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A Bite of History on Spain Vacation

(Guest Blog by Ryan King)

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Cartegena Spain’s Roman Theater

Long before Hispania became a Roman province, it was an overseas possession of Carthage. It was rich in silver and Iberian Celt mercenaries. This was where Hannibal prepared for his war on Rome and where the second climatic conflict, The Second Punic War began.

I’ve been interested in history for as long as I can remember. I still recall when I was twelve years old and I somehow ended up with a book called ‘War Through the Ages’ by the historian Lynn Montross. In those pages for the first time, I heard about the titanic wars between Rome and Carthage that lasted over a century. I learned of the brilliant genius, Hannibal, his crossing of the Alps with elephants, and his incredible battlefield victories. I also learned of a civilization that was the mightiest in the Mediterranean for several hundred years but was subsequently wiped from the face of the earth.

This time and this story have fascinated me since then. This was one reason, when I obtained my master’s degree in history, I focused on the Punic Wars period. It is also why I’ve taken every opportunity while living in Europe to visit those relevant historical locations and see them for myself. This was also, at least partially, why my family and I traveled to Spain on vacation.

Elevator to the palace/fortress, Cartegena, Spain

Elevator to the palace/fortress, Cartegena, Spain

The capital of Carthaginian Spain was Cartegena or ‘New Carthage.’ The location of this ancient city was how my wife narrowed down her hunt for a flat to accommodate the six of us. Even after Kristin broke her foot and had to be left behind, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take my fours sons to this place with so much history.

I’ve learned to moderate my expectations when visiting historical sites. It has been over two thousand years after all, yet Cartegena surprised me. First of all, the harbor itself was magnificent and is recognized as the finest natural harbor in the Mediterranean. The Carthaginians were, before everything else, seafaring Phoenicians originally from Tyre who understood trade.

The city boasts a Punic Museum with an original section of the Punic wall that encircled the city as well as a crypt with dozens of sealed remains inside. The large Roman theater is still spectacular, and you don’t want to miss the Roman baths or reconstructed Roman villa. IMG_9943

The highlight for me, however, was the magnificent palace/fortress on the giant hill overlooking the harbor and the city. This magnificent structure has stood through the centuries seeing the occupation of Romans, Celts, Vandals, Byzantines, Moors, and Spaniards, yet it was originally constructed by Hasdrubal the Fair who was Hannibal’s brother-in-law. Hasdrubal was credited with making Cartegena a great city after he assumed command of Spain at the death of his father-in-law, Hannibal’s father, Hamiclar.

The fortress is well situated on a giant sheer rock, and we had to take an elevator ride to the top. As my sons and I walked along the walls it was a surreal moment knowing that Hannibal and Hasdrubal had lived in this place and walked along the same paths several millennium before. The visit was reminiscent to one over a decade ago when my wife and I visited Carthage, Tunisia. I was mesmerized.

IMG_0042How could I not contemplate my writing? How I wanted to revisit the scenes I’ve already written of my historic fictional trilogy about the Punic Wars, the rise and fall of Carthage, and the conflicts  that forced Rome to greatness.

Yet, my sons were tired and hungry and wanted to go back to the pool at our condo. So we said farewell to Cartegena, that ancient city of numerous hills with a superb harbor continuously filled with ships. We went back to the Spanish resort for Spaniards, La Manga, and said farewell to history…at least for now.

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Ryan King is the author of numerous post-apocalyptic books. He writes nonfiction under Charles R. King and enjoys teaching history to his four sons as the family treks about the world. Ryan’s first novel, Glimmer of Hope, is free for a limited time on Amazon.

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Foreign Emergency Room – Spain Edition

img_1727No hablo español, and it turns out my son’s two years of middle school Spanish was not very helpful in a Catalan influenced ER. We soon realized we were on equal footing with the hospital staff since none of them spoke English. What amazes me though is how we all got by with only two real issues to speak of.

The receptionist in the ER wanted the typical information. I’ve had enough experience in emergency rooms to be able to guess the drill. I passed over ID, insurance card, passport, and pretty much anything else I could think of she might want to check.

She asked a long question out of which my son was able to translate one word, “pain.” “Left foot” meant nothing to her, so from my wheel-chair seat I brought my foot up over my head where she could see it through the glass partition. She nodded and wrote notes on the computer.

We frowned over her next question and she started google translate when memory clicked-in. How was I injured? I stood two fingers on the opposite palm and showed my little-hand person falling down, which, by the way, is actually the American Sign Language for “fall.” ASL can be quite helpful, as can vast practice with hand motions in general.

The Spanish hospital in east Cartegena was quite modern. We took a number and the six of us waited for the intake exam while watching a split screen of number calls and what might have been football (i.e. soccer) stats. Our crew tends to spread and took up about half the small waiting area. I think that’s why my number came up before other prior arrivals.

The intake nurse repeated the words that meant nothing to my brain. Pointing at my foot and signing “fall” let him fill in his computer page. His exam consisted of poking the bruise on my foot so I shrieked in pain.”Radiología,” he said. Common Latin roots are helpful in medical situations. Armed with a wristband for my name and number, our family of six was directed to a large waiting area at the front of the hospital where huge glass windows framed the pink, sand, and dusty green of morning sunshine on the mountainous terrain outside. Even at the hospital, Spain’s Alicante region took my breath away.

img_1661Other folks who’d waited longer were helpful when my number came up early with a room designation we could not locate. My eldest son pushed me where directed till an orderly took over and pointed him back. I think he was relieved to be relieved of his translation duties.

Neither this male orderly, who parked me blocking the hall for a while, nor the female orderly, who wove me through narrow passages to radiology and back, spoke any English. They were both chipper about it all, spoke to everyone in passing, and were even calling me by name.

The wider hall outside x-ray was half the size of my living room with eight of us waiting, two in their rolling hospital beds. Tight quarters by any measure, I was again left blocking what might have served as a thoroughfare. One person went in the far x-ray, and remarkably my foot took second place.

The attendant didn’t bother to talk after learning my lack of language skills. Unlike the US custom, she did not offer me a lead bib for protection, although there was one (was that dust?) hanging in the corner. She lowered the x-ray table and pulled out a pocket extension from the side of it whereby the x-ray could be taken with me still seated in the wheelchair. Terrific. I’d never seen the like, although I’ve been privy to three hospitals in two other countries for five x-rays in as many years. (I mentioned I have four sons, right?)

“Kristine-a” the orderly greeted as she wheeled me back to my family in the large picturesque room. Seats were fast filling. In my Dutch E.R. post I mentioned how entire families with grandma and grandpa, both parents and all the siblings were not uncommon in The Netherlands emergency areas. Spain was more like America in that only the one necessary driver appeared to accompany the injured. Our English-speaking, mixed-race family had become an island of word-game playing folk in a for-business space. This was the longest wait of day, and I loved how my husband turned this down-time into fun time for the children who were missing out on pool, beach, and ball play because their mom is a clutz.

Our youngest signing my cast poolside.

Our youngest signing my cast poolside.

The language barrier only became an issue in two areas. First, the casting room staff would not tell me what to do very well and were reluctant to cause me pain by situating my foot properly. This first cast shocked me. The expected cool, wet strips of casting net were placed from top of calf to tippy-toe on layers that quickly turned warm. Soon my lower leg relaxed in its heating-pad encasement. Ahh.

The second language issue was that I was given no after-care instructions, no way to get crutches, nada. We only had a photocopy of the break with the hospital info and “ibenprofeno” near the bottom. My husband wheeled me to the car wondering how we’d get around for the rest of week. Climbing into the car, I struggled to twist and lift the 20 pounds of lead on my calf.

“Maybe we can just get a cane,” I said.

“Maybe,” my husband frowned.

He got one alright. That’s when we discovered the awkward angle of my foot made it impossible to walk on that leg. Soon the plastic deck chair was back under my knee helping me hobble around for the rest of the week. My kids missed some playtime time with Mommy and sand castle building, but mostly I did what was normal. I lounged in the sun listening to the surf, watching my children play, and reading great ebooks.

Padded chair

Padded chair

There was an unexpected blessing as well. Unable to get a chair in the rental car, we still went out for the long-awaited paella I’d promised the boys ever since first raving about it on my writing trips to Majorca. We chose a restaurant next to a large beach/souvenir shop, and what do you think we found? A nicely padded wooden chair sat by the dumpster waiting to provide the assistance I needed. “Thank you, Jesus,” I said. My five guys saw the Punic Wall, Roman Theater, and other incredible sites of the port of Cartegena without me, but I truly believe our sons had great guy-time with dad they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

“Better me than one of the children,” I’ve said repeatedly since breaking my foot. It is so true.

Next up…Doctor Aghast in the Dutch E.R.

Related Posts:

E.R. Weight Limits (Life in Holland)

Holland Expat – Emergency Room Gate Keepers

Spain for Six – History in a Day

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Kristin King is an author and US expat living in The Netherlands. She got her first cast in Spain, her second in the Dutch ER four days later, and her third four days after that. Kristin sincerely hopes she is done with casts and broken bones for good.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Travel, Unexpected Blessings

 

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