I was anxious to get to Santo Domingo even though I knew that it would be a short visit. Circumstances dictated that I would only have a single day to check out this fascinating city. I was anxious to get to the Dominican Republic. I have heard many things about the island and wanted to find out for myself. I have always liked history so the idea of going to the first European city of the Western Hemisphere was intriguing.

There is also the legendary Dominican love for baseball. I was fortunate enough to be traveling there during winter ball. A quick check of the schedule revealed that there would be a ball game at Estadio Quisqueya on the night of my visit. I would get to see the Licey Tigres in their 100th season. That added some jump in my step. I was looking forward to that.

 My interest was also in the historical aspects of the city. Santo Domingo is the first European city in the Western Hemisphere. There are buildings that date back to the early 16th Century. I was very intrigued by this and wanted to check out some of the historical sites. The hotel I was staying at was walking distance to the stadium but a cab ride was required to get to the Zona Colonial. $10 American dollars split three ways isn't too bad. There was a lot of interesting buildings along the way. I passed several embassies and the capital building of the country.

 The traffic in the city is a bit insane. That seems to be a trend throughout the entire nation. There is also a lot of traffic. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that three million people live in this city. That is around a third of the population of the entire country. I was not anticipating that Santo Domingo would be as large a city as it is. There are buses and also motoconchos. Many people rely on dirt bikes and often make money by providing rides for a fee. Things like rules of the road don't exist in countries like this. There is a metro system being built but it has yet to be made operational. I was unable to get a completion date for this subway system.

 The old town is very interesting. One will find the oldest hospital, the oldest church in North America. There are ruins and some preserved older buildings. The city was founded in 1494. Officially, the city was founded in 1498. It has endured hurricanes and dictators to remain a thriving city. As stated, there are many firsts in this city. Calle de Las Damas is the oldest street in the city. The Catedral Santa Maria La Menor is the first Catholic church in the Americas. Forteleza Ozama is the first fort in the Western Hemisphere. There are also numerous monuments to Sanchez, Duarte and Mella, the generals who liberated the Dominican Republic from Haiti in 1844. February 27, the date of the liberation is used as a street name in many of the towns throughout this nation.

 A walking tour of the old town can be intriguing as well as confusing. There will be many locals offering to serve as guide. They will demand a fee but that is negotiable. A good guide will be able to lead you to the most interesting sites. The guides will try to lead you to shops and markets. They are sure to guide you to their friends or associates. I'm assuming they get some kickback for bringing business to their friends. It is perhaps best to get a guide simply because they do tend to know the city well. It also seems that once you settle on a guide, the other people will leave you alone.

 I was unable to make it to the Art Museum but the architecture is impressive. Hopefully a future visit will provide more time and opportunity to visit this building. There are a number of museums in Santo Domingo including the Museo de Ambar. The Dominican Republic is known for their amber and they have a museum in the old town to honor the history of the amber trade.

 There are quite a few interesting markets in the Dominican Republic. Be forewarned that tourists will be targeted by a nonstop rush of salespersons attempting to get you into their shop or to sell you whatever wares they may be selling. If you like being able to stand in one place for a minute without being approached, you will be best to avoid the markets. If you're an anglo, you may as well have a bull's eye painted on your chest. I was unable to make it to the Malecon section of the city but that is considered to be a hub for shopping and dining.

 The food in Santo Domingo is good although I didn't find as much diversity as expected. There were a few Chinese and Italian restaurants here and there but mostly the establishments seemed to revolve around chicken (pollo) or seafood(marisco.) Many of the restaurants are open air or have outdoor seating. I didn't make it to La Bahia or Lina which are among the more famous restaurants in the city. The area around the Estadio Quisqueya is a very lively area. The bars and restaurants are loud with music blasting. I had pollo a criolla. The people in this area are very lively. Most seemed amused that anglos were dining with the locals. For me, it was more fun that way. It seems that Dominicans do like to kick back with a cerveza grande and watch the pedestrian traffic as it goes by.

Estadio Quisqueya is the national stadium in the Dominican Republic. It is around the size of a minor league team in America. It was interesting to observe the numerous major league scouts observing the play. The game was lightly attended which was disappointing given the hype surrounding Dominican's passion for baseball. I was also greatly disappointed at the absence of cheerleaders. They do advertise that cheerleaders come out between innings. I feel cheated. The crowd also seemed somewhat subdued. It was still a fun experience.

 It was a fun day checking out the Zona Colonial and going to a ballgame. I was also noting that many areas of the city look very interesting. I definitely feel like I could have spent several days in the city. I would very much like to go back and explore this historic city more thoroughly. There are many things that time did not permit. This is a city that has much to offer including historical landmarks and modern architecture. There is also a very good nightlife. I recommend this strongly for historians and for those who want to visit an energetic, bustling metropolis.


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