After visiting Colombia for a week, all I want to do is go back. This is my problem with travel—visiting for a short time, especially in South America, always makes me want to return for a long while. The bird's eye view is never enough for me in South America. The New World has long held much more wonder for me than Europe because America's past seems so much more present in everyday life. After all, The Americas are much younger than Europe and their complicated pasts aren't actually too far gone.
In 2008, I lived in Viña del Mar, Chile, for three months. For the first few weeks of living there, everything seemed shiny, surprising, and foreign. But after forming a routine and getting familiar with the streets, public transportation, and Chilean Spanish, my mind had a chance to reflect and to wonder about the deeper meaning behind what I was seeing.
All this to say, Colombia's past has been flung upon the world for the past several decades regarding FARC, paramilitaries, Pablo Escobar, corrupt government, and cocaine. And that past is apparent still. Colombians know that those things are on foreigners' minds when they cross the border. But there is so much more. It's a beautifully colorful place, and Colombians are some of the nicest, most generous people I've met. I'd like very much to stay a while and sink my feet into the ground here.
Cartagena de Indias was the Spanish hub for shipment of gold back to Europe. It was also a major port for the slave trade, and was under siege by the English and the French (and pirates) so often that the Spanish government decided to build a wall around the city. Nowadays, the wall is used for walking, as shown above, than for protection.
Part of the protection project was construction of the fortress Castillo San Felipe do Barajas, shown below.
The Walled City of Cartagena's history, architecture, and culture make it incredibly romantic and relaxing—a perfect spot to recharge for a few days, which I definitely took advantage of. Sticking around the walled city certainly didn't afford much of a look at how ordinary Colombians live. Cartagena is Colombia's vacation spot, and the walled city is full of gringos and Colombian tourists alike. It's beautiful, and I'm sure the newer portion of the city would have been much different. But, just as tourists to New Orleans sometimes have trouble finding peace with leaving the French Quarter, I had a hard time taking myself away from the Ciudad Amurallada. So I took myself to Medellín for a couple days. Photos from that trip will follow.