Cartagena and Around

“Hannibal is at the gates!” once said by many a Roman parent, enough to terrorise misbehaving children like the great general once terrorised Rome. Only that once he would have really be at the city gates or inside. One of the leaders of the ancient city of Qart Hadasht, modern day Cartagena, Hannibal inherited the city from his brother in law Hasdrubal, who had re-founded it in 228 BC. The city was later conquered for Rome by another great general Scipio Africanus, but it didn’t stop there, the city has passed through Visigoth, Vandals, Then by the Byzantine Empire (often described as the East Roman Empire) and various Muslim invaders.

The city also was important Republican base and the last to fall in the Spanish Civil War. It is not however a major tourist destination. This is more to do with the riches of Spain with so many wonderful places and not a reflection on Cartagena which is certainly worth a visit.

I visited because of my friend Lorea who along with her family and friends Asun, Noe & Javier, Maria, and others are among the kindest people I ever met.
The city is rediscovering its past and in doing so is a city that is reversing decline and in ascendancy by rediscovering its lost past. Perhaps it most famous focal point the Roman Theatre was newly rediscovered and restored. Lost as buildings were built on top that became derelict it was accidentally discovered and restored.. Every dig seems to rediscover the glamour of the city whose foundations are from antiquity. Amongst the ruins it is possible to visit Punic walls, ancient ruins and castles with impressive views dot the hills. One of the main ones is Castillo de la Concepción (which can be accessed by a panoramic lift. Handy in the intense heat that beats down on the city during the day. In addition Cartagena has lots of statues. Mostly but not military figures, many dont appear too happy for some unknown reason!

At the Roman Theatre there is a small but informative museum, but the actual remains of the theatre is the main and only real reason to visit. One should not miss the lovely bar next to the theatre. I was fortunate that a friend of Noe  works there who kindly explained how the bar was put together. Everything was thought out meticulously to reflect the sea and Cartagena’s past. In side there is also a deep Roman well of maybe over 11 metres deep if my memory serves me correct. It is a popular place for food and drink.

An Englishman in Cartagena

Don’t be an English man in Cartagena. I have been told multiple times of British who have made colonies in the south of Spain. Not attempting or showing any interest in the Spanish people, language or culture. These English colonies or walled off are a sham. As well as the drunk inconsiderate revilers. Those in the south of Spain may well be the kindest people of Western Europe only in Italy have I also met so sociable people in the west. They really miss a lot. They are easily identifiable, so I have been told, by their white socks and flip flops. Also I saw and could hear some in the bars. To come to Spain and not to experience the culture, the people and food is to miss of the most interesting places to visit.

What makes the city alive is the people. Although I have been told it is ‘dead’ in winter. In summer the streets will still be popular at 3 with people in bars, clubs, cafes, restaurants or strolling. Not in the rowdy sense, but in the lively, congenial and best sense. I came too early for the festival Carthaginians and Romans but it is probably the best time to visit the city when plays, festivals and participants in Roman and Carthaginian costumes relive the city past. I do intend to return at this time.

Cartagena isn’t just ruins and festivals though. It has impressive newer buildings including by protégés of Gaudi.
There are many former naval buildings and some still in use. There is an old yet to be fully restored bull ring (not currently open) a beautiful port and nearby buildings. As well as castles I mentioned that dot the five hills and around.

I nearly missed my flight arriving and leaving. Having a long wait at a health centre in my town I missed my bus to Luton Airport, my boarding pass (that was to be scanned) didn’t work and then trying to get a priority pass for security the machine crashed (after taking my payment). Leaving I caught in traffic, and then in a slow security lane. Rather impolitely queue jumping I was among the last to board the plane (which was already in progress). There are far worse places to be stuck though!
After all that I had a horrible experience with the IBIS Hotel Luton which means I will not recommend it as a hotel to rely on. But leaving a nice place like Cartagena is perhaps where things could only go downhill 😉