Exploring Andalucia: Sights and Activities

From the cold grip of Madrid I escaped southward to Andalucia, a land carved by the histories of so many groups.  I wanted to see Moorish architecture and hear the lapping of the sea.  It did not take long to find.  As soon as I landed in Seville I found myself inundated with broad leafy avenues, bright white stone buildings, and enough tourist shops selling Flamenco dresses to make one blurry with polka dots.  Seville is the modern hub of Flamenco so I attended a show at the cultural center.  I was expecting more sexy dancing and instead got mostly soulful music and some insane hard tap dancing.  Thoroughly confused, I later took a free flamenco class that my hostel/cultural association offered in Malaga to learn the basic steps.  I am still confused exactly what flamenco is supposed to be but it is fun to watch and one hard workout.

After Seville I decided I wanted to check out one of the small hillside villages.  I get the feeling that much like Vietnam, that I may have liked Andalucia a lot more if I had my own means of transport and spent most of my time in the countryside.  Ronda is a beautiful hill top castle with Moorish roots.

The surrounding farms and countryside are absolutely stunning.

It may perhaps not be a perfect example of the quiet countryside I sought as it was overrun with day trippers.  Luckily wandering just outside of town was a quiet reprieve from the high prices and terrible quality of tourist aimed goods and lodging.

Any minute now an old guy with a beard will appear telling me I need to accompany some hobbits and a ring.

After Ronda I wanted to head to next closest town Cordoba but only found an expensive high speed train.  So the next thing I know, I’m in the coastal city of Malaga.  It is not in the trifecta of stunning Andalusian culture cities but has a charm all of its own as it mixes old and new under its thick veneer of tourism.

The industrial dock cranes cast long shadows as the sun sets over the water.

On the hill next to the old part of town are a castle and fortress complex with beautiful views of the town.

It’s a bit of a steep climb but I think it is well worth the view.

The two complexes are separate and are connected by a no longer used medieval walkway.  Now you get to climb up the windy hill with a view of the bull ring instead.

The fortress still looks pretty impenetrable today, particularly when there are so many easier high rise targets around.

Malaga also had an interesting Roman theater and a lovely local market filled with delectably fresh goods.  I recommend grabbing some Malaga almonds if you visit, they’re much cheaper and delicious there than the much pricier street vendors.  On my way out I discovered there were free audio guides available in the form of an iPod you can get at the tourism office.  Another time I suppose, but why not just make it an app?

Next I headed to Granada where the grandest of all the Andalucian buildings, the Alhambra, lies.  On this hill complex are multiple palaces and endless gardens.  Continuing the effort at being high tech but falling a few years behind, the Alhambra had free bluetooth guides for download that only appeared to work on Blackberry phones.

I really enjoy the Moorish geometric patterns that mix straight lines with more sensuous curves and fun shapes than I’m used to seeing in Christian wall decoration.

These interesting patterns could be found all over the place.

I always had this mental image of blue and white horseshoe arches but I will gladly gaze at blue and white stalactite dome ceilings instead.

I find Arabic writing to be quite bubbly and stylized in a way even cursive writing never fully attains, especially in stonework.

What a view you got from the windows!

It must’ve been such a peaceful palace in such tumultuous times.

Right after my scheduled visit to the Nazares Palaces I lost my ticket, which is a tough position when they want to scan it every five minutes in the complex.  Luckily after lots of poor descriptions in Spanish they got me a lost ticket to continue my wanderings.

I really enjoyed the vast gardens, farmed flowers and vegetables, and bodies of water everywhere.

The famous jumping fountains in a courtyard.

The land right outside of the castle was beautiful as well.

Being from Los Angeles, I am constantly amazed by this seasons business. Leaves change color you say?

I wandered out to the Sacremonte neighborhood where Roma gypsies once lived in caves on the hillside and helped invent flamenco. This is a statue of their king with a fun hat.

They claim it to be a city full of graffiti but I had to do some searching to find more than some monochrome scribbles of names. This guy is quite famous and includes fortune cookie looking quotes next to beautiful women.

I didn’t feel like I spent enough time in each town nor did I spend any time at all between them.  This was a rushed trip, or a normal speed trip for most people.  It involved a lot of time on buses.

The view from buses is endless olive groves spread over the otherwise quite deserty landscape.

After the grandeur of Alhambra in Granada I was finally ready to go to Cordoba.  Somehow left off of the fast itineraries, this may have been my favorite city in the area just because it is less frequented by tourists and therefore quieter.  I am not usually a church lover as my head spins trying to see how they are different after a couple.  Yet in Cordoba I have seen the most beautiful one I feel I have ever seen, converted from a former Mosque.

The darkness only contributes to the mood of gazing upon the endless striped horseshoe arches.

Once upon a time, all the religions lived together peacefully in this region.  They even studied together.  It is interesting to see the similarities and differences in their architecture particularly as many churches in the area are converted mosques.

Domed roofs aren’t just for churches, as this one is embellished with the geometric shapes of mosques.

The courtyard of the church is covered in lovely orange trees.

I enjoyed Cordoba continuing the trend of having many free things with the Mezquital church and Alcazar both being free in the early half of the mornings.  Once in you could wander at will, just watch out for the large hordes of school children.

I ended up seeing the large scale structures of ancient splendors that I came to this region to see but I did tire of my fast travel and the hordes of tourists even in low season.  Now I am inspired to return one day upon wheels of my own so that I can see all the nooks in between and the beautiful national parks sprawling over the province that many, like me, seem to pass right over.

1 comment
  1. Katie Parks said:

    La Mezquita was my favorite destination in Spain.

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