius on a beautiful Thursday afternoon. The sun is scorching hot. So hot, that you can feel the sizzling sand burning off the skin on the soles of your feet. So hot, that you cannot even bear sitting in the sun to bronze your skin. Welcome to August in Cartagena.
We arrived yesterday (August 16th) at midday. With so much to explore, we dropped off our luggage in the hotel room, changed into summer clothes, and immediately made our way to town. Cartagena is a beautiful city in Colombia, located on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. Just a few steps from the Sea, the beautiful Historic Downtown is hidden behind a giant wall that encloses the beautiful cobblestone streets and colonial style architecture. Built in the 1600’s, the wall was built to protect the city from attacks made by enemies of the crown and aggressive pirates. In the Colonial Period, Cartagena was one of the largest Ports of America, with many boats traveling to Spain with fabulous treasures and riches.
Once inside the ferocious walls, the Old Town is of magnificent beauty. The architecture reminds me of Italy. Each building has a beautiful balcony overlooking the cobblestone street, decorated with flowers and vines of all colors and sizes. At each corner, a man or woman stands behind a cart with many exotic varieties of fruit. Mango, papaya, star fruit, sold and cut into cubes for you to take along your journey throughout the city. Other vendors walk around with carts of fresh lemonade and bottles of water. Kiosks were also posted at every corner selling typical Colombian accessories. The Sombrero Vueltiao is a traditional Colombian Hat made out of caña flecha, which is a special type of Cane that grows in the area. The name Vueltiao (Spanish for “turn”) comes from the way the hat is made. The more Cane fibers braided together and the greater the bending flexibility, the higher the quality of the hat.
As we made our way throughout the town, we reached a beautiful church Convento de Santo Domingo. Located in the center of a small plaza, the church is one of the most important tourist sites in Town. The church was originally established in the 16th century as the Convento de San Daniel until it was expropriated by the Friars of the Dominican order in the 19th century. It has since been used as a seminary, college, and Institute of the fine arts until its recent restoration.
As the night went on, we could hear the sound of drums being played in the distance. We followed the noise of the music until we found ourselves in a beautiful park outside the Museum of Inquisition. At the center of the park were two men banging old African Drums, another man playing a clarinet, and a group of 8 Colombian dancers. The women wore bright colorful flowy outfits that they used in addition to their dance as a prop. They danced around to the music with their fellow male dancers. Once one choreographed number was performed, within seconds they changed into beautiful new outfits, just as colorful as the last, and performed another dance.
After a long day of exploring the Old Historic Downtown, we made our way back to the Hotel room to relax on the hammock and rest for the next full day ahead.