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Casco Viejo, A Place of Extremes

More than the fascination provoked by its walls, balconies, and coastline, Casco Viejo shows her visitors the distant poles of the multicultural city of Panama. There is no exception. Casco has it all.

From the maximum security provided by the presidential police (officers in the dark grey uniforms with red berets), to the dangers of the neighboring districts of Chorillo and Santa Ana, the Casco is north and south in itself, where people breath a different breeze from that of the noisy financial center. The Casco doesn’t leave anyone out: foreign investors, descendants of the original residents, intruders, diplomats, artists, and of course backpackers.

Only Luna’s Castle is a microcosm of this mosaic; through the breakfast table window one can observe two contrasting scenes, to the left there is the luxurious hotel Las clemintinas and in the other corner our neighbors: a run down building habitated by 3 generations of Panamanians who love salsa music, el vallenato, birthday parties, and are always ready to scream “Goooooooooooooooooooool” if the particular Panamanian or favorite Spanish league football team allows the opportunity. Meanwhile just in front of the hostel the Panamanian and united kingdom flags wave above the luxurious Meredith Mansion, which used to be a cemetery and catholic convent.

And ao this general pattern of social classes repeats itself street by street in the Casco. All the contrasting human ecosystems living together in a harmony that took quite some time to achieve, and now is the overall attraction of the area.

In the same manner, the neighborhood cuisine is a loyal representative of those who inhabit it. The options are just as varied in price, and they don’t disappoint regardless of how expensive. For example, the abundant Avenida central, just 2 blocks from the hostel we find this place where the porsions of food are massive for around $1.75. On the other hand, just a jog across the street, in Puerta de Tierra a dinner can cost $175 if you get a bit carried away with the wine.

Ceviche for $10.00 in plaza Bolivar, ceviche for a dollar at the fish market.

The Casco is everything bundled into one.

-Por Horhei

Monday, September 19th, 2011 Uncategorized