Cartagena, Carthage, Romans and Punic Wars

Trip Start Nov 07, 2013
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Trip End Dec 11, 2013


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Flag of Spain  , Murcia,
Thursday, November 21, 2013

We said good bye to Barcelona and set sail on the second leg of our journey to Rio. !00 people stayed on board from the Rome to Barcelona segment so we have 600 new people to get to know.  They are a very gregarious group and include several people that Andrea has been corresponding with over the past months on cruise critic.  In fact, we had two cruise critic get togethers one on Wednesday afternoon and one on Thursday morning.  They include people from Canada, the US and Scotland.  Nice to put faces to names.  At dinner on Wednesday night we shared a table with a couple from Stuttgart – they have a family business making model boat and airplane kits.  The husband claimed not to speak English but would always supply a missing English work for his wife when she struggled.  The other people at our table were a woman and her 97 year old father.  He loves to cruise  We were really impressed by him.  He was a lawyer but apparently abandoned that wonderful career for computers. His daughter also was a software developer.  Ken had a lot to discuss with them.

The next morning we attended an enrichment lecture on the Lovely Ladies of Broadway.  Ken loves these speakers and this guy is really good.  Later in the cruise we will be hearing about the three tenors and then three sopranos, so Ken will get his opera fix.

We arrived in Cartagena at noon but our tour didn't go out until 2:45 as the Cartagenans hold their siesta sacred.  We met our guide Pedro and off we went to learn about Cartagena. (which means Carthage and yes there is also a Cartagena in Columbia)  This town is on one of the best natural harbors in Europe.  It has long been a strategic naval base going back to the days of the Greeks, Carthagenians and the Romans.  The rumor is that the entire Spanish naval arsenal is held in this town, but that isn't for sure. There is a naval base here.  The main street is made of polished marble and has been pedestrianized.  As we went through the city we viewed a Roman theater which had been discovered in 1988.  It held 6000 people.  Apparently much of the old town is built over Roman then Byzantine, (6th-7th centuries), then Moors (Early 9th Century), who constructed a mosque and then Christians who built a church (13th century).  Each adding a layer to the town.  It took them 15 years to excavate the site.  This city also took a beating during the Spanish Civil War.  It was shelled by Italians and Germans who were assisting General Franco.  Cartagena was the dockyard of the Spanish resistance.

We then went on to a museum which contained the remains of a wall built during the 3rd century BC, during the Punic Wars.  This is where Andrea really realized the limits of her education.  She had heard of the Punic wars but couldn’t tell you who fought them or why.  She learned that all of we know of the Punic wars is from the writings of a Roman Polibus (sp?).  So we only have the Roman version.  They were in conflict with the Carthagenians,  The walls of Cartagena were built by the Carthagenians following a Greek design.

(Now this is where Andrea really had to figure out who these Carthagenians were.  Ken keeps asking her, like she would know.  Wikipedia reports that Ancient Carthage was in Tunisia, just outside of the city of Tunis.  What was really interesting for her to discover during her in depth Wikipedia research on Carthage, is that we have been hearing about the Phoenicians all throughout this trip and again, Ken keeps asking Andrea where they came from.  She has authoritatively answered "Phoenix" but, believe it or not, she was wrong about this.  They also came from Northern African, in the Tunisian area.  It also turns out that there were 3 Punic wars that the Carthagenians fought against the Greeks and then against the Romans. In the third Punic war, the Romans wiped them out. Aren’t you glad you are reading this blog and getting your history lesson?)

So back to the tour.  These walls were building a Hellenistic style with two parallel walls five meters apart and then walls running vertically between the walls, creating stalls for horses and, upstairs rooms for storing arms etc.  The walls were about 10 meters high.  We saw the remains of the walls in this museum.  They built a building around the walls and it helped you picture how they had originally looked.  Very impressive and interesting.

The other thing we saw in this museum was an 18th century crypt that they discovered while excavating the walls.  The Guild of St Joseph (carpenters) had a crypt for the guild members,.  It looked much older than 18th century and was pretty spooky,

We then went up a “Panoramic Lift” to the top of a hill in the middle of the city to the remains of an old castle.  It was a beautiful view of the entire city and surrounding area.

It was now getting dark so back to the ship we went.  We missed Trivia and have no idea if there was any bingo.  We took our usual tour of the Observation lounge for a cocktail and then to dinner. We ate dinner with an interesting couple from New York, whom we met at the cruise critic meet and greet.
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