Cartagena

Written by Pieter Jan on Nov 27, 2019 — 2 min read

At: Cartagena, Spain

Hasdrubal the Fair took one look at the best natural harbor in the Western Mediterranean and said: “Alright, we'll conquer the rest from here. Build me a new town.”

Thus was Cartagena (“New Town”) was founded. The Phoenicians apparently named all their new cities New Town, even their original city, Carthago, means “New Town”. The Romans later sensibly renamed Cartagena into Nova Carthago (“New New Town”), to distinguish the two.

But I digress. It still has the best natural harbor in all of the Western Mediterranean and that's why we like it here. The marina is quite cheap to boot — by Spanish standards anyway.

We're spending a few days in Cartagena. Our progress is being thwarted by a constant west wind while we want to go west. We're trying to choose interesting cities to wait it out. And Cartagena is unexpectedly interesting. It has a rich and varied past and still is a wealthy city. They're a major cruise ship destination now, which means extra money flowing in and being spent on city beautification.

Sidewalks are clean, the harbor promenade is new, museums very cheap to free (and very good) and they have more bronze statues than you can shake a stick at.

So many bronze statues in fact, that they don't all fit on land. Some had to be thrown into the sea.

What I also like about Cartagena is how proud it is of its great past. All buildings, especially the early 1900's Art Nouveau ones, are meticulously maintained and look as if they have only been built yesterday. The most crappy bars and 1 euro stores have glass floors displaying the ruins of Roman era Cartagena. That cruise ship money is obviously being well spent.

Gran Hotel illustrates a grand past
Gran Hotel illustrates a grand past
Excavations on display in a 1 euro store
Excavations on display in a 1 euro store
The 1907 Palacio Consistorial
The 1907 Palacio Consistorial

The city has a cool car-free center, where you can turn your kids loose in the street while you enjoy a coffee after your tapas.

Cartagena is also the warmest city in Europe. Average high temperatures in November are around 23 degrees centigrade. While this is chilly for the locals — they're donning fur-lined coats and gloves — we're happily prancing around in t-shirts. Remind me to go on a world tour if we're still here next month.