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Cartagena is only 18 km away from La Manga and it is a beautiful city. It has 211,000 inhabitants and is the second biggest city in Murcia, Murcia City being the largest. Cartagena was founded in 227 B.C. by the Carthaginian general Asdrubal. The Romans under Cornelio Escipion conquered the city in 209 B.C. during the Second Punic War. It became an important Roman city with the name of Carthago Novo (New Carthage) because of its deep water harbor and the mountains at both ends of the entrance to the harbor that were easily fortified. Later conquerors were the Vandals, the Visigoths, and the Moors in 734 A.D. The Christians conquered it in 1245 A.D. by Alfonso X (Alfonso the Wise) and Cartagena became one of the most important ports of Spain since then.
There is a very large open area by the port with restaurants and an esplanade that is bordered with palm trees. One can see many yachts in the harbor. There is also the first electric submarine, created by the Spaniard Isaac Peral. The submarine was launched in 1888 and is considered the first U-boat.
Beside the port of Cartagena is the monument to the Spanish heroes of Cavite. During the Spanish American War of 1898, many Spanish soldiers died in the Battle of Cavite in the Philippines, fighting against American troops. The artist was the sculptor Julio Gonzalez Pola.
Beside the plaza is the bronze statue of a soldier, sitting down on a bench. Nearby is the bronze statue of a marine standing up. Also nearby are three bronze statues of young women who are in a Holy Week procession. Cartagena has many beautiful statues and the natives like this type of art.
The biggest monument in Cartagena is the Roman Theater. The Roman Theater was built in the 1st century B.C. and could hold 6000 people. It has been very well restored. The entrance to the Roman Theater Museum of Cartagena is located in the Pascual de Riquelme Palace, which was a Baroque looking palace built by the architect Tomas Rico. The famous architect Rafael Moneo built a tunnel underground to connect the palace with the Roman theater, which is more than a block away. When one enters the Roman Theater from the top of the stands, one is highly impressed by the theater, one of the best preserved in Spain. Towering above it are the ruins of the walls of the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Vieja.
The city has some Modernist buildings that are very beautiful. The City Hall of Cartagena is called the Palacio Consistorial and was built in 1907 by the architect Tomas Rico. It is one of the most impressive city halls in Spain. There is a street called the Calle Mayor that is adjacent. The Casa de Cervantes was built by a rich man who made his fortune in mining. The architect was Victor Beltri and the palace was completed in 1900. It features many miradors, which are large enclosed windows that jut out of the facade. The facade is made of white stone. The Casino is a private club and the building dates from the end of the 19th century. One can take a look at the interior lobby, which is marvelous. Also nearby is the Gran Hotel, built by Victor Beltri in 1916.
The Muralla de Carlos III is the old city wall of Cartagena, built in 1781. The city walls are impressive and are very well maintained. Cartagena has been an important military city because of its past, its port being one of the best in Spain, and today the Spanish military forces are still present in the city.
The Church of Santo Domingo has the beautiful Chapel of Our Father Jesus of Nazareth, built in 1642. The church was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War and only this chapel was saved. A modern church occupies the site of the destroyed church. The chapel has a gilded main altar that is very beautiful.