5 Things to Do in Cartagena, Colombia

On our whirlwind trip to Colombia, we had the chance to visit Cartagena, but we didn’t have much time to see and do everything the city has to offer. However, here are the top things we recommend from our time there!

Visit the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas – Construction on this Spanish fortress began in 1657 and proved to be impregnable. Though there were many attempts to take the fortress, the fortress’s complex tunnel system helped to ensure the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas was never taken. The tunnels were designed to connect key strategic points of the fortress and reverberate noise long distances both for communication and to hear the enemy coming from far away. You can climb to the top of the fortress and still walk through some of these tunnels today!

 

Walk the Walled City– Visit the heart of Old Cartagena by exploring the Old Town surrounded by the walls. Meandering through the streets you’ll find the 16th century catholic church named Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, a street lined with peddlers of Colombian sweets known as Portal de los dulces and el Torre del Reloj or the clock tower.

 

Visit Las Bovedas or “The Vaults”– Built in the late 1700s, “The Vaults” served as armaments storage for the walled city and then later as a prison. Currently, the area is a thriving artisans’ center and a perfect place to look for handcrafted souvenirs!

 

Explore Getsemani – Getsemani is another neighborhood near Old Town. We wandered the quaint winding streets saying hello to everyone we passed. The neighborhood was full of friendly people and lots of very impressive street art!

 

Visit the beach– While we aren’t typically beach goers, there was no way we could visit the coastal city without visiting the beach. The area we visited was very crowded with people as it was a Colombian holiday weekend. Also beware when visiting a public beach… according to our tour guide, women wander the beach offering to give massages (we were approached within 5 minutes), if you do not want a massage, do not accept a free sample. Supposedly the free sample lasts for maybe 20 seconds and then with the help of a large man they make sure you pay for the rest.

 

While this is no way all the things to do in Cartagena, Colombia, these were the highlights of our short trip there. During our time in Colombia we also visited Colombia’s capital city, Bogota. Check out the 9 things we recommend doing there!

Celebrating 100 Blog Posts!

As we reach the beginning of February the novelty of the new year starts to wear off, but here at It’s a Schmahl World, we are celebrating a blogging milestone! Today we are posting our 100th post! When we started this blog to write about our travels, we didn’t expect to be where we are today. In this post, we’ll look back at how our lives have changed from being two young professionals working full time to a Peace Corps volunteer and an engineering graduate student.

 

 

Back to where it all began, our first post It’s a Schmahl World after all… published in February of 2016. Both Kim and I were working full time saving up all our paid time off to travel. We went on trips with our family to Washington DC for the 4th of July and a quick trip to Colombia for our first time in South America! Kim was able to go to Europe with her college roommates, 5 years after graduation! Highlights of their two week trip were hiking through Plitvice Park in Croatia, visiting the baths and ruin bars in Budapest, exploring palaces and the opera house in Vienna, and wandering the narrow streets and canals of Venice.

 

 

Occasionally I was lucky enough to travel for work, one time all the way across the globe to Japan for two weeks. For my first time in Asia, I got the chance to attend a festival the small city of Utsunomiya, wander the temples of Nikko and explore parts of Tokyo for a day. I even reached waaayyyy out of my comfort zone to experience a Japanese onsen (or a naked bath house).

 

 

September of 2016 came with an exciting road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road for Nelson and I. We snorkeled between the tectonic plates, hiked on a glacier, saw some amazing waterfalls and last but not least we got engaged! While planning is still in the works over a year later, Nelson and I are finally going to tie the knot in July of 2018.

 

 

Kim was the next to have a major life change when she decided to join the American Peace Corps to teach high school math in Liberia. Before she left we went on one last family vacation to Florida. We made the most of our limited time together exploring Key West, Disney World and the Ringling Museum.

 

 

In June of 2017, Kim packed her bags and began the long journey to Liberia. After a bit of training in Washington DC, they received 3 months of training in the of Kakata, just an hour outside of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. Currently she has been teaching at her site for the last 5 months and learning the ins and outs of her community. See all of her updates about living in Liberia here!

 

 

To wrap up our life changes through 100 posts we’ll look at a recent big change in my life. I left my full time job and my first order of business was to go on an amazing week long 10 year friendaversary trip to Tuscany, Italy with two friends from Girl Scouts. I traveled solo for the first time to Copenhagen, Denmark and now after my sabbatical I have started going to school full time to get my masters degree in Mechanical Engineering!

 

 

When we began this blog, we never would have guessed where we’d be now, after 100 posts… who knows where we will be after the next 100 posts, but we are excited to continue the journey!

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Trying our Hand at Tejo, Colombia’s National Sport

On our first morning in Colombia, we did a walking tour of Bogota’s Candelaria district seeing the Plaza de Bolivar, the Botero Museum and the Gold Museum. After a busy morning exploring the streets of Bogota, we took a much-needed break at a local bar. We relaxed, drank some local beer and played a traditional Colombian sport called Tejo.

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Tejo reminded us of cornhole, a game we play at home in the in the midwest except with more of a bang! The object of the game is to throw a 1.5lb metal weight at a muddy inclined target with a metal ring in the center. Players take turns trying to hit the center of the target. What makes the game exciting is the small packets of gunpowder lining the metal ring. The gunpowder ignites on impact creating a loud explosion!

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Scoring is easy. The person who’s disc lands closest to the center gets one point, if you explode gunpowder you get 3 points and if your disc lands within the gunpowder ring you get 6 points. If you miraculously do all three of the above, you get 9 points!

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The game dates back over 450 years ago, when indigenous warriors would compete to marry a woman from the opposing tribe! We didn’t have quite the same stakes on our game, simply bragging rights. By the time we finished playing our hands were covered in mud. The game was fun, full of excitement and gave us a taste of traditional Colombia.

9 Things to Do in Bogota, Colombia!

On our recent trip to Colombia, we spent a day and a half in the country’s capital, Bogota! Here are our top 9 things to do while you’re there…

  1. Explore La Candelaria, Bogota’s old city! One of the highlights in this historic neighborhood is Plaza de Bolivar, the main square of the city where you’ll see Colombia’s parliament building, the palace of justice and the cathedral. Other sites to look for are the presidential palace and the El Carmen church that sticks out in the neighborhood with its Gothic style among all of the colonial buildings.

  1. Visit the Botero Museum! Fernando Botero is a Colombian artist who’s known for playing with volume in his paintings and sculptures with exaggerated proportions in his subjects. Keep an eye out for his version of the Mona Lisa!

  1. Learn about Colombia’s pre-Hispanic cultures at the Gold Museum. Exhibits at the gold museum tell the history of the people living in what is now Colombia prior to the Spanish conquest. You can see all kinds of artifacts on display including all kinds of gold pieces, from jewelry to armor to artifacts hinting towards the existence of El Dorado, the City of Gold!

  1. Take the teleferico up Monserrate mountain! To get to the top of Bogota’s iconic mountain, we took the teleferico (cable car) but you can also take the train or walk if you’re feeling adventurous. At the top, there is a church that was built in the 17th century, a couple of restaurants and a market where you can buy souvenirs. And of course, being more than 10,000 feet above sea level, you can see some incredible views of the sprawling city of Bogota!

  1. Try your hand at Tejo, the national sport of Colombia! The game reminded us of cornhole, but instead of throwing bean bags at a board, you throw heavy metal disks at a mud target. And to add some excitement, there are little triangles of gun powder that explode when you hit them!

  1. Stumble upon some awesome street art! As a way of discouraging vandalism graffiti, the city promotes graffiti recognizing that it can be a form of artistic expression. It seemed like we found more everywhere we turned!

  1. Check out a local flower market. Flowers are one of Colombia’s main exports, we accidentally found ourselves in the middle of a flower market full of beautiful flowers during a walk near our hotel!

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  1. Try some local foods – or at least a coffee! While we were in Bogota, we tried some delicious foods. Some we’d recommend trying are Ajiaco, a Colombian chicken soup; tamales and empanadas; and try some juices or fruits! And if you’re a coffee connoisseur, be sure to try some of Colombia’s famous coffee as well!

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  1. Spend an evening in Zona Rosa! By day, Zona Rosa is a great place to do some shopping at many high-end stores and a large shopping mall. Then it turns into a lively area full of restaurants and bars by night!

 And those are our top 9 things to do in Colombia’s capital city! What would you add to our list?

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Sneak Peek: Photos from Colombia!

We started 2017 with our first trip to South America, spending 4 days in Colombia! We’re working on more posts from the trip, but couldn’t wait to share some of our pictures…

We began in Bogota:

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Plaza de Bolivar, the main square of Bogota

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Exploring La Candelaria neighborhood of Bogota

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Visited the Botero Museum, Botero who is known for playing with volume did his own version of the Mona Lisa

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Artifacts from pre-Colombian indigenous cultures at the Gold Museum in Bogota

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Took the telerico up to the top of Monserrate to see incredible views of Bogota!

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Stopped for a snack at Monserrate – Coca tea and giant roasted ants (yes that’s one in Kathryn’s hand!)

After a day and half in Bogota, we flew to Cartagena on the coast of Colombia!

While in Cartagena we took a day trip to Palenque, the first free town in America. It is a UNESCO Heritage Site, the village was founded by escaped slaves in the 17th century and their African heritage is still important to the community today.

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Statue in the main square of Palenque

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Houses in Palenque

And of course, we got to see a lot of Cartagena itself while we were there!

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We climbed to the top of San Felipe fortress that once defended Cartagena from Pirates!

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At the top of San Felipe fortress

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Walked through the Old City of Cartagena

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Colorful houses in Cartagena’s Getsemani neighborhood

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There’s street art all over Cartagena’s Getsemani neighborhood!

And that’s our sneak peek! Stay tuned for more from our trip….