We’ve been mixing work and play here in Cartagena. On Tuesday morning, we did a few chores including changing the watermaker filter. The waters here in the harbor are too dirty to make water, but we’ll need to make some upon our departure. Then, after lunch, we took a taxi to the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a massive fortress situated on the Hill of San Lázaro, dominating both land and sea approaches to the city of Cartagena. Construction on this most formidable defensive complex of Spanish architecture began in 1536. It was expanded in 1657. Beneath the fortress is a maze of complex underground tunnels, some of which are dead ends.
Located behind the castle complex is Los Zapatos Viejos (The “Old Shoes” Monument), which is, you guessed it, a giant sculpture of old shoes. This monument references the poem “Mi Ciudad Nativa” by Luis Carlos Lopez (1879-1950), a famous Colombian poet. The final line of the poem compares the love and comfort of his city, Cartagena, to that which he gains from a pair of old shoes.
The dominant task of Wednesday morning was to take care of some business. For my part-time work, it seems paperwork is regularly required for licensing and credentialing in various states or hospitals. In this case, I had to get some papers notarized and FedEx it to the company. Simple, you say. Only in the states. We began by taking a taxi to our Colombian clearance agent’s house in order to obtain our passports which were required for obtaining a notary. Then, we had to take a taxi into the old city, El Centro, to have the documents notarized. Then, we had to take the taxi into the new “downtown” area of Boca Grande to find a FedEx. Then, we had to take the taxi back to our agent’s apartment to return the passports. Whew! And all of this was done in Spanish! Fortunately, my rudimentary Spanish is serving me well here, however communication can still be challenging. And, fortunately, taxis in Cartagena are cheap. All of this running around, which took at least two hours, cost us 50,000 pesos (roughly, $17).
Once we returned the passports to our agent, we walked a block or so to “Delizioso,” a small restaurant where we enjoyed a sandwich to combat our hunger. Afterwards, we hailed another taxi to take us up the steep incline to the highest point in Cartagena, the Cerro de La Popa (“Hill of the Stern”), so-called because it resembles the stern of a ship. Upon this hill stands the Convento de la Popa, a convent established by Augustinian father in 1607. The chapel of this convent, situated 500 feet above the city, contains a magnificent altar piece. containing a beautiful image of La Virgen de la Candelaria, the patroness of the city. There is also a charming flower-filled patio. The views of the city from atop the hill are spectacular.