Panama City –
Waking up, streching, then having a view out of the window: Today there seems to be a biathlon race going on for charity. The street in front of the hotel is fenced off and runners, inline skaters and cyclists share the road. Downstairs in the restaurant hall is a large breakfast buffet – and since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we have a good one .
Then, we decide to visit the ruins of the old city of Panama (Panama Viejo) which are even quite close down the road. At the entrance is a parked chicken bus, which I like to take a photo of – Ena continues to the entrance to get us some tickets. Just as I took my first shot, two policemen on bicycles turn into the street, greet me and ask if I can speak Spanish. The “Un poquito” with a wink doesn’t seem to bother them, since now a storm of words breaks loose by one of them. I didn’t quite get all of it and I guess this guy is way too busy lecturing me that my “por favor… no tan rápido” gets drowned by his words – but from the context I kinda get what he is talking about. They introduced themselves as “policia de turismo” in the flood of words I heard the buzzwords “región peligrosa”, “cámara visible” and “no continuar”.
Of course you shouldn’t carry your valuables wide visible as a traveler, and I usually only take the camera out of the bag when I really want to take pictures… but the area here really didn’t look that dangerous. (Quite some time ago, friends of us were also in Panama and had to travel via Colón, which has quite some bad reputation. Though the city didn’t seem in any ways dangerous, people they met there have them the “Are you insane coming here?” – looks. As they were walking on one of the roads there, packed with all the bags, they even noticed that a police car was slowly following them as some sort of “escort”).
After my explanation that my girlfriend had already gone to buy tickets for the ruins, and I’ll immediately follow her, the two policemen seem really relieved, but still keeping an eye on me not to walk down the street… This sort of thing, I had not expected in Panama.
Panama Viejo is quite worth seeing – not only because of the very detailed infotables on the history of the oldest city of the Spaniards on the Pacific coast, but also by having this extreme contrast to the modern skyline in the background. Apart from Panama Canal, there is the second landmark of the city here: The tower of the Cathedral “Nuestra Señora de la Asunción”. The city was attacked and destroyed by the well-known pirate Henry Morgan and was rebuilt about 15 km further to the west as Casco Viejo. Left at the exit of the area, you can see the bridge which leads into the city via the sea. It is low tide just now and there are swarms of seagulls looking for food – interesting how they have also given thought in providing information about animal life here: Facing the sea, there are lots of infotables about local animals and the way ebb and flood influences their behaviour.
Panama City Airport
We want to spend the rest of the day in the mall near the airport and get some typical Central American food. Since we received the info by our hotel receptionist that there is a shuttle service from there to the airport and you can also store your luggage, this seems like a nice idea to spend the remaining few hours. We pick up the backpacks we had left in our hotel and take a taxi to the Metromall. Unfortunately, there are no lockers to store our luggage… and unfortunately also no shuttles. At one of the entrances we see a golf cart-like vehicle, packed with purchases. You can rent something like that here? Alright. The lady at the Info booth points us to a certain direction and Ena heads off to get one of those while I wait at a Kotowa coffee with our backpacks. My mouth forms a silent “Not for real” as I see her, arriving a few minutes later with a shopping cart she “borrowed” from some supermarket, having a smug grin on her face. We stuff our backpacks into the shopping cart and head to another supermarket. With all the backpacks we aren’t allowed to get in, but the employee at the supermarkets’ luggage storage is quite cool, as it seems we aren’t the first ones that had this idea. He pushes the whole shopping cart completely into his room and we are free to go on a shopping spree. Unfortunately, real Panamanian specialties are hard to find (Well, except rum)… so we fill our shopping cart with all sorts of munchies. Like for example 7 packages of Peanutbutter M&M’s (You cannot get those in Germany!) .
We take a taxi to the airport – we have to be at the one hour earlier as usual at the check in… and there is also a lot more security. Perhaps because of the terrorist attacks in Europe? The flight is really smooth, and the captain seems to be quite relaxed, giving us this statement: “Hey guys, there is a thunderstorm ahead, but as no other aircraft is in front of us we could ask about the situation, we’ll just simply fly through this area, could get a few turbulences”.
Just arrived and parked – aaaand everybody jumps up, looking to get out as fast as possible, almost as if you’d get locked in and have to survive on airplane peanuts if you are not fast enough. Though it seems we have to chew on some peanuts for the time being. Cabin crew: “As you have surely noticed, we have arrived and have reached our parking position. Unfortunately, the groundcrew apparently doesn’t know anything about our arrival, so we can’t get out yet”.