Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 10 - Monday, Nov 11, 2013 - Cartagena, Spain

We got up early again (6:30).  Bob decided after reading the various items that we have (and the fact that Rick Steves’ guide book has nothing on Cartagena) that since the city has such long history, that it might be worth it to take a ship’s walking tour to get to see the sites, but also to get the history behind it all.  So, he wandered down to the shore excursion desk to see if he could score some tickets.  He did, so we had breakfast and got to the Stardust for the 9:15 departure.
We joined about 90 people in the lounge and divided into three groups of 30 (we heard later that one of the guides didn’t show up so we ended up with three guides instead of four).  Our guide calling himself Jack (when talking to English speaking people) proceeded to tell us about three main time periods of the history of Cartagena.  The ancient times were from 229 BC until about the 4th century.  229 BC was when the city was discovered/formed by the Carthaginians coming up from the area of Africa now known as Tunis.  They formed the city and began its construction on five hills (much like the seven hills of Rome).  It was an important city both because it has an amazing harbor (protected on both sides of the entrance by mountains) and because it was rich in silver.  The Carthaginians had lost twice to the Romans and had to pay a tax of silver to the Romans.  They mined the silver in Cartagena and used it to pay.  The Romans were greedy and decided that they wanted to get the silver at the source and came in and took over the city in 209 BC.  They ruled it until the fall of the Roman empire, about the 4th century.  Because it was so far from Rome, it was essentially forgotten.  Note, Hannibal who was a Carthaginian began his journeys and attacks on Rome with the elephants from Cartagena in 219 BC.
The second phase was the golden era in the 1800’s when it was rediscovered as a mining haven.  This time, the main mineral was lead.  Lead was used for many different things (pipes, sewers) and Cartagena was the prime source for it.  The port also became a very important Spanish naval port and the Navy created a strong base here.  This second phase lasted until 1914 when WWI broke out.  
The last phase was the modernistic time and was essentially the 20th century.  It mostly consisted of not a lot happening in Cartagena because there was no mining and no navy.  That changed in 1960 when the first roman artifacts were uncovered and the people became to realize that tourism was their next big industry.
This next picture has not much to do with the history, but we both liked it as a weird contrast as a new modern building was built encompassing an older building.  Top and sides.  Very strange, but interesting.

Our first real stop in the tour was a Roman house (House of Fortune).  The house included a living and dining room, and an office for the head of household.  The office include the walls with even some fresco’s preserved.

Next we traveled up a big outdoor elevator to the top of the largest hill (elevator on the right):

There we visited the castle and observed the four other hills.  Here is a shot from the top of the keep of Julie with the Serenity in the background:

The guide mentioned that if the Carthaginians had built a wall between two of the hills, it would have greatly increased their chance of holding off the Roman army.  We also saw a bull ring that was being restored because it was discovered that it actually was built on top of a Roman colosseum.

We then traveled back down and saw an old Roman theater that is the fourth largest in the world.  What is amazing is that it was only just uncovered 25 years ago!!! 

We wandered the streets of the city and eventually got to the end of the tour at the City Hall building that used to house the local government.  It was discovered that this building was sinking and after many, many years of pumping concrete below it to shore it up, was finally restored.  It is now used for special occasion functions.

We then returned to the ship, had lunch, and spent time relaxing and finally getting caught up with the blogs.  
The evening was our second formal night and so we got dressed up.  We even had our pictures taken where the background was the back of the ship and the water.  Some came out great and so we will buy the best one.
For dinner, Julie had rock lobster and Bob had 72 hour prime rib (cooked slowly for 72 hours).  Both were excellent.  The prime rib was not served in the traditional large slab of meat style, but instead, smaller cuts sliced about 1/3 of an inch thick.  Really great.
After dinner, we went to a show- Rocket Man.  The show was Elton John’s music where Jonathan Kane, an Elton tribute “band” person imitated Elton and played and sang a number of his songs.  The guy was not a perfect copy, but he was about as close as humanly possible.  The show included the orchestra, the string quartet, and the dancers all performing during the “concert.”  It was spectacular.  We both thought that it ranks among the very best entertainment that we have seen on any cruise ship (and we have seen a lot).  We have seen the real Elton in Las Vegas about nine years ago and this guy was an amazing imitation.  

After the show, we went and had a drink, discussed the show, and then hit the sack.

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