Panama Viejo

Friday January 19, 2007
Yesterday we took off early to fix the engine water pump that needed new seals and bearings.  It had started leaking just before we left Ecuador and we swapped it out, but now needed to get it repaired.  We headed out to the industrial area near Ciudad Viejo to a recommended shop.  Neither the recommended shop, nor its neighbor, could do the job – so since we were near the ruins of the old city we decided to explore. 

We walked the short distance along Calle Cincuentenerio and were soon among the ruins.  The first ruin we encountered was the old bridge into the north side of the city – the “Kings Bridge”.  The old city originally was on a small dry area surrounded by swamps, mangroves and at low-tide, by large mudflats.  The Pirate Henry Morgan sacked the city in 1671 and it was burned to the ground.  After that the city was moved to what is now called Casco Viejo.  There were few stone structures in the old city.  Only the churches, convents and homes of the very wealthy were constructed of stone and the remains of these are what is visible today.  The area has recently been cleared of the jungle that had protected the area for many centuries.  Although there had been some taking of building materials for construction of the “new” city (Casco Viejo) and later on for nearby small buildings in the modern city, there is still enough rock piles and walls near the main plaza to get an idea of what the city was like.  It is now being restored and has a park-like atmosphere with the many mowed lawns between and within the building remains. 

There is a new museum built just before the bridge to the west side of the site, opposite from where we entered.  The bridge there was the beginning of the King’s Highway connecting Panama City with Nombre de Dios on the Caribbean coast.  In the colonial days, gold from Peru arrived in Panama City and traveled the King’s Highway to Nombre de Dios, where it was loaded on ships for the journey to Spain.  The Museum is small but contains archeological pieces from both Ciudad Viejo and the earlier Indian inhabitants of the area.  It also contains the stories and information collected in the recent archeological research of the area.  Some of the signs are even in English.

We left the area and ate a late lunch at one of the big shopping malls on that side of the city before returning to Lanikai.

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The ruins are now in a park and are being protected.

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The tower of the old cathedral has been stabilized and has new stairs inside so visitors can climb to the top.

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Ruins with some tall buildings of the modern city in the background.