Getsemaní, a picturesque and lively neighborhood in Cartagena de Indias
The walking tour through the streets and squares of Getsemaní in Cartagena de Indias, is one of the experiences I have enjoyed the most in my life as a tourist around the world. To begin with, I have to say that I loved the daily life of its inhabitants. The corners full of people, the neighbors chatting at the doors, and one or another “Vallenato” song, which can be heard almost in every house. The kindness, warmth and solidarity, make presence in every corner of this neighborhood. Without any doubt, what draws more attention, and many foreigners agree, is the “feast” of colorful facades – some of them hight and some of them low – with yellow, orange, green, blue, and red tones, as if they were taken out of a painting of one of the great masters. I was amazed with the harmony, beauty and quietness of the landscape. By the way, I would dare to say that all the houses have names. Perhaps they use the name of the most beloved person in the family, such as Lola, Marlin, María, among others. Some other places still keep the sign of the business that used to work in there, such as the factory of hair brushes, “Asear”, located in “Plaza del Pozo”, and renowned pharmacies in “Calle de la Media Luna”.The courtyards of the houses spacious and full of plants and flowers. The freshness, the presence of arches, and the height of the walls, are all characteristic features of these houses, that, although some of them have been restored, still maintain the colonial essence.
Cozy boutique hotels, hostels and family houses. Picturesque bars, cafes, nightclubs, pizzerias, restaurants, bakeries, cabinetmakers, dressmakers, grocery stores, and the endless list of street characters that wander the old streets, make of this neighborhood the favorite for many tourists. But not only backpackers, as it was thought until recently, but also the locals who admire the joy and life of its streets. Foreigners from all around the world, gather in there without any distinction of classes or economic position.
The Churches of “La Santísima Trinidad”, “San Roque”, and “Tercera Orden”; the “Parque Centenario”, the “Camellón de Los Mártires”, the Julio César Turbay Ayala Convention Center, part of the walled cord, and five unique bastions, are also present in this gorgeous neighborhood. One afternoon was not enough. I miscalculated. The walking tour included several afternoons and nights in the neighborhood, since this sector of Cartagena is impregnated with history and popular traditions, so interesting that make you want to rediscover and relive time after time. I toured Getsemaní in the company of an old local friend. As unusual as it sounds, both, he and I, were amazed by the architecture, the great popular identity, the long musical and festive tradition, the name of the streets, and the narrowness of them, the interior of the houses, the balconies and the large windows, the nights and the romanticism of “Plaza de la Trinidad” and its old hermitage. Just where the church of the “Tercera Orden” is located, in front of the Julio César Turbay Ayala Convention Center, we started our journey. It is not very big, but it is precious. Its altar is striking. Just two steps away, there is a majestic and intact building that still keeps the name of the extinct movie theaters – Teatro Colón and Teatro Cartagena -. Almost reaching the corner, we can find what is known today as the Hotel Monterrey. It was born from an elegant republican building, the work of the French architect Gastón Lelarge, at the end of the 19th century.
“Calle de la Media Luna”
One of the buildings that has the most significance for the locals is the old “Club Cartagena”, located on the “Calle de la Media Luna”. Really beautiful. Its work was not alien to the architecture of the city. Elliptical skylights protrude from its facade and its balconies are crowded in front of immense windows. Pizzerias, hostels, pharmacies, among other business, can be observed on either side of the “Calle de la Media Luna” with “Calle de la Sierpe”, “Calle del Guerrero”, “Calle Espíritu Santo”, and “Calle Pedregal”. The “San Roque” church, famous for the August 16th procession, where children get dressed in the likeness of the saint, is located on the “Calle Espíritu Santo”.
After 8:00 p.m. we arrived at the “Calle del Guerrero”. Right around the corner there is a famous disco-bar that we indisputably visited, and that’s where our tour of the first day ended. We enjoy the party until one in the morning.
A new day to enjoy Getsemaní
The next day, we did not resit the curiosity and we went down the “Calle del Guerrero” until we came across the “Plaza de la Trinidad”, whose church, with and striking yellow on its facade, bears the same name.
In the image and likeness of the first urban formation of the city, this square and the “Iglesia de La Trinidad”, were the foundational axes of the neighborhood, and the perfect meeting point for the neighbors. For its beauty, it is the favorite to held important events, such as the International Music Festival.
The temple, built in the mid-seventeenth century, is a popular replica of the Cathedral Church. In the interior there is a valuable architectural, artistic and artisan wealth. I learned that from this square left the “Ejercito Popular Lanceros de Getsemaní” who battle and had a decisive role in Independence.
In one of the small benches of the square, we remained seated almost two hours, time during which I observed that it is the favorite place for tourists and locals. In there they get together to catch up by chatting on the latest soccer games and baseball positions in the Mayor League, because this sport is the great passion of the people from Cartagena. Before going to “Calle Larga”, we came across the “Plazuelita del Pozo”. It is small, its shape is triangular, it has no more than three benches, there is a well in the center and some works by the Cartagena sculptor Edgardo Carmona, which also offers a permanent exhibition of his most recent work. As a curious fact, I knew that this square was the starting point for the Independence of Cartagena de Indias. In that place, on November the 11th, of the year 1811, 200 years ago, the “Lanceros de Getsemaní”, commanded by Pedro Romero, left with the desire to proclaim definitive freedom.
“Calle Larga” is at the back of “Plazuelita del Pozo”. Currently it is the most commercial street in the neighborhood. There are restaurants, antique stores, bank branches, furniture stores, and residential buildings, among other businesses. This street, like all those in “Getsemaní”, has a historical component. In this street lived Pedro Romero, one of the main characters of the Independence movement of Cartagena. He was a mulatto craftsman, leader of the brown militia that made up the “Lanceros de Getsemaní”. At the end of the street there is the Julio Cesar Turbay Ayala Convention Center, the epicenter of the most important events in the city.
“Calle del Arsenal”
We continue the tour until we find the “Calle del Arsenal” also known as the “Zona Rosa” (nightlife district), popular for being the center of rumba for Cartagena and tourists. It has a privileged view of the internal bay of the city, and, in the background, you can see the imposing “Baluarte del Reducto”, the first fortification work in Getsemaní, built in 1631 as a result of the widening of the city.
After I traveled through the “Getsemaní” neighborhood, I can say that it is a safe place, and it is no longer the only destination for backpackers. It is visited by hundreds of foreigners who seek tranquility and healthy fun. Attracted by the charms of the neighborhood, they place their trust to enjoy the culture and life that surrounds the heart of this gorgeous area of Cartagena.
Inside Getsemaní, there is a new environment that has been created, a product of the efforts of its community and the authorities. Now it has the historical and tourist value it deserves. Its inhabitants are proud of its social and historical wealth.
“De las Chancletas”, “las Sierpe”, “Lomba”, “San Juan”, “del Pozo”, “Angosta”, “Maravillas”, “San Antonio”, “Pedro Romero”, and much more, but the name does not matter. It is better to go in there and immerse yourself in the local culture of historical Cartagena de Indias. In the sights of hotel entrepreneurs
Getsemaní has acquired so much value, that many foreigners and people from the interior of the country have acquired and redesigned properties, giving way to an almost exclusive sector with hostels, residences, boutique hotels and beautiful private residences for the rest and enjoyment of tourists.
Tourist attractions in Getsemaní
“Los Pegasos” dock.
“Camellón de los Mártires”.
Churches: “Tercera Orden”, “San Roque”, and “La Trinidad”.