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Showing posts with label Cartagena. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cartagena. Show all posts

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cartagena and Mar Menor

One of the fun aspects to living on the Costa Blanca is that there are several low-cost day bus trips to various sites in the area. We were ready for a day out one Thursday recently, so we signed up to go to Cartagena and Mar Menor. We had been before to Cartagena, an old port city about an hour south of us; but for some reason we had never been to the inland lake, Mar Menor, that stretches near the coast between us and Cartagena.

We hopped on the bus at 9:30. Of course we made a number of stops on the way south to pick up other tourists out for the day, so it was almost 11:00 by the time we rolled into the port area of Cartagena. That didn't matter to us, as we were most interested in the train ride to Mar Menor, and for that, we were told, we did not have to appear again until 2:45. A nice amount of time for strolling through the old part of the city, having a special lunch, and relaxing, we thought.

One of the first things we saw was the huge ceramic plaque pictured above, which depicts the two thousand year history of Cartagena, or Carthage as it was called in the Roman times. In fact, the first date is 227 a.C. (ante Cristo, or before Christ, as we might say). At various times we walked by and around the Roman theater, which is in the process of being restored, but we didn't go in, as we had visited that before. We just looked through a few holes in the walls surrounding the area. It hadn't changed any that we could tell.

We did, however, find a few stores, and since this was the first day of August, the August sales were on. I bought a pair of black leggings, definitely out of season, and I hope I remember them next fall. We also found a delightful corner cafe bar and went inside to take advantage of the light air conditioning. We each chose a tapa, and in addition they brought bread, and we called that and a tinto de verano to drink, lunch. The president of Spain was on television; they were beaming live pictures of his questioning by the Congress in the messy financial scandal that is filling the front pages of the newspapers now. I was reading one of the newspapers that are always hanging around the cafe bars and saw that the black box recovered from the Renfe train that had derailed at high speed a few days earlier showed that the engineer (el maquinista) was talking on the phone immediately before the accident with the interventor. What is an interventor? I wondered, and since my companion didn't know, when we went to the bar to pay the bill, I asked the man behind the bar, "Quien es el interventor?" "Rajoy!" he spat out, obviously more  absorbed by the current political scandal than the train tragedy, and none too pleased with the president, either. I tried to explain that I wasn't talking about politics, but the train derailment, but something got lost in the translation, because he assumed I was asking him who his interventor was. "¡Yo!" I am, he said indignantly. I was unenlightened; we left still mystified.

Testing the water in Mar Menor.
The train trip to Mar Menor was on a local carrier, not on a Renfe train, and we did not go at high speed. Nor did we start on time--we were delayed by at least half an hour. I had brought a paper map of the area with me, so I was able to find our location and the end station on the map and follow along as we stopped at, I think, nine or more isolated stations. We were driving through rural areas, old mining towns--the bus tour operator had told us that this was a tin and silver mining area in former decades. Because of the delay (never explained) we had less time to enjoy the lakeside at the end of the run--only 45 minutes, but we all dutifully trooped out, walked to the only cafe bar in town, and sat with another tinto de verano, watching swimmers in the water and enjoying distant views of buildings on a narrow strip of land that turned upward like Cape Cod in Massachusetts, although this is called La Manga (the sleeve). There were cooling breezes, and it seemed like a perfect, lazy summer day, and I can understand why people go to La Manga. Maybe we will go again some time, but in our car.

The train ride back was made in a half hour after the train finally got there...and then we climbed on our bus and were back in Torrevieja in a little more than a half hour. Of course, there are always a lot of drop-offs after a day out, so we had missed the regular news on TV by the time we got home. I checked my regular dictionary for interventor and found that it can mean auditor, or supervisor. Or ticket collector on a train or metro, as I have found our from other dictionaries since.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Isaac Peral and the First U-boat

Since I know next to nothing about submarines--though I do remember being in one for a few minutes a long time ago--it's not surprising that I had never heard of Isaac Peral. Those who do know something about marine history, and specifically the history of submarines, may be interested to know that Isaac Peral was from Cartagena and the submarine that he built is in the harbor there.

Peral was born in Cartagena in 1851 and in 1884 he started to build what came to be known as Peral's submarine; a prototype was launched in 1888. Wikipedia says that this submarine "pioneered new designs in the hull, control systems and air systems...[and] its ability to fire torpedoes under water while maintaining full propulsive power and control has led some to call it the first U-boat." Though Peral was supported by the monarchy, the minister of the Navy didn't believe in the potential of the U-boat and refused to put it into production. Peral retired from active naval duty in 1891 and died of meningitis in Germany in 1895.

Peral's U-boat was scrapped in 1913 but salvaged and sent to Cartagena. It was pointed out as our bus drove along the harbor, but I didn't spot it among the, well, more attractive vessels along the shore. Maybe another trip.

Cartagena's Roman Theater

Thanks to the expert research and commentary of Jørn Frending, this week I learned a lot about Cartagena's history, and I enjoyed it.

Cartagena--Carthage in English--was founded in 227 BCE and has survived many high and low points in its history. The most impressive site for me was the Roman Theater, built in just four years, from 5 BCE to 1 BCE, a fact that is known with certainty because of a plaque at the west entrance referring to authorities in Cairo. This Roman theater was the westernmost in the Roman Empire and today is the second largest in Spain. Discovered in 1988, it is astoundingly well preserved and restored. Indeed, much restoration of ancient ruins is being undertaken now in Carthage, thanks to a mayor--she has been elected four times now--who understands the value (including tourist value) of restoration.

This theater was meant for the presentation of plays and oratory, as opposed to Roman amphiteaters, which were used by gladiators for their sport. It has numerous steep rows of stone seats, arranged in a semi-circle, surrounded by high stone walls to improve acoustics. A well-developed stage area provided place for entrances and exits on both sides, as well as a backstage where actors could follow the play in preparation for their own parts.

Later we also saw a well-preserved Roman street from the 1st C. CE and another site where archaeological students were hard at work. It takes about an hour to get to Cartagena from Torrevieja, and I look forward to going back and seeing how far they have come.