19 November 2011

I live in a maze

The fruit here is amazing!

The old wall not far from my apt

Something you might unexpectedly run into
While Cartagena is the 5th largest city in Colombia and has nearly a million inhabitants, most of my time has been spent in the historic center of Cartagena, which is probably an area roughly 3 miles around. Much of the old city is circled by the Spanish fortress wall from the 17th & 18th centuries and packed with narrow streets filled with people going about their daily lives, tourists gawking, street vendors hawking their wares (a lot of crafts, t-shirts, etc, to foreigners, as we are abundant here; but also fruit, guys carrying around thermoses of Colombian coffee, candy, sunglasses, the cell phone minutes mentioned previously, and other things to everyone), and the ubiquitous yellow taxis. There is always life in the streets--great people watching, great things to see. As most people don't have air conditioning, the house doors and windows that face the street, although gated, are often open to let air in. It means you have often perfect views of the sitting room & beyond, which as a observer I love (although would probably not like being on the other side as much). While this old town is a relatively small area, after 4 weeks here I am not always 100% sure where I am or if I'm heading down the right street. The streets change names *every* block, even though it is (in my mind at least) still the same street. This means that for the most part, people don't say what street something may be found on, they'll say instead what it's near (the Cathedral, x store/restaurant/bar, the Plaza Bolivar, etc). I'm still figuring out where the important landmarks are and am getting so that about 90% of the time I'm actually going the way I want to go, but it's fun getting lost in the maze and still discovering new things.

The bits outside of the walls that I have ventured out to are mostly adjacent to the old town. There are two small peninsulas to the south of the old city, Manga and Bocagrande, which are mixed residential/business areas with a lot of new buildings. Walking along the water in those areas also gives you great views of the bay and the Caribbean, depending on where you are.

And heading north from the old city (& I'm sure other directions as well), I've seen some mixed areas--some suburban type residential areas, but some also very poor. This photo was taken not far outside the old city wall, showing some of the really squalid housing some people live in. And imagine what it's like during the heavy rains. The various sections of Cartagena are given numbers, 1 through 6, depending on the relative wealth of the area, and your number determines the cost of various services (water, electricity, etc). The center of the walled city is designated a "5", the second highest/wealthiest, and these shacks on the water are a stone's throw from that wealthy area...I wonder if this area even rates as a "1." I've also been volunteering in a poorer community north of the city; more on that in a future post.

For more city shots, click here.

1 comment:

Sara said...

Hi, Barb! I'm enjoying your blog - already planning to visit in the spring!