“I swear I thought we were gonna die right there on the mountain!” That’s my friend Andrea telling the same story she always tells to anyone who will listen. She was on a winter hike in the Czech Republic when she and her husband lost their guide and were left to perish in a cold cave for about five hours. Of course, they didn’t perish in the end. They were eventually rescued by a park ranger and ended up with, outside of some scratches, a really good story about the perils of hiking in the winter hills of Eastern Europe.
Even though they may not realize it or admit it to you, all travelers seek the following three-step course of events: roughly the same course that Andrea took. This course is the most deep and acute longing everyone has and I will tell it to you now. Step 1: explore a foreign land. Step 2: have something challenging or dangerous happen. Step 3: come out of said incident unscathed (or relatively unscathed) having acquired a story to tell for the rest of your life.
Without a doubt, this is the foremost desire of the world traveler. Everyone wants to bring home a good war story. Some may go in search of it more than others. Some war stories may be more extreme than others. But there is no secret. Everyone wants one. You cannot question these sentences. They are simple facts.
This yearning is very much part of what keeps Casco Viejo in business. It’s storyability. Were you to rank destinations on a storyability scale, with the local town square at the bottom and the war-stricken hills of Somalia at the absolute top, Casco Viejo would be your sweet spot: the place that’s so interesting and unusual, yet not so outrageous that you might get hurt.
There are people who love their visit to Casco Viejo and people who don’t. But whoever you are, you can’t help be fascinated by it. You can’t help, after just one visit, to go home and tell your family and friends something about the old quarter (whether the story is good or bad or beautiful or ugly). Maybe you played dominos with some random locals, maybe you wandered up past Plaza Herrera into the ghetto, maybe you had your pants hemmed by the local tailor on Avenida B.
Casco Viejo is made for the kind of traveler that wants to accumulate stories. It is often the only place people remember when they leave Panama City. It is simply too intriguing to not comment about.