The historic center of Cartagena is surrounded by 13km of thick stone wall. Built as protection against looting pirates and invading European powers, the walls have saved this beautiful city from modern incursions as well. There are few entries wide enough for vehicles and many of the narow lanes are closed to traffic altogether in the evening. The well-defined borders have encouraged a cohesiveness in colonial style that more sprawling old town’s often lack.
Cartagena mixes Andalusian and Caribbean styles to stunning effect. I’ve always been partial to the Arabic-influenced covered balconies that jut out above the street, creating a canopy of shade for walkers below. Add in the pastel hues and brave color contrast choices of the Caribbean and you have a style worth writing home about. So here I go.
In Cartagena the cathedrals and municipal buildings are appropriately grand and the residences are appropriately mysterious and enchanting. The plazas are shady and mingly. The restaurants are cool and cavernous for your midday meal. The stores are prohibitively expensive, and fashionably tiled. The hotels have alluring courtyards with heavenly pools that we can’t use. It all makes sense.
This city has also introduced me to the concept of a giant flowering bush as a roof covering. I’m not sure I’d want a massive bougainvillea winding its way through my shingles, but it sure looks nice and tropical.
The old town is made for strolling. Just not between the hours of 10am and 3pm, when one could, if the whim strikes, fry an egg on Radek’s forehead. But when the sun starts to dip and the breezes come in from the sea on three sides, it’s time for a lazy, meandering walk through old town perfection.