We stepped out of the plane and the humidity (98%) caught our breath immediately. Still wearing our sweaters to protect ourselves from the air conditioned planes and airports we were soon sweating like pigs. Not a pretty sight. Especially next to the beautiful Colombian people waiting in line to get through customs we felt like hardcore gringo’s. Luckily the officer didn’t mind and welcomed us into the country. We read all about making sure you got a stamp with a 90 days permit to stay, apparently they don’t give it to you automatically, but our officer didn’t make a big deal of it.
We took a cab to the hostel in Cartagena we booked: JetSet in the middle of Getsemani, the neighborhood in Cartagena where most backpackers stay. We got the front room with balcony and wifi access. Nice!
We left all our belongings in the hotel and went out to explore the old city. It was muy hermosa! All those beautiful colored colonial houses with magnificent balconies in narrow winding alleys were a nice change to the straight modern streets of the States. We enjoyed a Colombian beer and shared an overpriced pizza Napolitana on one of the touristy squares in the middle of the town, trying to get used to all the vendors who tried selling us bracelets, caricatures of ourselves or arty farty paintings. Since the pizza was already overpriced ( 11 euro’s) we declined every offer in our most polite, but lets admit, very limited Spanish.
The travel to this new continent and soaking in all those new impressions made us sleepy so we returned to our room and fell asleep. Till 23 pm. Suddenly a car parked almost in front of the hostel and started showing off it’s super delux audio system. We could feel the bass trembling in our body’s, so even with earplugs, it was impossible to fall asleep again. The concept of night noise isn’t something the Cartagenians know of apparently. Some people tried yelling something to the car party, but it didn’t help. It went on till 5 in the morning!
So when we woke up at noon, after a decent 7 hours sleep, I went to the guy at the reception and explained the situation as good as I could. He promised he would give us another room as soon as possible. Unfortunately we would have to endure one more sleepless night. But since there really isn’t any pressure, this wasn’t a disaster. We went into the old city again and visited ‘las Bovedas’, 23 dungeons built in the late 17 hundreds, hidden within the city walls. They were destined for military purposes and ere used as storerooms and as a jail. Today they are used as souvenir shops and we were tempted to buy a beautiful hammock, luckily to heavy to carry around, so we could resist it.
Afterwards we ambled around in the city and on the city wall where we enjoyed the sunset.
After dawn we enjoyed some local dancers and went to I Balconi for a nice pizza. We read in our Lonely Planet that the chef is very fanatical about quality ingredient and therefor has a local cheesemaker schooled to make gorgonzola and parmesan. So of course I tried a pizza with gorgonzola. It was alright. 😉
After our last sleepless night, we got another room in the hotel for our last night.
We went to visit Castillo de San Filipe de Barajas. I forgot my teachers card, which was really a pity, because the price difference was huge. We visited the castle any way, because it is the greatest fortress ever built by the Spaniards in any of their colonies. It was really cool because you had to get from one place to another through tunnels!
Afterwards we visited the gold museum in the old city and went back to the hotel to enjoy a good night sleep and to get ready to explore more of the Caribbean coast.