Santo Domingo city tour: Day 2

I had a good night’s sleep last night and woke up feeling good…So, I thought I’d better continue the city tour today before New Year’s Eve kicks in. I felt a bit better about “the Zone”. I really think the problem is just the extreme heat and humidity. Everyone is so lethargic and pissed off because it’s so freaking hot. Anyway, I was done with walking around in the midday heat so I got a ride around town with this guy…
He totally looks like a crack dealer (not that I’ve ever actually met one but this is how I imagine they look like) but is actually a very respectable and polite church going family man.

First stop on today’s tour was the Columbus Lighthouse which is actually a lighthouse, mausoleum and museum all rolled into one. It supposedly contains the remains of Christopher Columbus and is built in the shape of a cross to represent the christianisation of America. It’s one of those kind of places for which photos don’t do it justice. From a distance it kind of looks like it might have been designed by a Romanian dictator, but close up, it’s quite an impressive structure.

 Next stop: The Universidad Santo Tomas de Aquino, the first institution of higher education in the new world. It’s now a church, however.

The statue of Fray Anton de Montesinos: A Spanish Dominican friar who was a missionary on the island and preached against the enslavement and harsh treatment of the indigenous people of the island.

And a few other random shots…


Ciudad Colonial Santo Domingo

I went for a stroll around my hood today and took a few snapshots. The Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo is the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in the new world and so is the home of the first cathedral, the first university, the first commercial street and the first viceregal residence in the new world. The heat and the sun were diabolical… And I like travelling in hot places! Even with sunglasses on I was squinting and I only lasted about 90 minutes walking around and then I had to take refuge in the frozen foods section of a supermarket to escape the heat. I didn’t get to see a lot… I’ll give it another crack tomorrow!

Perhaps I’m getting tired and a little jaded at looking at Spanish Colonial architecture but for me, the historical significance of it being the first settlement in the new world is much more exciting than than the visual of it. While some of the buildings are certainly attractive, there’s a weird vibe in the city… I can’t quite put my finger on it, but just feels dodgy, which for me takes away from the overall impact of the city… And it lacks the energy and vibrancy of Havana or even Mexican cities. It’s only my first day here and there are many other parts to the city so I probably shouldn’t be too hasty in my judgements… But I will anyway… Whereas in Mexico, Cuba and Colombia I felt some kind of connection with the people, here I’m getting nothing.  I just feel like everyone wants to rob me.  But I’ve still got eight more days so we’ll see. Maybe it was just the heat of the day giving me “baked brain syndrome”.

Traveling in these parts as a single male traveller, you come across more than your fair share of pimps and prostitutes. Again comparing and contrasting Havana which probably has the highest amount of prostitutes and hustlers as a percentage of the population anywhere in the world… And on top of that, the city is decaying… But the Cubans have a toughness and confidence about them and somehow manage to take the crumbling city and all it’s hustlers and “own it” I’m not suggesting for a minute that any of them enjoy it and wouldn’t trade places for a better life in a heartbeat… Nor would I want to trade places with a Cuban… But from purely a superficial touristic point of view, it doesn’t seem so bad. Walking down Calle El Conde, a pedestrian only street and the main shopping street in the old city, in the middle of the day, it was just full of prostitutes and chintzy souvenir shops… But again just felt dodgy and a little weird.

They say that the world is your mirror and that the measure of mental health is the ability to see good in everything, so I hope I can come around and snap out of my negative first impression of the city.

Anyway here are some of the snaps I took. The first one is my street, Calle Hostos. I’m staying in the green building in the middle apartment.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor, the oldest cathedral in the new world, was begun in 1512 and finished in 1540. Because it was the first, it was built in a Gothic style. That’s not a bad thing but the later cathedrals in other parts of the Americas were built in a Renaissance or Baroque style which for me has more visual impact.

The Alcazar de Colon, the oldest Viceregal residence in the Americas…

Calle El Conde…

 And some other random shots…