Gethsemani District – Cartagena
Across from the Ciudad Amurallada, on the opposite side of the plaza, lies the other half of the historic district, the neighborhood of Gethsemani. It’s the residential counterpart of the walled city and while you will certainly see colorful colonial buildings and balconies crawling with green leaves, there’s a slightly dirtier, crumbling feel to the area.
It’s an area is a mix of hostels, restaurants, and shops catering to tourists, coming alive particularly in the evening when the streets and bars fill up with revelers, both foreign and local. When the Plaza Reloj empties, the streets of Gethsemani fill up with tourists and Colombians alike. The old church by Plaza Trinidad is engulfed by a crowd that only halfway watches the rabble of young, vagabond circus performers turning tricks while eating and drinking from street stands as they mingle. Into the early morning hours you’ll find things going on here, but during the day it’s a different story.
Strolling past the hostels and further away from the commercial areas, you begin to see a more residential side. There’s people hanging out on the streets doing nothing in particular and if you peak through the windows and doorways you can get a peak into the life of the locals. Gethsemani is the place to go if you want to spy on people. There’s no one around to bother you and all the doors and windows are always open, beckoning for a wind that will never come to cool the day.
The poverty also becomes more apparent and the further you move away from the picture perfect center, the more the buildings crumble, graffiti starts to crop up on the walls, and some of societies failings creep into the picture. Preservation has a price and there’s not enough money to pay for things outside of the main center. Cartagena is much bigger than the tiny historic area that thrives around the tourism…
Even though it’s not as beautiful as the main historic center and the fortress that looks over the water, I like this area better because there’s less people hassling you to buy things and you can capture less manufactured postcard images.
I think the only way to get outside of the walls is to let a native take you further. So far no leads… next time maybe.
And despite my inability to regularly post, I’m still sure I could beat Stephen Colbert at LOTR trivia.