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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

The Oldest City

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC | Monday, 4 June 2012 | Views [2350]

It's hot! It's steamy! It's crowded! It's frenetic! Yet, it's also historical! Santo Domingo is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Americas. Founded in 1496 by Columbus' brother, it's got some very old architecture and is home to the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor, the first cathedral in the Americas. Well rested after last night, Jorge and I set out to the Zona Colonial, Santo Domingo's oldest sector. Remains of the original wall still stand on the edges of the zone. First we stopped at the National Palace for a coffee and a few photos. We meet up with a CSer named A Emely. She's Dominican but worked as an au pair in Iceland for more than a year (she was probably the only Dominican there). Last year I had asked her to send me a postcard from here so today when I went to hunt around for one she bought me one, even though she didn't have to. Today was extremely hot and humid, and we sat for an ice cream in front of Alcazar de Colon, which is where Columbus lived during his time here. At first I was a bit skeptical about asking Jorge if we could go to the colonial zone, and I'll tell you why. CSers in more popular tourist regions are often asked by CSers if they want to go to the hot spot. For example, Moscow. A CSer may ask their host if they can take them to Red Square. They agree, and then they realize that every CSer wants to visit Red Square. If I stay with someone and then want to show me around I'd like to see a place they enjoy. Jorge told me Zona Colonial has the best nightlife and the most historic sights and is the most enjoyable part of the city. Part of the original city wall still stands:

The original walled city was very small; tiny compared to the sheer size of Santo Domingo today! Jorge, A Emely, and I strolled in the searing heat past the Alcazar de Colon, the oldest Viceregal residence in the Americas.

Not only is "La Capital" home to the oldest cathedral and Viceregal residence. One block away is the first paved street: Calle las Damas (although I didn't see any gorgeous girls there). Home to many of the New World firsts, the Zona Colonial is special. In Parque Colon, the pigeons were flocking me

As I child I used to chase pigeons, but nowadays they come flocking to me! Where's the hand sanitizer when I need it? Many places on my travels I've encountered flocks of "rats with wings." Does Trafalgar Square ring a bell? Whilst abundant with historic buildings, one thing that's severely lacking though are the bright colours you'd find in Antigua, Granada, Suchitoto, and other colonial cities. Another thing that hampers the visuality of the Zona Colonial are the electrical wires strung absolutely everyone, however Jorge told me there's a plan in place to bury the wires although it'll take up to five years. With the searing heat and soaking humidity, I can guess after day one that Santo Domingo isn't the best city for walking, although a cold Presidente (the national beer) seems to flow like German lager on any given day. After saying goodbye to A Emely, we each got a cold beer and then strolled more through nearly 500 years of history. As we walked through Puerta del Conde, we were in Parque Independencia. This is where, needless to say, the Dominican Republic declared its independence from Haiti in 1844 and the first Dominican flag was raised. The flag is a beautiful one! It's red, white, and blue, with red and blue corners, a white cross, and a bible in the centre. It's the world's only flag with the bible in it. Jorge had to go to work, and I offered to go back to the house via public car. He gave me instructions and seemed a little worried but I knew I'd be fine. Once I left the Zona Colonial, the crowded, sprawling, traffic-choked Santo Domingo quickly emerged. In a public car, I noticed stations for the Santo Domingo Metro, which is the only Metro in the Caribbean. Back in Arroyo Hondo (the district in which Jorge lives) I realize there's many personalities to America's oldest European-founded city. On one hand it's historical and colourful, and on the other it's dirty and crowded! There's historical architecture rivaling that of Havana and traffic jams rivaling that of LA. However I must not get too carried away with myself, as I'll be calling "La Capital" home for the next few days! Back at Jorge's house I meet his mother, Mildred. She's really very beautiful! That evening I share a nice dinner with Jorge and family whilst we talk travel and life. Later on I taught Jorge how to make a mojito. Given the proximity to Cuba, mojitos are very popular here. Dominican rum is obviously highly potent, so I was ready for a deep slumber after a couple of mojitos. Either way, the oldest city will be a day older tomorrow!

Tags: cities


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