Beautiful, beautiful Cartagena

The second of my holiday posts and I’m sure you’ll guess that this was my absolute favourite of the places we visited.  I have come to the conclusion that there are four kinds of places encountered on one’s travels:

  • those which are instantly forgettable
  • those which are pleasant enough but hold no particular appeal for a return visit
  • those to which one would like to return
  • those which amaze, captivate and hold onto a small piece of one’s heart

For me, Cartagena in the Murcia region of Spain, fell firmly into the last category. Since the 16th century it has been one of the country’s most important ports but, despite it’s proximity to the major tourist resort of Alicante (only 1.5 hours drive) it is comparatively recently that Cartagena has seen any significant increase in tourism.

In many sea ports the view is less than pleasing and rarely does justice to what lies beyond. They are, of course, working ports and making them look pretty for tourists is understandably not high on the list of priorities but from the moment we drew back the curtains and glimpsed the marina I knew I was going to like it here. As we stepped onto the beautifully maintained promenade there was a feeling of great welcome. We walked to the end of the promenade and along the sea front, I took a photo of the boats.  Which one do you think might be ours?

 

 

We passed this statue erected in 2009. Almost five meters high and weighing two tons, it is a tribute to victims of terrorism.

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And some stunning buildings

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The town consists of marble paved squares and ornate buildings (which bear the marks of the Spanish Civil War).  The area has been inhabited for an astonishing 3,000 years. Back in the 1st century BC it is doubtful whether the conquering Romans received anything approaching a welcome, but they stuck with it and made it their home. Today Cartagena invites tourists to view two attractions which offer fascinating proof of their occupation. In the Roman Forum we saw the recently unearthed remains of thermal baths.

 

 

The colonnaded courtyard which led to Atrium room which would have been used for banqueting. How is it that after 2,000 years evidence of the original wall murals can still be seen?

 

 

A frigidarium and cold room with its still preserved marble floor to retain the temperature along with evidence of heating systems and ‘warm rooms’, reminded us of just how advanced the Romans were.  The wall of the bread oven remains and the limestone floor blocks in what would have been the streets, still bear the marks of the chariot wheels.

 

 

An almost unnoticeable door off the main square leads into a museum and by taking a series of  escalators (the incongruity of these made me smile) or the lift the visitor is led through several floors of beautifully presented pottery, glassware and amphorae…

 

 

…finally leading outdoors to an awe-inspiring, totally atmospheric and amazingly well preserved amphitheater.  Over the years a corner of the theatre’s foundations were used to build a cathedral and, in 16th century, housing. Layer upon layer of building took place over the following centuries as the theatre sank further and further below ground, lying undiscovered along with many priceless artifacts until 1987!  It took twenty years to excavate. If the escalators appeared incongruous, the apartment blocks surrounding the open theatre Are equally so. Much larger than many, though not as enormous as The Colosseum or Libya’s Leptis Magna, Cartagena’s theatre is unquestionably a stunning example, and all the more so for being discovered accidentally.

 

 

Truly I could write reams about how much I loved this step back into history but other people’s holiday snaps are rarely as exciting to the reader as to the person who took them and viewed the sights first hand, but before I go … this is the Cartagena version of Chocolate con Churros! (warm, sugary donut batter dipped in the thickest, hot dark chocolate imaginable – completely sublime)! I cannot tell you how good it tasted.

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