Something about the way my tongue has to roll around in a weird way (to pronounce it right) makes me love saying ‘Santo Domingo!’ or maybe it’s just that I feel like I’m very European when I say it, yet I know that I just sound like an Aussie saying a spanish word!
Either way, one of the main things I wanted to see this cruising season was the largest and oldest city in the Americas, and here we are!
Arriving in this city of 3.5 million people, one of the most striking things is the architecture, or rather, the diversity of it. It ranges from beautifully restored old buildings to utterly run down shacks to city office buildings all in a relatively small area.
We arrived at our apartment which was midway between the Zona Colonial old town and the modern part of the city to find every window was wrapped in floor to ceiling metal bars! To get there we drove through street after street of dilapidated and ‘unsafe’ looking houses then suddenly we were driving by mansions that were protected by towering high security walls and then before we knew it we were back into another poor area.
Between the rich and the poor, the rest of the buildings clearly try to deter what must be a very high crime rate by surrounding all their premises, balconies and windows with solid metal bars and electrified fencing.
It’s a bit freaky at first but we felt pretty safe in the apartment we rented for a few days, probably due to the security gates, the security fencing on all windows, the security at reception and the thickness of our front door!!
The old Zona Colonial has a look unto itself. Its a walled, cobblestoned old part of the city with buildings dating back to 1500’s. I enjoyed being immersed in its sights, smells and vibrancy which was like being swept back into living in Europe. You know when you walk down those old streets in parts of Europe where there’s a charmingly revived old building standing right next to a decrepit, uncared for ruin and together they create such an inspiring view? It’s really beautiful.
Some big old impressive buildings that apparently were once a military school, then a primary school and then finally turned into a museum; if only those walls could talk!
I also got my fix on old doors. Yeah I’m one of those people who love doors and windows and the personality they convey. I always wonder how many different characters must have walked through those doors over time and how differently each of them might have spent their lives there.
We’ve always lived in countries where the government stipulates your car needs to be of a minimum safety level and I now realise we took that for granted. Well, in the DR it’s not so! There are some really amazing cars here. I mean, really amazing.
Don’t think Lambo, Ferrari or Jaguar, instead, think bits of old rusted metal accompanied by pieces of old, ripped vinyl all held together with some kinda magic dust! I mean, how do they still even run when some major parts of them are missing?
Legal? clearly yes, but safe? clearly no! We see them everywhere in all states of run down and it’s just another strangely endearing thing about this crazy country.
Talking of dilapidated, Im not sure how safe I’d feel living with the state of their power lines. It’s so incredibly archaic and chaotic but it’s clearly the norm here. Bad electricians or genius ones? Take a look for yourself!
The Parque Nacional Los Tres Ojos (3 Eyes National Park) was on our radar of places to see. We knew it might be a tourist trap so we arrived early. That paid off because I know we would have viewed it differently if it was full of people, you just dont get to feel that natural beauty in the same way. Its 3 pools of water (eyes), each having a different mineral composition are filled with stalactites and stalagmites staggered all over it and the bright blue that illuminates them is quite a sight and it certainly didn’t feel like we were on the edge of a capital city!
We’ve been in the DR for a while now and we’re loving this country and its people. We have come across some really friendly and genuine people here.
We’ve also seen more poverty here than most of the places we’ve visited over the past 5 years but we have to say that people of this country are by far the most genuinely friendly and helpful.
Walking through the plazas of Santo Domingo, taking in both the run down and creepy as well as the beautifully ornate buildings and being surrounded by the spanish language again made me feel like we were back in Europe , and I love that feeling!