Cartagena: A Colombian fairy-tale
Cartagena de Indias may be chock full of tourists but for me it was still a fairy-tale city. In the UNESCO World Heritage walled colonial city every turn breaths an atmosphere of romance and legends. I would scan the Caribbean sea from atop the battlements, half expecting to sight a pirate ship about to attack. The historical legacy of Cartagena is still very much alive today, creating a richer, more enticing environment for it.
This jewel of a Colombian city isn’t exactly a secret. Hordes of tourists on Caribbean cruises descend on the old town, snapping photos of the flowers pouring over from balconies on pastel coloured colonial buildings. Fancy restaurants spill into the streets, creating teeming squares overlooked by commanding churches. Sculptures commemorate multicultural history from slaves in chains to one-legged pirates.
Women selling tropical fruit fan themselves dressed in bright, multicoloured, ruffled dresses accessorised with a headscarf and a flower behind an ear. Men cycle their small stalls around town selling flavoured shaved ice as a refreshing way to cool off from the searing sun. Wander away along quiet cobbled back streets and small holes within the ramparts provide shaded respite from this flamboyantly energetic city.
Horse-drawn carriages will show you around, but walking allows you to soak up the atmosphere at your own speed. Visit a museum if you wish, but the historic streets and plazas impart so much by themselves it is hardly necessary. Cartagena is Colombia’s most visited city, capturing the hearts of countless tourists in the process. Colombia as a whole captured my heart but Cartagena is, in my opinion, the country’s pièce de résistance.