Day 108 – The Cartagena tourist mis-information centre

Tuesday 30th October

The weather is grim. Cold, wet and windy, somewhat reminisce of summers in Buxton, Derbyshire (England). So, Mrs P and I decide to inject a little culture into our Spanish trip and visit Cartagena since climbing is not viewed with much enthusiasm.

The following treatise on the failings of Cartagena is perhaps unfair. It was wet, we were grumpy, short of time and the tourist information was, well, inadequate.

Cartagena should be great as the link (left) outlines it has…

one of the most fascinating histories in all of Spain, being inhabited by a number of great civilizations and cultures. Founded around 220 BC by the Carthaginians, Cartagena was later taken over by the Romans, the Vandals, the Visigoths, the Byzantines, the Moors, and finally the Spanish Christian monarchs.

The vandals incidentally have been back. Both in the form of the bombardments during the civil war and 20th, and now 21st, Century vandals in the form of builders, town planners, developers etc. (collectively I believe, known as ‘a travesty’) and the usual destructive litter, damage, mindless graffiti etc.

The view from the Roman Theatre – Lovely!?

The town is popular. Cruise ships dock here, disgorging inmates, sorry, cattle, no, erm customers (got it!) in their hundreds. With just a few hours parole from these prison hulks the inmates rush to take in the historic town before returning to what I would consider hard jankers. So, in short, the place is heaving with cruise ship tourists.

Spotting this opportunity to entice such hordes the local council has really gone to town with their tourist information office.

The entrance is a poorly signposted side door of the the Palacio Consistorial. Once inside this nondescript door the visitor is not taken into one of the many ornate rooms this French architecture inspired, marble clad building is famous for. Instead a space at the bottom of some stairs has been taped off and a couple of benches and display boards with sad looking leaflets greet the budding tourist. Two keen but ill informed officials are on hand to dispense the same map to all who dared approach.

Our remit was pretty simple. We have one day and are interested in the history of Cartagena. A map is thrust at us. So far, so good. We love a good map. Then a series of circles are drawn around the various historic sites and museums. Particular emphasis is placed on the Roman theatre (our main reason for visiting) and the castle. Great stuff.

So, remind me good Tourist Information person, where is the Roman Theatre? For that, my good lady, is where we shall begin our immersion in your historic past.

A second circle is drawn over the first indicating precisely its location. Great, just a couple of streets away. Thank you.

We found the theatre despite the total lack of signposts anywhere around town (we only found the tourist information with the aid of Google Maps) but were totally unable to discover an entrance. We could see people inside we just couldn’t join them.

We eventually did find the Barrio del Foro Romano/The Roman Forum District. Once again, no signposts to aid the weary traveller. It is really rather excellent when you finally get there. Highly informative videos, plaques giving information in both Spanish & English and all very well presented.

The really rather excellent Roman Forum District museum saves the day
Preserved Roman street circa 1st Century AD
Mock up amphorae
The remains of a 2,000 year old Roman mural.

This is what we came for. Even if it did take an age to find.

I also found the following 20th Century wall paintings not far from the museum.

Very cool modern day murals on very dilapidated building’s

We did finally find the entrance to the Roman Theatre by the way. Just as we were heading back to Gandalf’s parking spot. It is a couple of streets away from the edifice itself, cleverly accessed through a very popular informative museum and a series of tunnels. Perhaps therefore we can forgive our tourist information person. Hmmm. I don’t think so. The location of this hallowed entrance to Cartagena’s most iconic tourist venue is, would you believe, directly opposite the b****y Tourist Information Office!

It was due to close in a hour so we paid our money and quickly ran round.

View of the Roman Theatre which we finally managed to find the entrance to

For your Information and in defence of Cartagena there are multiple good museums available to the discerning tourist but you need more time than we decided to allow. We should have probably visited for 2 days.

ASIDE: I spotted this in the harbour at Cartagena (couldn’t really miss it)…

Super Yacht A‘ dwarfs a cruse ship in Cartagena harbour

It’s called Sailing Yacht A and is owned by a Russian Oligarch. Some facts about it can be found via the following link.

I shall try to be less grumpy tomorrow. All Hallows’ Night.

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