Next stop after Marjal was Cartagena, about 60 miles south down the coast.
We stayed at Area Autocaravanas Cartagena, a small and friendly site on the outskirts of the city, about 5 miles out from the harbour. 10 euros a night, including electricity and wifi, and dog walking in the adjacent olive grove.
We cycled in on Saturday for a quick look round and lunch on the main plaza by the town hall.
Lunch in Cartagena
We came across a replica of the Nao Victoria, tied up in the harbour. Its namesake set out with 4 other ships in 1519 to circumnavigate the globe, under the command of Captain Ferdinand Magellan. 243 men were in the flotilla. Three years later one ship…the Nao Victoria..and 17 men made it back, after completing the first circumnavigation of the world. Magellan had perished along the way, at the hands of Philippine Islanders.
On Sunday I abandoned Nia and cycled in to Cartagena to see the sights.
Arriving half an hour before opening time I refuelled with cafe con leech y tostada. Actually it was cafe con leche…coffee with milk…but autocorrect seems to prefer coffee with leech. Nice thought.
There is a tourist office by the Punic wall and I picked up a book of tickets for the wall, Roman theatre, naval museum and Castle of the conception for nine euros..not bad for a days entertainment.
The Punic (carthaginian) wall
St Josephs Crypt
Detail from the Crypt
Also on display here is the 13th century crypt of St. Joseph, containing the bones of the brothers of St Joseph…a religious order of that time.
Cartagena was founded by Asdrubal in 229 BC, as a jumping off point into Spain for the powerful Carthaginian empire. Asdrubal was the son-in-law of Hamilcar Barca, (Hannibal’s father), the Carthaginian general after whom Barcelona was named.
The Punic wall is a section of the extensive fortifications which the Carthaginians built around the city; at that time the Carthaginians were the major power in the Mediterranean. However the Roman empire also had ambitions in the region and after three protracted conflicts between them (the Punic wars) the Romans became the local superpower.
Roman and African Amphorae in the museum of the Roman theatre
The massive roman theatre (second largest in Spain after Merida) was apparently a political as well as a cultural institution, being plastered with frescoes, busts and inscriptions of the head honchos of the day. Just so that the plebs didn’t forget who was in charge.
Lift to the Castle of the conception
Next stop the lift up to the hill top Castillo de la Conception, built by King Alfonso the Wise ‘El Sabio’ in the thirteenth century.
Walk up to the Castillo
After the lift, there is a short walk to get to the tower at the top of the fortification.
Looking north from the castle.
Harbour at Cartagena
There are good views over the city from the tower at the top.
There is a large natural harbour here, of great strategic value and much fought over for millennia.
There is a lot of impressive architecture in the old city. This is the town hall, on the harbour front plaza opposite the entrance to the Roman Theatre.
‘Regional Assembly’ building in Gaudiesque Style
On the way to the Naval Museum I came across this band marching and drilling along the seafront. It was an impressive performance, but I wasn’t sure of the significance of the spades, saws, pickaxes that they were toting in addition to the muskets, and musical instruments. Maybe someone out there knows or can ferret out who they were? My Spanish wasn’t up to working it out at the time.
There is an extensive display of model surface ships and submarine stuff in the Naval Museum, which sits close to the town hall looking out to sea over the harbour.
The model is the Santismo Trinidad, for a time the pearl of the Spanish Navy but destined for a sticky end at Trafalgar. I moved on quickly.
The exhibits cover naval history from earliest times to the modern era, including the Spanish civil war….Carthagena was a key strategic harbour and was the last big city to hold out against Franco.
A Sea Sparrow ship to air missile. We shall get a couple fitted to Mavis to help with those awkward moments when the last space on an aire is in contention.
Submarine Silver Service
Incredibly, the earlier Spanish submarines had full sets of ornate silver for dinner…. I can picture depth charges exploding all about whilst the Captain and Officers get stuck in to their five course dinner. ‘Pass the paella, Pablo’
One of the statues on the seafront.
After the naval museum it was a leisurely cycle back to base, via the seafront and then along the track by the city wall.