Monday, May 11, 2015

A Golden Day in Cartagena

The day would begin in the steamy tropical heart of Caribbean Cartagena and it would end with my cat screaming at me for abandoning her to the occasional catsitter for a week-plus.

My final tourist stop in Cartagena was to the Museo del Oro, the Gold Museum. Cartagena's Gold Museum is something of a companion to the much larger, much more extensive Museo del Oro in Bogotá. While smaller, it does bring the gold:

It was a Sunday morning, so admission was "gratis".

The collection emphasized the gold owned by the Caribbean-oriented Colombian indigenous tribes.

Some pottery, too.

The mammal-bird hybrid was a popular subject for the golden arts:

Caimans, too.

But I'm not sure what this one is:

It has a vaguely "Chinese New Year" look to it, no? And that would be weird since the goldwork in here is over a 1000 years old and, as we know, Chinese New Year was invented by Las Vegas casinos in the 1990's to lure inveterate gamblers from China and Taiwan to the Las Vegas Strip.

And these anthropomorphic pots were too weird.

Weird aside, apropos of nothing, that I will slip in here because I am running out of space to insert this anecdote anywhere else. Twice in Cartagena, I had people mistake me for being -- of all things -- Brazilian! I knew that studying Portuguese had affected my Spanish pronunciation, but I did not know the degree. Apparently, the answer is: muito.

So how would I rate Cartagena's Museo del Oro?

Two thumbs up, just like the security guard said.

And how would I rate Cartagena de Indias, Colombia? It's a little too romantic for my tastes. It's a lot more touristy (and touristed) than the rest of Colombia. But, what the heck:

Two thumbs up.

And with that, another vacation blogging spree comes to end. See you in Barcelona in September.

Last Dinner in Cartagena, Last Dinner in Colombia

My final meal out when I'm on vacation always make me sad, because that's when it hits me that the vacation travel adventure is coming to a conclusion. For my last dinner in Cartagena -- my last dinner in Colombia until who know when -- I wanted something local. I did my research and selected El Boliche Cebicheria.

It is quite small. Room for about 12, maximum, inside. Maybe another four to eight outside. With the kitchen right there.

I ordered the tamarindo, ceviche in a tamarind sauce:

Fancy presentation. Even better, it was quite tasty. The tamarind sauce was awesome. It had a nice flavor without overwhelming the sea creatures on the plate. I would go here again. If I were in Cartagena again.

I Walk the Walls

Whenever I visit a seafaring town that is protected by thick walls that one can walk upon, I always choose to walk the walls. So let's take a walk.

I headed north toward a section of wall I had not yet walked.

This cow was at the door of an Argentine restaurant. I didn't try the restaurant given that I am in Colombia to eat Colombian food, not Argentine, but I did photograph the cow because I do that sort of thing.

But once I got on the walls, I saw the two things you see everywhere in the Old City of Cartagena: La policia and street vendors.

The walls are very important for protecting the Old City. Even today, as you can see, the old walls serve as a necessary protective barrier guarding against the encroachment of Miami-style high rise condominiums.

I think that last sentence is literally correct. Cartagena was saved from "modern" development because it lost its status as Colombia's primary port in the mid 1800's and no one had the money to modernize the place and "keep up with the times." Then, a few decades, someone(s) realized that being locked in place in the Colonial Era was actually way cool. And Cartagena kept the same character as New Orleans's French Quarter, only on the other side of the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean Sea.

The horse drawn carriages are everywhere, for example. Out even in the hottest part of the day. It adds to the romantic atmosphere of the place, if you are into that sort of thing.

I'm not. So, instead, let's check out the turret.


Being inside a turret really narrows one's view of the world. I say, being inside a turret ... really narrows ... ahhh ... forget about it ... you had to be there.

And what is that that can be seen from atop the walls? Why that is the Caribbean Sea.

And this was the bus stop for the Caribbean Sea:

Just a little farther down the road, just outside the walls, I saw this:

El Monumento a los Alcatraces. The Monument to the Pelicans. Because I'm into this sort of thing, indulge me while I post a few pictures of El Monumento a los Alcatraces:

And from another angle:

Or how about the artsy underneath shot?

I like it because it reminds me of my favorite statute in Washington, D.C., which is actually on the Virginia side of the Potomac just up from the 14th Street Bridge:

Not Cartagena. Washington, D.C.
The Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial.

There is a statue of a lone pelican off to the side.

Aaaah. He's trying to join the flock.

Time to get back to the wall-walking. This-a-way.

So now that we are back on the walls, let's look at El Monumento a los Alcatraces from the wall:

Are these tourists, perhaps, shooting Monumento a los Alcatraces from the wall?

Two photography styles on display there. Shooting your subject as is. And shooting a selfie with something interesting in the selfie background. Like here:

If you look closely, you can see a few pelicans coming out from my left (your right) temple.

An afternoon of wall-walking really works up an appetite:

So I ate some street food:

An arepa con queso. Vendors are cooking them all over the streets of Cartagena. An arepa is a thick pancake or biscuit made from corn flour, so they are gluten free. And it's "con queso," with cheese, because why not?

The afternoon concluded with some souvenir shopping. I chose this place because it had a stuffed donkey wearing a hat and bandanna.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Palace of the Inquisition

I ignored the advice of three-quarters of the population and did not take a boat cruise out to the Rosario Islands (about 60 miles off the coast from Cartagena). And when I say I ignored the advice of three-quarters of the city population, I think I am being literal and people kept coming up to me trying to sell me on a Rosario Islands' boat cruise. Which, to contrarian me, was the perfect reason to avoid them.

Instead, good Catholic that I am, I decided to visit the Palace of the Inquisition. And, no, although the local inquisition in Cartagena was driven by the Spanish crown, there will be Monty Python illusions to expectations in the post that will follow. (Please forgive the momentary lapse of paralepsis.

But before we enter, I discovered that my hotel has a secret stairwell up to a rooftop area.

Which means you can photograph the rooftops of Cartagena, from one side:

To the other:

And, of course, take the obligatory vacation vanity selfie, now with visible vacation beard:

So in case I am accused of the heresy of "hipster beard," rather than a proper, respectful vacation beard, I must be off to face the Inquisition. Let's stroll through the various instruments of torture and execution (instrumentos de tortura y ejecuciones, as the museum guide cards called them):

El garrote, a strangling device.

La garrucha, which was merely an instrument of torture, not execution. I'm not sure what this one was:

But I do not what this one would do.

El hacha. which I'm pretty sure (a) translates to "hatchet" and (b) was more on the "execution" side of the street, than the "torture" side.

I believe this is the first time I've ever seen an actual, functioning rack, which, I'm guessing here, made your back feel great up until the point that it suddenly didn't.

Eliminate the inner spikes and I'm sure you could sell that one to the S&M community. And finally, la horquilla de herete.

Which apparently is no problem if you NEVER move your head or jaw.

The whole scene reminded me of the House of Terror in Budapest, where the Arrow Cross (the local Nazi Party offshoot) and, later, the Communists, tortured and executed political prisoners. Only that happened 300 to 400 years later, when we supposedly were more civilized. So when your atheists friends try to denigrate the Catholic Church by bringing up the Inquisition, you might want to remind them that the atheist-communists had their inquisition within living memory.

Time for the instruments of execution, which may or may not be from 1500's Cartagena, as were the devices we just saw:

I thought the guillotine was more from the French Revolution Era, but here it is.

The gallows. And comedic reference here then would be ... you're just going to have to complete the joke for yourself here.

And here's a cannon, which does not really belong in the same category as the rest. Yes, it is an instrument of execution, but it's a little less "personal" that the others.

The second floor was a general exhibit of the history of Cartagena.

Nice view of Plaza de Bolivar.

Firma del Acta de Independencia Absoluta de Cartagena de Indias. Cecilia Porras, artist.
That one depicts the signing of Cartagena independence. And this one is just the walls of Cartagena:

Antigio Transvia de Mulos al Cabrero. Artist anonymous.
Finally, just around the corner, this was visible:

La Ventana de la Denuncia, where the upstanding citizens of Cartagena could go and anonymously report their neighbors and friends for heresy. Nothing like that could ever exist today. Now, if you will excuse, I am going to use the hotline to report a California neighbor for watering violations.