Today I had the chance to do some interesting travel throughout the Santo Domingo area, and once again I was struck by how large the city is and how diverse the options it offers for tourists. At first, my travels were not necessarily very exciting, as I had a errand to run that required a ride to somewhere just outside a university, but once that errand was done the trip through town became much more interesting.
Along our trip through the Colonial City we saw a medical office that was named after a former dictator who had once lived in that building before it had been donated for other purposes. After that we saw the presidential palace and took some photos of it, but we could not cross over the street because the president was in the palace. We went to the national library, which is under renovation, and saw the security and the police that protected the embassies as well as the wealthy homes and business that were in that same district.
When you cross over the river you enter a different district, and we were informed by our driver/guide that much of the east was filled with housing that was built by a previous dictator of the Dominican Republic who cared deeply about public housing for those residents of the city who were much less well off. There were a lot of such housing to be found in that city and I was struck by the fact that the driver considered such people to be in the middle class despite not having much money–perhaps to have a house is enough to make someone middle class in a world where the lower class might live in improvised housing with no civic services whatsoever.
At any rate, once we had passed out way through this area, we came to a large building that was built in the shape of a cross where there is a lot of religious tourism. The place was filled with remembrances of a previous visit by Pope John Paul II in 1992 for the 500th anniversary of the first voyage of Christopher Columbus. As it happens, the building houses the body of Diego Columbus, the first viceroy of Hispañola with angels overhead, and also has a lot of verses from the Bible, as well as having a dovecote and the popemobile used by Pope John Paul II during his visit. It made for an interesting scene, to be sure.
After that we went to the Cave of the Three Eyes, an underground set of limestone caves where the Tainos made a beautiful home for themselves near some sinkholes. This was my second experience with a cave city, the first being Petra, and it reminded me that is rather hard on my feet and legs to hike up and down rock stairwells to see the homes and other rooms that people have carved into the rocks. There might be a certain romance for cave cities for me, but like the hassles from guides looking to grift, such areas have always been hard on me. At some point that may not be the case, but it definitely is now.
At any rate, after that was done we were all pretty tired so it was time to return to the hotel. We passed by the familiar scenes of hotels and clubs for gay visitors and the viceregal palace and the walls of the colonial city and then it was time to rest at home as we were all pretty tuckered out, but I have to say that it was an enjoyable day all the same.