European Escapades

The Spain I Wanted To Find, Almería

28

Apr

2010

Avenue Federico Garcia Lorca
Avenue Federico Garcia Lorca.

It may have taken over a thousand kilometres to find the Spain I was looking for, but it was worth the wait. From our initial foray over the Pyrenees towards the centre of Spain, before deciding on our sudden detour towards the costas, it has been a route that has seen us complete almost the entire south eastern coast of Spain. The journey so far, has been one of conflicting emotions and adventure, wanting to stay away from the costas that we had no desire to explore only to be forced by campsite availability, to head back there on many an occasions. Maybe if we had visited some of the larger towns such as Barcelona or Valencia along our route we may have found something sooner. There are plenty of suggestions to say some of the modern buildings in the centre of these vast sprawling metropolis are worthy of attention. But it seems they do not make it easy for someone with a campervan to visit. But as we looked on from afar, travelling down the bypasses around the towns themselves, they reminded me of a large Petri dish that had been overrun with a bacterial infection. It was as if man had littered the landscape with uninspiring and cobbled together buildings with no ideas or planning. Like jumbled pieces of a construction set with no thought for beauty or sense of place. Almería in my opinion is in a different league.

The utiltarian facade of a wonderful cathedral
The Utiltarian Facade of a Wonderful Cathedral.

We had caught the bus from our campsite at La Garrofa and headed to town for some Spanish CD’s and DVD’s to assist us with our Spanish language learning. We had also run out of red wine, which was a travesty of major proportions. Not expecting much of this city as we had already passed the uninspiring port on the outskirts of town, we were pleasantly surprised, as we headed passed a luscious and green esplanade along the sea front. The park de Nicolas Salmeron is a central strip of parks and pedestrian walkways, interspersed with beautiful fountains and small plazas. It seemed we had entered a city with some civic pride. The Bus station was clean and the main building took us out towards the front of the train station and gave us a short walk into the centre of town. Strolling through to the city centre, we studied the map that we had obtained from the reception in La Garrofa and decide to take in the Cathedral. As we explored, we found it difficult to find the Cathedral itself, before we realised that the uninspiring and utilitarian sandstone walls of the large ancient edifice we were walking around was in fact it. We finally spotted the main entrance on a small bustling square, full of outside seating areas for the cafes that lined two of the four sides. A large mass of people were there, milling about talking and laughing together. It was a pleasant and unexpected sight, as this was the most people we had seen in one place for a long while.

a hidden gem, waiting to be found
A Hidden Gem, Waiting to be Found.

They were all smartly dressed, with numerous cameras taking pictures of the special occasion that was happening. Children resplendent in their best dresses and small suits ran about everywhere. It seems we had chanced upon the end of a mass Confirmation taking place in the Cathedral that day. The heavy scent of incense mixed with the overpowering odour of women’s perfume dominated the interior of the place, as we sidled inside to get a look at the marvellous interior. It seems from the outside to be a fortress, holding back the barbarian hordes and from the inside a model of what a cathedral in my mind should look like. Does this tell me that the renaissance architecture I see and admire in the rest of Europe missed Spain entirely? Or does it speak of more troubled history where the extravagant external architecture we see elsewhere, would have been completely inappropriate for the turbulent and fractured history of the area, with frequent landings and attacks by Berber pirates continuing along this coast until the early 18th century. I guess it must be the latter as the inside is one of unquestionable beauty and extravagance, as we walk around the interior of this magnificent cathedral. Yes the inside shows all the renaissance features you would expect. This was the first time we may have been given an inkling as to why the historical landscape of this county was as it is and we were happy to discover it.

As an aside can someone have the decency to tell some of their nearest and dearest that a hint of a perfume or scent is all that is needed to give a sense of allure and longing for their loved ones. Putting on a bottle of the stuff, only serves as a health hazard and a causes involuntary choking and nausea for other people in the unfortunate position of having to walk past them in a crowd.

up to the Justice gate
Up to the Justice Gate.

Moving onto the old town with it small narrow streets we come across the more Muslim inspired white painted dwellings and the road up to the site we have come to see, the Alcazaba. The Alcazaba is a mediaeval fortress overlooking the town and bay of Almaría and is the second largest among the Muslim fortresses of Andalusia after the Alhambra. Built in the 13th century but destroyed by one of several earthquakes in the 15th Century. It includes a triple line of walls, a majestic keep and large gardens. The walkway through the Albarran tower lead us up to the Justice gate and then through into the first of the Islamic enclosures. Lined with flora and fauna it gives a colourful approach to the remains of this still magnificent piece of history. As you walk through what are now are the gardens within the first enclosure, you get a sense of the houses and streets that used to occupy the area in Islamic times. You can imagine what it may have been like so long ago, looking over the countryside below you. The feeling of wellbeing and security, as you sit behind the heavy walls and stout gates during times of trouble. Moving up to the second enclosure we encounter the archaeological remains of the actual palace complex and bath houses, beyond which we can see the Christian castle built after 1489, when Almaría fell into Christian hands and the Alcazaba took on a mainly military role. Sitting on a wall looking out to the spectacular countryside we admire Hayrán´s Wall, which was built in the 11th century by king Hayrán, the first governor of the Taifa of Almeria. It runs down from the Alcazaba through the Hoya Gorge and ends at the San Cristóbal hill and the monument of the Sacred Heart. This must have been an unnerving sight for any would be invader to face from below.

Hayrán´s Wall ending at the monument of the Sacred Heart
Hayrán´s Wall Ending at the Monument of the Sacred Heart.

Leaving the Alcazaba and heading back down into the town, we stop for some well deserved refreshments and tapas at a cafe bar on the Avenue Federico Garcia Lorca. As the afternoon draws to a close we remember to buy some red wine and to pick up some Spanish entertainment in the form of half a dozen DVD’s. What else could be as appropriate, as I manage to find three Spaghetti Westerns for me to watch in the balmy spring evenings in the now most wonderful area of Spain, Almería.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 at 6:17 pm and is filed under Travel Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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