Cartagena, Columbia March 5 & 6
The sail from Panama brought us into harbor at Cartagena, Columbia around noon on Monday. We saw the high-rise buildings from afar and traversed a narrow channel with a visible reef off the port side. A statue of the Blessed Virgin with Baby Jesus stood in this reef.
After lunch, we headed out on a land excursion called “Intimate Cartagena.” There were only 16 of us in a small bus with a great guide, Frank. Cartagena is the 5th largest city in Columbia with a population of about one million. Our tour wound through the new city toward the hill that has a commanding view of the entire area. A monastery is at the peak where we learned of the history (founded in 1500) and the class system of the city which is based on income. The very poor are class 1 and the very rich are class 6. We saw the entire gamut of housing from the top of the hill. The monastery was cool due to breezes and held some interesting history including a huge altar that was relocated from a convent in the old town. That convent was connected to a monastery across the street with an underground passage! Both the convent and monastery were shut down! Thus the relocation of the altar. However, Pope John Paul II visited the hilltop monastery and placed gold crowns on the statue of the Virgin Mary and Child which adorned the relocated altar.
Back on the lowlands (only 6 feet above sea level), we saw a huge spanish fort with statues of warriors who defended the city against invaders - seeking the vast hoards of gold stored there, waiting shipment to Spain.
We had time for a walk in the old town with a visit to a coffee shop for a taste of the famous Columbian brew and a free sample of ground beans.
At nearly 5 PM,we were bussed off to a seaside restaurant for a “snack” and after a while we were back on board just in time for a fantastic sunset.