Mom and I were very excited to go to Cartagena, Colombia for the second-to-last leg of the Global Scavenger Hunt. South America is a continent that we have never been to before and puts six of the seven continents on our list!
Even though we arrived in the nighttime, it was very humid and rather hot. The days in the spring would hit 35 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) with humidity of around 90%! Wow!
Some facts on Colombia: There are one million two hundred thousand residents spread over seven islands and boasts the main Spanish port in Latin America! Cartagena is the second oldest city of Colombia, built in the 17th century! The currency is the Peso, and there are 2200 pesos in one USD. The coldest it ever gets is 20 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit).
The first morning we were there, we were eager to walk around Old Town, where we were staying, and soak in the culture there! To complete our first scavenge we walked into a couple emerald stores and priced the stones. Emeralds are mined and shaped in Colombia, and there are stores full of them everywhere!
When giving a rating to a stone, there are three main standards to consider: color, brilliance, and clarity. While some people prefer a dark color and others a light color, the depth of color is the important part. The brilliance is how much it sparkles, and the clarity is, of course, how clear and spotless the stone is.
We priced a 4.37 carat of very nice quality for $10,400 USD. A medium quality 2.92 carat was $1600, while a very high quality 2.01 carat ran $3000 USD. They were truly beautiful!
For the greater part of the morning we strolled around Old Town, stumbling upon several scavenges along the way. We saw the statue of the “Great Liberator,” a highly celebrated man who was essential in the liberation of Cartagena as a free state.
Our lunch was very interesting, as we went to a little hole-in-the-wall local place where absolutely no one spoke English. This was not really a problem, as we knew the Spanish word for beer (Cerveza), and simply pointed to the menu and then to the waitress, which she realized meant “bring us your favorite thing to eat.” We love how language really is universal, and the spoken word is far less essential for communication than we usually think it is. Of course, as 70% of our language is nonverbal anyway, I suppose this should be no great surprise. The waitress even showed us where some of our scavenges were on the map, and ran after us when we went the wrong way down the street to guide is in the right direction and kissed our cheeks!
Our afternoon was initiated by a visit to the “Palacio De La Inquisicion,” which was a rough museum to walk through. This impressive and original mansion contains torture devices from the Spanish inquisition. We learned, from what little we could decipher from the Spanish signs, that the inquisition lasted from 1776 and 1821, and that not one person brought in for trial was found innocent. The instruments of torture and death were represented, displays of the garrote, the guillotine, the gallows, the rack, and many other things that we did not recognize. One especially gruesome instrument caught our attention. It was a metal rod with spikes on either end, which was placed between the chest and the chin; over time when a person could not keep his head up any longer, the spikes on either end of the instrument would dig into the flesh and cause death over time.
We saw a scale there that they would sit people on, and if they weight over a certain weight they must be one kg per inch of height. Any less or more indicated that the individual was a witch.
The upstairs of the Palacio contains historic artifacts and portraits of people through the history of the city of Cartagena.
We walked away from this museum very pensive and grieving for the poor people who suffered so terribly, as well as for the people who caused the suffering, because anyone who could do those things to another human being must live in a very dark place in their souls indeed.
To shake off the darkness of that place we went to the museum of modern art. There were many very interesting pieces there, and it is worth a visit whenever you may find yourself in Old Town.
Our next stop was the Inglesia de San Pedro Claver, a gorgeous cathedral! The convent beside it was founded in 1603 and named after San Pedro, who lived and worked there. San Pedro was a monk known as “a slave to the slaves.” He ministered to the slaves and advocated for improvement in their horrid living conditions. Canonized two centuries after his death, his body rests in a glass coffin behind the pulpit at the front of the church.
The evening found us wandering around the street for a while, stopping to listen to some incredible jazz street performers and ducking into Juan Valdez Café for a wonderful coffee!
After stopping at the Gelataria Paradiso for some gelato (this is President Obama’s favorite Gelataria), we joined the Sydney Sisters in a carriage ride through the beautiful streets of the city. We made a quick stop at the Heredia Theator, which was built in 1911 and is stunning and intricately decorated inside, and watched a few minutes of an African Dance. We love the energy and sensuality of African Dancing, and it is very popular here, as there were dancers in the squares every evening as well.
The rest of the evening was spent at the Torre Del Reloj (clock tower) taking pictures at 9:00 pm to complete another scavenge, and having a drink at an al fresco restaurant on the wall of Old Town. This was the end to another wonderful day of the Global Scavenger Hunt 2015!
Here is a photo montage of our first day in Cartagena!