HOT Properties Magazine Archive
Cartagena - Time and Tide
With a colourful history spanning more than 2,500 years, the ancient city and seaport of Cartagena - on Murcia's Costa Calida, the hottest new destination on Spain's Mediterranean coast — combines a fascinating legacy of ancient monuments with all the vibrancy and multi-faceted attractions of a modern, forward-looking metropolis...
Little more than a 3.5 hours' drive from Malaga, the Costa Calída lies north of Almería and south of Alicante, and boasts Europe's largest salt water lagoon - the Mar Menor - together with a plethora of quaint fishing villages, as well as fine sandy beaches and spectacular scenery. The ancient city of Cartagena is surrounded by fertile valleys to the north and east, and high mountains to the south and west. But it is the vast, natural deepwater harbour that was the catalyst attracting the city's founding fathers and the key to its continued development.
The history of this ancient port, then known as Quart Hadast, dates back to 227 BC when it was founded, as its name suggests, by the Carthaginians. Under their rule, Cartagena prospered as one of Spain's major trading ports and was considered one of the wealthiest cities in the ancient world. Such rule, however, was brief, as less than two decades later - after the Second Punic War in 209 BC - the Carthaginians were expelled from Spain. The Romans took over and with the Publio, Cornelio Escipión at the helm, conquered Cartagena.
Throughout the lengthy Roman reign Cartagena thrived, living many historically great moments and gaining significant importance for its enviable location. Germanic Vandals, Visigoths and Byzantines all formed part of Cartagena's history after the fall of the Roman Empire and it wasn't until 734 AD that the city, and other major areas in the province, was finally taken over by the Moors. It was during this period that Cartagena lost much of its power and importance, when Moorish rule founded the new city of Mursiya (today known as Murcia) as the region's capital. In the last major change of hands in 1245, Cartagena and its surrounding territories were taken by the Spanish King Alfonso X, also known as Alfonso the Wise of Castile and Leon.
Murcia remained the provincial capital, but Cartagena — later sacked in 1585 by Sir Francis Drake - never lost its strategic significance as one of Spain's most important naval headquarters, and today is home both to the Spanish Navy's Mediterranean fleet and submarine school.
Nowadays, the port is not only a major centre of trade and commerce, and one of the most visited areas of the city, but this year will be visited by an estimated 30,000 passengers aboard some 40 cruise ships. The huge natural harbour is split into two docks, Escombreras and Cartagena. There is also an attractive yachting marina, which has recently been under major redevelopment in order to cater for increasing demand.
Other places of interest within the city include the Torre Ciega, the Church of Santa Marfa La Vieja, Torres Park and the Castillo de la Concepcion. In a metropolis with more than 2,500 years of history under its belt, and where every corner offers visitors a taste of its magnificent past, no trip to Cartagena would be complete without visiting the remains of the famous Punic Wall. The ancient structure, or what is left of it, marks the foundation of the city by the Carthaginians.
It was Hasdrubal the Fair who, realising the strategic importance of the area, ordered the building of a strong wall and fortifications in 223 BC, making Cartagena virtually impervious to attack. A veritable walk through time, the city also provides examples of grandiose Roman monuments, including the remains of the impressive Roman Amphitheatre. Not visible in its entirety due to the erection of a bullring in 1854, some areas have nonetheless been excavated, making the ancient site one of Cartagena's major tourist attractions.
In a city so inextricably linked to the sea, another of its claims to fame is that of being the birthplace of inventor, Isaac Peral. Although not responsible for the invention per se of the submersible craft, Peral did, however, design the very first combat submarine, built in Cadiz in 1884 and launched in 1888, and its prototype is one of Cartagena's most emblematic landmarks. A monument in honour of Peral has been erected in Plaza Sanchez Domenech.
In addition to the numerous archaeological and historical sites, there are a number of excellent museums dotted about the city, which are also worth a visit, including the National Maritime Archaeology Museum, the Naval Museum and the Military Museum. And a major new initiative is the all-embracing Puerto de Culturas (Port of Cultures) project which, through its various different sites — the Castle of the Concepcion, Punic Walls, Augusteum, Decumano, Casa de Ia Fortuna and Spanish Civil War Shelters - offers a compelling virtual trip back in time to discover for yourself Cartagena's rich and chequered history, complemented by boat trips and a state-of-the-art ride in a futuristic, panoramic lift high above the Mediterranean-lapped city.FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Tourist Information Office: Plaza A. Bastarreche, Cartagena Tel: (+34) 968 506 483 firstname.lastname@example.org www.ayto-cartagena.es
Cartagena Puerto de Culturas: Edificio Refugio — Museo de Ia Guerra Civil, C/ Gispert 10, Cartagena Tel: (+34) 968 500 093 email@example.com www.puertoculturas.com
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