Reintern, refurbish, or rebuild.

Did we mention it was buried under the cathedral?

1st April 2021

Cala Salitrona, Spain – Cartagena, Spain

Reintern, refurbish, or rebuild? These are the questions that town planners in Cartagena have to wrestle with every day. Whenever anyone puts a shovel in the ground, they seem to find ancient ruins from fallen empires and the poor town planners need to work out what to do. As we have sheltered from the famous Mediterranean Levante wind, we have felt their pain.

Before we could even start to ponder the town planers dilemma, we had to dock Ruffian and this was going to be a new experience. Satori had just beaten us to the last alongside berth and we were left with having to ‘med moor’ Ruffian.

For us ‘med mooring’ seemed to have trauma written all over it. The basic premise with med mooring is that you reverse into a space that doesn’t exist, squeezing your way in by pushing all the other boats together a little bit. This would be ideal on a charter boat where you walk away from scratches, damage and chaos, but not when you’re sailing your home, your home doesn’t go backwards and a big dinghy pokes out either side of the stern.

As we pondered our situation, we decided that unconventionally, going in pointy end first was literally ‘the way forward’. Our bow sliced in and with the addition of a Heath Robinson ladder sketchily tied to the anchor and bending under our feet we could finally get ashore and tie Ruffian up (for all the use the ropes were, we were firmly jammed in).

As the wind howled, we were about to walk right into the town planner’s reality. Whilst we were given a nearly free tour of the town hall it oozed history and age, but learnt that it only been built at the turn of the century. Then turning around the corner we happened across an ancient amphitheatre which had been rediscovered only in 1980 and had been under renovation ever since. Further up the hill Roman ruins, open to the corrosive elements of the sky and the destructive impact of feet were left to their own devices. Finally wandering the streets ancient ruins poked up the most unexpected locations from glass floors in shops to under café tables and verandas. History was everywhere and those poor town planners had to made decisions about them all.

This historic significance of this place was most aptly described to us in the Naval and Underwater Archaeology museums. We perused the exhibits but what was most jarring was the different version of history to that which we’d been taught. In school, our history was all about the all-conquering British Navy; leading the world, destroying everything in its path and liberating all those they met to the great British way of life. We’d been taught about the bumbling French and Spanish, their evil thieving ways, their shocking seamanship and the spread of the Spanish inquisition.

These museums gave the other side of the story. They talked of the cowardly English, breaking peace treaties and stealing bullion (that the Spanish had ‘rescued’ from the Inca and Aztec’s). They spoke of the great naval battles where the English hesitated, quavered and failed, leaving the all-conquering Spanish victorious. We are sure the truth sits somewhere between the two and it showed starkly that we all tell our own version of history that makes us feel comfortable in the present.

Cartagena is also famous for its forts and like all the best forts they sit on the tops of hills. These forts and therefore the hills were calling. We set off heading for the biggest of the hill/fort combo and the higher we got the bigger the views became and the stronger the wind. Rounding the final turn, we thought that the fort would be very much out of bounds, luckily however we found the gates hanging from their hinges, masonry falling from ceilings and no entry signs that had faded to nothing. Clearly, we were almost being invited in.

Leaving the fort behind and setting out across the hills the wind was threatening to blow us over the edge. This wind proved a good distraction from the unfolding views. The views of pretty bays and the historic city had been replaced by those you’d expect of a usual ‘Iain hike’, far below us we had the joys of oil refineries, gas silos, and a huge shining cemetery. These views finally gave way to wasteland, slumland and a busy 4 lane motorway. This had turned into a classic ‘Iain hike’.

In between all the culture and exercise, we’d also fully entered the 21st century by having ‘internet friends’ and Fiona had arranged to meet them. Iain was wrong in thinking that we’d need carnations in our lapels to identify each other, nothing so extraordinary was required as cruisers standout a mile with their folding bikes, sailing clothes and deep, deep tans.

As we delved into conversation, we were amazed that our paths had never crossed before. We’d cruised the same grounds, participated in the same rallies, had common friends and were even both members of the OCC.  This showed that the world is huge, but small at the same time and now we just need to convince Mojito to attach to Ruffian with some bungie so we can cruise together.

Our days in Cartagena were drawing to a close, but we were still drawn to the lure of free museums. We struck out to the museum of Modern Art (which remarkably was Iain’s idea and Fiona was unconvinced) on arriving at the allotted street we walked through an open door. As we wandered in and disinfected our hands, we didn’t see any modern art, just a stunning entrance way, double art deco stairway and classical family rooms with ceilings covered in stunning frescos and walls covered in old portraits. This didn’t feel like the modern art museum, more like a home. A lady approached and thankfully she wasn’t the owner, she was the curator of yet another free museum that we’d just happened across. Phew.

Preparing to leave Cartagena we reflected once again on the job that the poor town planners have in this remarkable city.  As new buildings are built is it best to reinter anything they find? As new ruins are found should they refurbish them? And when ruins turn into attractions what level of refurbishment is right?#

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

1 thought on “Reintern, refurbish, or rebuild.

  1. Sounds fantastic. We had the joy of the Mayors daughters wedding – all night – practically in the marina! We would love to go back! Better get practicing your Med mooring!!

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