Carthage – with and without Hannibal

Remember Puriscal? Which we have yet to visit? Those twinkling lights that tease us across the valley every night (see post ‘To Puriscal or not’)? It looks just as tempting in sunlight! But since we have to leave for the US in four day’s time, this shot from our terrace will be the only impressions to enjoy for at least another four or five months.
A glimpse across the central valley at 200x
Santiago de Puriscal and its Spanish colonial church

And Cartago as well might remain a mystery for some more months, alas. We were supposed to drive to Cartago on Wednesday to visit with Dario AKA ‘Captain Adorable’ and his parents, but it was not to be. As we were driving toward Cartago, I reflected on my longstanding affinity to a place I know as ‘Karthago’.

When I was ten or maybe 11 years old, I received a book by Hans Baumann called “Ich zog mit Hannibal” (I trekked with Hannibal). It tells the story of a boy working as a mahout for one of Hannibal’s 39 war elephants. The Second Punic War was thus introduced to this young girl with a romantic flair and I was hooked for life. Even though I received an education largely based on Greco-Roman and Humboldt-Goethish ideals, this book turned me into an unwavering Hannibal fan and an admirer of everything Phoenician. I adored Hannibal’s chutzpa, as simple as that. I once even worshipped on the grounds of the actual Carthage, the ancient site of this enormously successful merchant tribe of ex-pat Phoenicians in contemporary Tunisia. I walked on the same dirt on which, presumably, Hannibal and Mago once kicked a ball.

It happened unexpectedly and without design or aforethought. We had already purchased tickets for a European trip to spend the Holidays with my family in Germany when my husband’s employer needed him to visit their London and North African offices. After some reshuffling of itineraries, both I and our son, who was not quite five years old at the time, found ourselves in Tunis in an elderly Mercedes car with a driver named Mohamoud. This person, who never once looked at me, tried to tell me that Carthage wasn’t worth a look, that I should go to the so-and-so mall and shop like all the other foreign women. He wanted me to stop making trouble and put money in his shopkeeper cousin’s pockets instead. Well, think again, Mohamoud! Did Hannibal give in to Roman demands? Definitely not. Neither did I.

After Hannibal’s great victory at Cannae, it took 15 years for his eventual defeat at the hands of one Publius Cornelius Scipio. The Roman Senate gave Scipio the honorary title of ‘Africanus’ to celebrate his victory in 202 BCE at Zama over Rom’s most notorious enemy and the eventual utter pulverization of the great City of Carthage. Back in Tunis in 1984, Mohamoud couldn’t understand that I knew perfectly well I was 2205 years too late to see the actual Carthage in all its glory but that I just wanted to stroll where they had walked – and I did.

Scipio rings another bell, so to speak. There’s a great book written by one of my favorite authors, Ian Pears. The book is titled ‘The Dream of Scipio’ and I highly recommend it.

I almost forgot. We didn’t go to Cartago,  Costa Rica on Wednesday, because I felt so nauseous that we had to turn around before we ever hit Sabana Norte. I’ve no idea what was going on, but I certainly couldn’t come near an infant or his mom. Our Dra. Candy checked me out just to be on the safe side, and she didn’t find anything. Who knows, the next day, I felt just fine. Especially, when I saw this pretty snake in the grass, well, actually it was in a hedge.


And today I drove over to the Beneficio de San Isidro, the coffee processing plant, where I buy my coffee. I want to bring some coffee back to Tx with me, so I took a very pleasant drive through some nice barrios, or neighborhoods, of the more rural portions of Atenas. Pastoral, peaceful and soothing. I shall miss it.


There was also this interesting arrangement to be seen at the Beneficio. An old oxen yoke mounted in conjunction with modern safety equipment and two brown paper bags …?



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