Although it may seem as though we had been traveling for weeks, we only spent three days and two nights in Barcelona, since our final destination was Israel. The most memorable part of our trip to Israel (besides seeing family members and loved ones) was our excursion to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. There is so much history and an overwhelming sense of spirituality as you walk around.
It is absolutely beautiful to be able to go to a place and pray to a higher power (or whatever one may believe in) and know that a countless amount of individuals travel here to do the same. We were lucky enough to come on a day where members of a certain sector of the Israeli army had completed their training, and were officially becoming members of the Israeli Defense Force. And as we walked around, the view of the surrounding area was breathtaking.
We had such a great time touring Lisbon Portugal, exploring Barcelona, Spain, and visiting various cities in Israel, especially Jerusalem. We were sad to return home and get back to the “real world,” but we have since been left with a lingering and exciting feeling of knowing we’ll be back on a plane traveling again soon—although for now, the destination is unknown!
As we continued with the city tour of Cartagena, our next stop was El Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, which took more than 130 years of construction, and was finally completed in 1657. It is all made by hand and it was built from the top to the bottom by African slaves who were brought to Colombia. As you might notice, the walls are inclined and not straight because if a cannon were to hit the walls, it would not be able to go through it.
On top of the fortress, we came across the Colombian flag which is yellow, blue, and red. The yellow is meant to represent gold, the blue is supposed to represent the ocean (Colombia is the only South American country with two oceans), and the red represents the blood of the country’s martyrs. Some say that the yellow represents blonde hair, blue represents blue eyes, and red represents red lips since Colombian women are known for their beauty.
Throughout the fortress, there are small tunnels because years ago, the Spaniards were small and were able to enter the tunnels and run through them. The British and French were tall though, so they had to duck their heads and were not able to dedicate their complete concentration to running since they had to worry about not hitting the top of the tunnels. There are also various cabins that can be found throughout the tunnels where individuals would hide, and if they didn’t have a password to enter, they would be killed.
The only person to actually live in the fortress years ago was the leader of the army. Everyone else lived in what was called the walled city (since the city was walled off from pirates as mentioned in a previous post), and when enemies arrived, someone was in charge of ringing a bell, and when it sounded, soldiers would go running up the fortress. As we made our way to the top of the fortress, it began continuously pouring rain. After waiting for nearly 40 minutes, our group decided to walk down the fortress in the rain and go back to the bus. By the time we got onto the bus, we were soaking wet, and of course, the rain stopped within minutes. After this downpour, floods filled some of the streets due to the rain, and we were told that by 2017, the sea level will rise nearly feet due to poor drainage throughout the city.
At the bottom of the fortress, there is a statue commemorating Blas de Lezo who was once known as “Patapalo” or “Pegleg” and eventually as “Mediohombre” or “Half-Man” due to the numerous injuries he suffered during his time in the military. In the statue, “The man is brandishing a sword in his left arm, because he lost his right arm in the Battle of Barcelona; minus one leg lost in the Battle of Gibraltar; and wearing an eye patch covering his left eye lost in the Battle of Toulon. This same man lost his life in the Battle for Cartagena, the last of his 23 campaigns. This man is Don Blas de Lezo” (http://www.cartagenainfo.net/glenndavid/blasdelezo.html).
After drying off at the hotel and changing our clothes, we got back onto the bus made our way towards Las Bóvedas. Las Bóvedas, also known as “The Vaults” were built as dungeons and consists of 23 dungeons which were used to hold ammunition and at one point, prisoners. These dungeons were the last thing built by the Spaniards to close off the walled city. Las Bóvedas currently consists of shops, and it is where many tourists can be found purchasing locally hand-made items goods and artwork.
Upon waking up in the morning, we drove directly to the airport as we made our way to Cartagena, Colombia. On our way, we were told that Bogotá has one percent of all the gyms in the world. As a health conscious city, Bogotá also has what is called Ciclovía every Sunday. From 7am-2pm, many of the streets are closed for people to do exercise such as biking, walking, or running. As we drove to the airport, we saw countless individuals bicycling and running along the streets. It was fascinating to see the government support such a great idea.
After a short flight to Cartagená, it was time for us to learn more about the city as we drove to our hotel. Hotel Carribe, the hotel we stayed at was built between 1945-1950, and was the first hotel built in Cartagena. More recently, it is famously known for a scandal involving President Obama’s secret service. Before President Obama arrived to Cartagena a short while ago, his secret service (who were staying at Hotel Carribe) were caught fighting with prostitutes regarding their costs.
As is the same in Bogota, all males must go to the army to receive 18 months of military experience upon graduating from high school. The only exceptions are if the individual is disabled, married, has children, or is continuing with his studies by attending college. Otherwise, the individual will receive a fine (with the amount depending on his social class) and he risks the possibility of a legal kidnapping in which the military can find and bring him to their station to enlist him.
Cartagena has been said to have the third most important port in all of South America after Brazil and Chile. Tourism is the next biggest source of income in Cartagena after the port. In one cruise alone which docked just a few weeks before our arrival, between $400,000-$500,000 was made in emerald sales alone. Restaurants and hotels also bring in a fair share of money from tourists as well, but emerald sales are a big hit with the tourists as well.
One of the entrances into Cartagena is named Boca Grande because of how big it is. Walls throughout the city once protected Cartagena from pirates due to a significant amount of pirate attacks years ago to steal treasure and merchandise.
November 11th is Cartagena’s Independence Day, and that whole week consists of parties throughout the city. Even the government approved of the partying by offering fifty cent beers throughout the city.
After learning a few interesting facts about the city, we arrived at the hotel to drop off our belongings. As we arrived, we were greeted with fruit cocktails before the start of our city tour.