Travels in Colombia - Cartagena

Old Aug 22nd, 2019, 02:02 AM
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Travels in Colombia - Cartagena

Cartagena is a fantastic, vibrant city. The walled old town was founded in the 16th century and is a maze of cobblestone alleys, tree-fringed squares and colourful colonial buildings with beautiful balconies. The old city and the fortress Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas are Unesco world Heritage Sites. There are 13 kilometres of walls lined by canons which protected the city from pirate attacks. From the walls and fortress there are reminders that you haven't stepped back in time with views over the new City.

Cartagena is a very photogenic city. The ancient and modern blend very nicely with a certain quirkiness. The plazas are home to ancient churches and modern art. The old cobblestone streets contain traditional street vendors and modern boutiques.

It is brilliant to get up early, before the old Town awakes and when the light is so beautiful. Then walking around you can really feel that you've gone back in time and can soak soak up the charm and atmosphere if this beautiful place.

There is always a reminder of the days of slavery. No more so than in the old town's most colourful residents - the Palengueras. These are the woman in colourful clothes who walk around with baskets of fruit on their heads.

They originally come from San Bassilo de Palenque, about 50 km from Cartagena. An escaped slave settled there, an escape network was set up and more followed and joined him. A town was founded and it's considered to be one of the first free towns in the New World. In 1691 the town's residents negotiated its freedom and a Royal Decree to this effect was granted. The residents became the 1st free Africans in the Americas. The men cultivated crops. As a way of supporting their families the women came into town selling huge baskets of fruit and wouldn't go home until the baskets were empty. They still do, although now they probably earn more from pictures with tourists. There are about 100 of these women in the old town and they are a very welcome and colourful attraction. They have their own language Palenque.

Cartagena is full of wonderful places to eat, including lots of Creperies and of course coffee shops. Cafe del Mar on top of the wall is a fabulous place to watch the sun disappear into the sea.

Off course the other thing Colombia is famous for is dancing. In Cartegna they have a flavour and style all of their own. Salsa Donde Fidel is a great place to watch the locals having a great time and demonstrating some magical moves. Cafe Havana also comes alive after dark.

Colombia is also the birthplace of Cumbia, this also has it's origins in slavery. It is Colombia's national dance. It comes from the African Cumbe which means 'dance'. It is a fusion of African, Indigenous and European cultures. African drums are mixed with indigenous flutes. It's haunting music. Female Cumbia dancers wear long skirts and men wear white shirts, white trousers, red bandanas and a sombrero. The hat is very important for the men trying to use it to lure women towards them. It's an expression of love. As a Zumba teacher I love Cumbria music and dance and really wanted to see a performance. There was a performance being held in a district just outside the walls. Unfortunately, we arrived just as it had finished. We pleaded with them to do one more song. They told us to come the next night but this wasn't possible. After more pleading they agreed to do one more dance but only if I'd join in the dancing. So that's how I ended up in Cumbia street performance in Cartagena. It was one of the best memories and experiences of my trip.

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