The last week of March I had the chance to get to know the architectural Cartagena.
I was surprised by every wall, door, window, stone, iron bar, hallway, ramp, stair, handrail and every single architectural detail. The Walls, the forts, the colloquial houses, the balconies, the churches and the buildings … I took a picture of every single one of them during a tour that I will never forget.
Even though I did not have the chance to schedule in order my tour, I know that in the few but significant places that I visited I was able to truly appreciate the colonial, civil and military heritage of the city.
My biggest surprise was to observe the colonial houses, elements that constitute the architecture of the city. The balconies are part of the design of the beautiful houses located in the Old City, that is also a World Heritage Site. The tropical flowers embellish the balconies that captured my attention and also the attention of those around me. Looking up in Cartagena is a mandatory exercise if you want to be captivated by the colorful colonial balconies, full of colorful flowers.
I had the chance to walk into one of the houses. That house today is a mall in Calle La Moneda. There, I realized that things were built to be able to handle the heat. There are inside patios with lots of trees and plants, arcs, wood balconies and cisterns. The facades of the houses in the Old City represent a unique compositional pattern.
I can assure you that every single one of the constructions in the Old City reach an incomparable architecture, that is difficult to match.
Casa San Pedro
My tour started at Plaza San Pedro. While I was there, a tour guide was explaining to a group of tourists how the house they were looking at is located in the plaza that was called Plazuela de San Ignacio and then San Juan de Dios during colonial times. The beautiful house is a two floor house, today the restaurant San Pedro is located there. The facade has openings in form of rounded arcs. In the top floor there are balconies and platforms with columns that hold awnings. This plaza is full of pigeons that are flying everywhere.
Casa Santa Teresa
From Plaza San Pedro I walked to the beautiful Hotel Santa Teresa that is located in the Plaza that has that same name. Someone told me that in that hotel was located the first convent that the city had in 1606. Today, that building is well known because of the architectural quality of its five floors and the elements that it still has from other times, like the colonial arcade located in the first floor.
Museo Naval del Caribe
En la misma plaza llamó mi atención el Museo Naval del Caribe, cuya ala que da para el lado de las murallas aún conserva su estilo colonial con sus pilastras de madera, en la primera planta, y balcones de madera con tejadillos, en la segunda. Según mis investigaciones, esta edificación colonial sirvió para albergar a los heridos del lado español y patriota, puesto que allí funcionaba el Hospital San Juan de Dios para los pobres.
The Museo Naval del Caribe also called my attention. The side of the museum that faces the walls still has the colonial style with its wood pilasters in the first floor, and the wood balconies with awnings in the second floor. According to my research, this building was used to accommodate the injured since the Hospital San Juan de Dios, that was used for the poor, was located there.
Banco de la República
Since I was already on the border of the walls, I decided to go further in the city and walk towards Plaza Simon Bolivar. In this point, located in one of the four corners of the plaza is located Banco de la Republica. This building was designed by the Belgian professor Joseph Martens in 1926, has a cream color facade were there are elegantly organized rows of windows, balconies, and midpoint arcs. It is a building that has a noticeable European style that can be appreciated in an afternoon while you read in the plaza.
Casa Marqués de Premio Real
I tried to following an “order” of the plazas but I just kept going back to the same ones. After walking for a while, I found Plaza de la Aduana where I was impressed with Casa Marqués de Premio Real. This beautiful yellow building, that calls the attention of everyone who visits the plaza, was home to the Marqués de Premio Real, it was also the location of the British consulate. Today, it is the location of the SENA Seccional Bolivar. It is a really tall house that was central access. It still has the lobby that is linked to the patio through a series of archs. I was impressed by the stone cover in the facade and the four body balconies. I could not leave the place without taking a picture: the plaza in the back, the horses-carriages that are going through and the traditional snowcone cars that look like little toys.
Portal de Los Dulces
After I left Plaza de la Aduana I started walking towards Torre del Reloj, I arrived at Portal de Los Dulces. I was impressed to see the harmony of the buildings and the long archery from corner to corner that keep unity. Even though the balconies are the highlight of this place, it is more enjoyable when you try a traditional sweet.
Escuela de Bellas Artes
A new day, a new plaza. To start with the second part of my tour I went to Plaza San Diego, that before it was called Plaza de Bahamon. It changed its name because of the construction of the cloister called Convento de Recoletos de San Diego. This cloister that still has the pointy archs in the front entrance and the monolithic columns, after the independence it was used as a jail, nautical school, electrical plant and as a mental hospital. Today, it is the site for Escuela de Bellas Artes (the school for fine arts)… Moliere was probably right when he said that human beings are a little bit crazy mixed with science.
Universidad de Cartagena
Changing a little bit my route I started looking for the Calle de La Universidad and Calle de La Soledad where I found a building that immediately called my attention. This building was used as a monastery for the Agustinos and today is a site for Universidad de Cartagena. In the central plaza I took a picture taking advantage of the beautiful landscape. The building still has the same colonial structure from the past. The house has two floors. The church was suited as a conference room. The facade in the outside is composed of ornaments that come from different places and different styles.
When I arrived to Las Bovedas I was surprised with the colorful symmetry of this building. It took eight years to build 23 vaults with the purpose of protecting the Plaza against bombs. The 27 archs designed in masonry. Today, these vaults are used as little handcraft stores.
In Plaza Las Bovedas, the building where Colegio Salesiano is located was built at the beginning of the 20th century and to this day, is still standing. I can recall the ornaments in the drafts that allow the correct ventilation, the two waters roofs, the longitudinal base of the facade of the building, the rectangular windows and the covers.
Teatro Adolfo Mejía
Finally as I keep walking, following the Walls path, I arrived to my final destination: Teatro Adolfo Mejia. This theater, that was initially conceived as a church, was adapted so that on November 11 1911, when it wasn’t even finish, it was inaugurated as the Municipal Theater. In the exterior one can recall the three volume facade and the split attic. The true beauty of the theater is in its inside. The galleries, the balconies, the lattices of the box seats, are perfectly built but they are also organized like horseshoes arcs; they are all protected by the ceiling painted by Enrique Grau. A crimson red place, full of muses and art that is the setting for many cultural and artistic shows in Cartagena.
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