One of Spain’s most important colonial ports in the West Indies, Cartagena is located on the Caribbean coast on a little arc of land (originally a group of islands) sticking out into the sea. The location gave it good natural defences which were augmented from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries with city walls and a network of surrounding forts. UNESCO describe the fortifications as a “masterpiece of Spanish military engineering in America”.
Within the walls, the city has many attractive old buildings including a sprinkling of Baroque churches. The colonial city had three distinct areas: one for the wealthy, one for the merchants and middle class and the third, outside the walls, for everyone else. It was in this latter area, still poorer and tattier, that I stayed.
Two aspects of Colombian street enterprise that were particularly noticable here were the people selling time on mobile phones and the itinerant coffee vendors. The former sit on plastic garden chairs on the pavement or in plazas with a clutch of phones on a table in front of them and a sign giving the price per minute on different networks. The latter wander around with a wooden caddy containing thermos flasks and a pile of tiny paper cups. Many of them have another box full of small goods: cigarettes, sweets and snacks.
Cartagena is a popular South American tourist destination and I managed to visit during high season, so even a dormitory was expensive by Colombian standards and not easy to come by – luckily I’d booked my bed before leaving for Mompox.
I have to admit that although I walked around some of the city wall I did not visit any of the other local fortifications so highly praised by UNESCO. I have seen quite a lot of Spanish colonial forts by now and they are of generally similar look. However, there is a more unusual gate into the walled area with a clock tower on top which took my fancy.
So this is the Lego model: