Saturday, July 18, 2009

Day 42, Puerto Rico

Next port of call....San Juan.....
We are going to take a walking tour of Puerto Rico's San Juan National Historic Site which includes colonial-era forts, bastions, powder houses, and three fourths of the old city wall.

The San Juan National Historic Site represents the past so well that the United Nations has designated it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its "outstanding, universal" cultural value.

Wow, the ancient stone walls rise majestically above the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean
, simultaneously towering over the harbor entrance and casting their silhouette into the colonial city of Old San Juan.
These massive masonry defenses, which were begun in the 16th century, today exist as the oldest European­ style fortifications within the territory of the United States.
Now one of the most beautiful spots in Puerto Rico, the battlements illustrate the remarkable work of Spanish military engineers and recall more than 400 years of history in the Americas.

Castillo de San Cristóbal is the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the New World. When it was finished in 1783 it covered about 27 acres of land, basically wrapping the city of San Juan. Entry to the city was sealed by San Cristóbal's double gates. After close to one hundred years of relative peace in the area, part of the fortification (about a third) was demolished in 1897 to help ease the flow of traffic in and out of the walled city.

Castillo de San Cristobal was considered the Gibraltar of the West Indies and is one of the largest defences ever built in the Americas.

A labyrinth of tunnels crisscross deep underground where dungeons are located. We took a guided tour through the tunnels and and actually saw where the first shots of the Spanish-American war were fired.
Amit points to the Ordóñez, no, Amit, you cannot have that canon!......

Nopi wants to know about the flags overhead....Well, those 3 flags that fly over Castillo San Cristóbal are the United States flag, the Puerto Rican flag and the old Spanish Military flag known as the Cross of Burgundy.

Most of San Juan's fortified walls have guerites (sentry boxes) at various points. One of the guerites at Fort San Cristóbal is called "The Devil's Guerite" ("La Garita del Diablo"). This particular guerite is one of the oldest parts of the fort being built in 1634. Legend says that soldiers disappeared randomly from the guerite. However, it is mostly believed that the only soldier that apparently disappeared did so to escape with his girlfriend.

Let's walk to El Morro,its only about 15 minutes away...
Officially known as Fuerte San Felipe del Morro, it sits atop a high promontory overlooking the entrance to San Juan Bay. It is the result of the efforts of many different Spanish engineers over a period of more than 200 years and is one of the largest forts built by the Spaniards in the Caribbean.

Named in honor of King Philip II of Spain, the fort, also referred to as "El Morro" or "promontory", was designed to guard the entrance to San Juan bay, and defend the city of San Juan from seaborne enemies.

Many complex additional new structures were added to El Morro over the next 400 years. The outer walls are six meters thick. In 1680, Governor Enrique Enríquez de Sotomayor begun the construction of the walls surrounding the city of San Juan, which took 48 years. By the late 18th century, El Morro's walls had grown to be 18 feet (5.5 m) thick.

Today El Morro has six levels that rise from sea level to 145 feet (44 m) high.
Wow, its great to be have been able to walk where so much action took place....we have really enjoyed this shore trip but we must now hurry back to the cruise ship.....

1 comment:

Marti.k said...

I'm happy you decided explore Caribbean by ship - great idea :) Today's stops were awesome, thanks!