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  • AutorenbildSanni & Gerri@

Bienvenido a Cartagena! Hourly it was a bit funny here.

11. to 18. December

Already at our first short stopover we had a good feeling in Cartagena and so we are happy that we have now a whole week to explore the city. Afterwards it's time to say goodbye to Colombia because we will sail towards Panama.


An accommodation with lots of traffic

Before the beach holiday odyssey, the arrival was planned for January 13 and our booked hotel unfortunately does not have a room available earlier. So we need accommodation for two nights. This is found surprisingly quickly. The Hotel Magdalena is on the same street as the other hotel. It can convince with top rating and a top price. On the way through the trendy Getzemani neighbourhood and just before the final destination, Gerriet takes notice that there are some ladies at the corner who are following the oldest business in the world. Sanni recognises the ladies, but doesn‘t think that they are dressed unusual with the very tight and bright pants. So far, we have often seen Colombian women in far too tight and not necessarily (from our European view) stylish clothing. She doesn't believe Gerriet that this is such a neighbourhood. The check-in at Magdalena Hotel is super friendly and fast. Personally, we are guided to our room at the end of the hall. In front of the other rooms next to ours, there are two ladies in a kind of uniform with name badges, who greet very kindly. They probably belong to the reception committee here. And next to it is a man dressed in an nursing suit. Equipped with gloves, hood and a sprayer. Wow, we think, they take it seriously with the hygiene here. Must be due to covid. You can smell that too, really aseptic here. But better than if it smells badly. Our room is really clean and really nice. We freshen up and start right away to explore our neighbourhood. When leaving the room, the friendly ladies come directly to us again and seem as if they want to show us the way.“ “hat's not so difficult to find the exit now, but good, thank you.“ Once outside, we take a closer look at the entrance of the hotel and notice a sign: „Hotel and Hourly Suites“. How convenient if you only need a room for a short time, for example because you are waiting for your next flight. No! Of course that is not the purpose of an hourly hotel:

We live in the middle of a cathouse!

That also explains the additional staff: They "protect and shield" the back row of the rooms, which are available by the hour and where is the lively "traffic". Yes, this is to be taken literally and can neither be overlooked nor overheard. Except Gerriet. It really amuses him and he thinks this is all part of the travel adventure. When booking so many hotels in all kinds of cities and countries, we sooner or later have to end up in such an establishment by accident. Sanni, on the other hand, professes to be a true skewer and wants to leave right away. For reasons of confidentiality and to protect minors, we waive photos at this point. Fortunately, our next hotel is available the next day and we are moving. There everything is normal again and now we can finally explore Cartagena.


The Centro Historico

When we talk about Cartagena, we mean the old town, Centro Historico and the oldest neighbourhood of the city „Gethsemani“. Of course, the entire city covers much more. For example, the new centre with its modern skyscrapers, which we have only marvelled at from a distance. The old town is completely surrounded by a 13-kilometre-long city wall that surrounds Las Murallas, which was built in the 16th century. It was built to protect against the famous pirate Sir Francis Drake but also other invaders. The construction took 200 years. The city wall can be visited and explored free of charge, so we come here almost everyday. From here we have a fantastic view above the city and regularly enjoy the beautiful sunsets with a great view of the contrast between the old town and the skyscrapers at the coastline.

The old town of Cartagena is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The historic centre impresses with countless beautiful, small cobblestone streets. The houses are lovingly and faithfully restored. Colourful flowers tend along the facades everywhere. Here you will find colonial mansions, palaces and imposing churches. It is croweded with tourists and fruit sellers in colourful robes. Of course, we also take part again at a free walking tour to get a few more background information about culture and sometimes gloomy slave and colonial past. But essentially our main motto in Cartagena is "Just stroll". We eat deliciously greasy arepas with cheese at small street stalls, regularly fancy on ice cream, try salted mango for the first time and drink the tastiest mandarin lemonade in the world.


Getsemani, the new place to be

In addition to the old town, we spend lots of time in the Gethsemane district, where our hotel is also located. Here is the oldest part of the city, also known as the artisan district. The old houses are less restored and therefore look a bit more „original“ and local life takes place on the streets. At night, Plaza de la Santísma Trinidad is a popular meeting place for tourists and locals. Music echos through the streets and there is cheap and delicious food at every corner. Street art also makes the streets more colourful here. With an educated eye on Colombia’s Graffiti, we recognise the style of some artists, whose works we have already seen in Bogotá and Medellin. More and more accommodations, cafes and bars crowd into the cool neighbourhood. Unfortunately, the increasing expulsion of the local population is a problem in the emerging neighbourhood and is also addressed on the colourful walls of the house. Here, we do the same as in the old town: stroll around, just let ourselves drift away and of course shoot a typical Getsemani photo in one of the numerous parasol alleys.


The fortress and a fantastic scenery

As another cultural exploration, we visit the Castillo San Felipe. It was built shortly after the foundation of the city and was intended to protect the new colonial port city, where a lot of gold and silver was stored, from attacks by pirates and privateers. In the heart of the fortress lies a network of tunnels. They form an underground labyrinth in which possible invaders would soon get lost. Due to the long tunnels made of stone, it was formerly also used as a means of communication through the hall. Thus, the fortress protected the city for centuries from attacks over water and over land. We explore this imposing building on our own. With the high temperatures at noon, our climbing trip upwards is quite challenging. But it is worth it because the view of Cartagena is great. Of course, a photo in front of the huge flag of Colombia should not be missing.


We enjoy everyday life

We notice that our time in Cartagena is much more like a kind of vacation from travelling than our beach vacation a few days ago. Not only because of the somewhat failed implementation. Here we simply live a certain everyday life, have no expectations and visit the places we like several times. A nice feeling of familiarity rises, which does not occur with the shorter travel stages, no matter how beautiful they are. It is Advent and pre-Christmas time. Even if hostels and shopping centres are decorated in an idiosyncratic colourful and shrill style, we have not yet had a Christmas spirit. Well, that doesn't change even though the old town of Cartagena almost chokes on Christmas decorations. But at least it reminds us that Christmas is coming soon. And we know now that Santa Claus is Afro-American in Colombia, wears shorts and distributes his gifts containing Annanas, melons and bananas on a bicycle. We really enjoy our time here. For a while, Gerriet has been driving the desire to go to the hairdresser. Something else quite commonplace. After a short research, he decides on a salon and is lucky to get an appointment there the same day. And the result is really impressive, isn't it?


It is being rigged

Freshly styled, it's time to pack things, because the next day we check in on a sailboat! Sailing itself and a sailing trip have been buzzing through our heads for a long time. Shortly before our departure, Gerriet even aspired to a boating license, which unfortunately fails in terms of timing and covid. So far, however, the sailing thoughts were more connected with Greek islands or Croatia. And now our first sailing trip takes us directly through the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. We sail aboard the Alessandra from Colombia to the San Blas Islands of Panama. We copy the idea of this travel from friends who did it in the opposite direction. Apart from the beautiful San Blas Islands, the stories did not necessarily sound like a dream trip at first glance. Extreme swell off Colombia's coast, 2 full days on the open water, a seasick travel group and very special manners of the captain. Nevertheless, we find this type of journey to our next country very appealing. So we familiarise ourselves with the topic a little. The travel time in December seems well suited and the trip from Colombia to San Blas seems to be much more pleasant, as it goes with the current. In some reviews you can also find horror scenarios of drunken party guests, extremely bad food and coked up captains. One review even said the captain left some of his guests on one of the deserted islands of the San Blas archipelago. So first of all, we had to find the right boat and captain. Meanwhile, there are some agencies that have specialised in the mediation of these. Online you get an overview of boats and captains available. After we have committed ourselves to the travel period, we have 3 boats to choose from. In any case, we prefer a classic sailboat above a catamaran and so we decide to join the Alessandra.

More in the next article ….


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