After a fortifying (!) lunch at Café Puerto Rico, we hiked up the hill toward the castle. San Cristobal is one of two castles built beginning in the 1600s to protect Old San Juan from attack. San Cristobal’s fortification pretty much ensured no one would attack the city by land. It covers 27 acres of prime real estate and now, just like way back when, it provides absolutely stunning views of the city and the ocean.
To reach the main level of the castle we walked through a cave; the walls were etched, the floor well worn, the passage dark, the iron gates plentiful. I would have been light starved living in a castle. The windows, tall and narrow, provided periodic views and some air flow, but for the most part, it was damp and dark inside.
We walked past the dungeon. Uh, dungeon? Backed up and went inside. Legend has it that a sea captain awaiting hanging drew the scenes of ships we saw on the dungeon wall. These drawings from the 1600s are still clear and crisp hundreds of years later.
We walked through huge empty rooms that were used for dining, meeting, barracks and more; after all, the castle was it’s own city back in the day. The main level opened onto a huge courtyard. Troops used to drill on this level. Water was drawn from huge underground cisterns on this level. Fashion shoots take place here today! Yep. As we’re walking along, our heads and hearts back in the 1600s, we fast forward to today: a gorgeous model dressed in white wearing impossible high heels surrounded by makeup artist, dresser, photographer and director; she’s being photographed in one of the many arched openings of the massive main courtyard. Lounging next to her in the shots is an equally gorgeous male model, also dressed in white. Talk about a jolt in time!
The second level of the fortification was used as barracks. I counted 6 huge rooms with narrow windows in which the troops slept. The twisting, turning staircase leading to the sleeping areas was narrow too; in my imagination, no enemy soldiers could charge up those stairs and overwhelm the sleeping troops. enemy soldiers would have to sneak up one at a time. . .and surely be caught by the night watchman!
The view from the upper rooms is magnificent. Actually, the views from any window are. The ocean on one side and the city on the other.