Cartagena 12/09/2013

What a wonderful, interesting, historic town it is! Four years ago we missed it because the new marina was for superyachts and the yacht club allegedly had few spare moorings. This time we were encouraged by the experience of our friends on Nina. The superyacht marina is now welcoming to all, but it is Med style mooring. The yacht club has few spare berths however there is now another marina, Yacht Port Cartagena, which is reasonably priced, has good security and finger pontoons! The washrooms leave a bit to be desired but the new toilet block is nearing completion and looks good. Just outside the gate to the marina is the underwater archaeology museum. We spent a fascinating couple of hours there learning a lot about the maritime history of the area. The highlight of the museum is the replica phoenician ship which was discovered in Mazzaron bay, not far from Cartagena. Many of the interactive displays describe how wrecks are found, surveyed, protected on the seabed and eventually lifted and preserved ashore like the Mary Rose. There is also a large display of the artefacts which have been found in various wrecks from different eras. From the museum we entered the walled area of the town and stumbled upon the Roman theatre, it took a while to discover the entrance a block away. The Roman remains had been buried over time and built upon. The theatre was discovered by accident in 1988 when they were digging foundations for a building on the site of an existing grand house. Excavations were completed in 2003. They have replaced missing stonework in places and rebuilt columns but it doesn't detract from the spectacle, especially when you see ancient carved tops of columns set into the ground after the theatre fell into disuse and became a market place with small shops. From the entrance you follow a passage under a road and under a derelict church which was also built on top of part of the theatre. It is truly amazing. Not far away we found the Roman baths, Atrium building and site of the Forum. The visitor centre has only been open a since 2012, the area having been excavated in 2008-9. There is clearly a lot still to be excavated between these buildings and the Molinete Hill which has been laid out as an archaeological park. Slightly younger than these remains is the Castillo de la Concepcion right at the top of a hill overlooking the harbour, 230 ft high. Somewhat foot weary we were glad to find a lift up to the top, until we saw it! I don't like lifts and John isn't keen on high level walkways. The lift looked like a tower crane with a jib hanging over a void to the lower walls of the castle. Actually I felt fine, possibly because it was described as a panoramic lift with excellent views all around. The walkway to solid land was a little worrying but we made it! The castle was built by the Moors in the 12th and 13th centuries then extended and altered through the centuries until it was abandoned in the 18th century. It was developed as a tourist attraction and opened in 2003. Again, it is an interesting historical display. Lest you think Cartagena is all dusty ruins there are many beautiful Baroque buildings as well as modern ones. The streets are a mixture of ancient narrow passages and broad avenues. It really is an interesting town to visit. Photos will follow once we get a wi-fi connection.

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