Monday, 13 November 2017

Walking with the gadgette, Volume 6, November
   On Friday November 10th the team had a gentle coastal walk based on Craster, I think.
I wasn't with them as my wife and I flew off to Spain for a holiday in the relatively warm sun.
We flew to Malaga and were taken about 60 miles east to Almunecar on the Mediterranean coast. A small town, possibly founded by the Phoenicians, later occupied by the Romans. When they went the Vandals hit the area but were driven out by the Moors, invading from Africa and staying until the end of the 15th century. Andalusia, the land of the Vandals!
Almunecar has a population of about 27000, but in summer when the blocks of holiday apaertments fill the population increases to about 140000. Not surprisingly this November week being the end of the season, most of the restaurants and bars are closed. Pretty town though, with:

Boules (petanque) on the beach on Sunday morning. This is the first division, the non league teams played further down the strand.

                              Tourist office, closed. Once the home of a sugar plantation family. This area of Spain apparently was once a sugar cane area but Christopher Columbus took the plants to the Caribbean and very slowly, over several hundred years the local sugar mills closed one by one. Non left now, shame, they made rum.

                     The Romans had a fish salting factory here.
                  The promenade at Almunecar has beautiful tiled benches
Not being pool dwellers we took the opportunity to join other oldies on a bus trip to Salobrena, not too far away. (I estimate the average age of the hotel guests as being 70 +/-2)
We walked up zig zag streets to the castle above the town. The old houses dated back to the days of the Moors. Manuel the guide (yes he was aware of Fawlty Towers) explained in his excellent English that Moorish houses had no external windows but were built round an inner courtyard, the original patio. When they were ejected by the Christians the new owners put windows in the outer walls, but as the streets were narrow this led to burglary so they put iron grills over the windows!
Nice little town though, with:
                                        A fine  castle overlooking town and sea.
                   Moors were very clean apparently, washing for hygienic and religious reasons, unlike the Christians who kicked them out.
A second trip was to the Alhambra Palace and the city of Granada. After the Prado gallery in Madrid the palace is the second most visited place in Spain, not surprising really.
Started in 889 AD on the site of a Roman fort it was extensively rebuilt in the 13th century by the Sultan. It remained a Moorish Palace until 1492 when the Christians ejected them, took it over as a home for Ferdinand and Isabella, the royal couple who financed Columbus, the man responsible for ruining the sugar trade in Spain and discovering America. The palace grounds originally included a mosque which was demolished and replaced with a church. But the palace retains its Arabic style and décor, no pictures of humans or animals, acres of beautiful tiling, moulded plaster decorations, colonades and reflecting pools. Some of the columns had thin inserts of lead at the top and bottom to act as cushions when earthquakes occurred. Thirteenth century Arabic genius.
A quick trip round the palace:
                        Reflecting pool
                             View of part of the palace
                Sadly the concrete dome collapsed, otherwise it would possibly be bigger than Rome's Pantheon
                                  ....... patterns
            Animals! There's always an exception. This fountain, the story goes, was presented to the sultan by a wealthy Jew. Each sheep represents one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
                                  Moulded ceiling
                                  Moulded wall decorations
                                           Moorish bath houses, hot rooms, cold rooms
                             View of the walls of Granada from the palace.

Even sultans need toilets. It's the hole in the ground in the top picture, just above the square water tank
We had some time to explore Granada too. We took one of those road trains that give a grand tour, hop on and hop off .It was such fun we stayed on for two circuits. That apart Granada seemed just another city, with shops. But I liked this pawnbroker's sign:

A third trip was to the cave at Nerja. Rediscovered by five teenagers in the 1950s there is evidence of occupation for 40000 years. Unfortunately the cave drawings are not included in the area open to the public and flash photography is forbidden but my phone did quite a good job, better than my camera.
When stalactite meets stalagmite you get the biggest column in the world, according to the Guinness book of records. (StalaCtite grows from the Ceiling, stalagmite from the Ground, my Geography teacher told us)
We finished the day walking round the village of Frigiliana, high in the hills, narrow streets and steep paths.
                             Frigiliana street
                 The streets are too narrow for cars, and they are stepped. The mule was carrying building material up to a house.
A final day's outing was to the city of Almeria, 90 miles on the Mediterranean Motorway that runs from Gibraltar to the French border. (Built with EU money Manuel told us!)
The castle in Almeria is another Moorish structure, supposedly the biggest fortress in Europe. Like the other castles we visited it dominated the town. And like the Alhambra it had baths, similar to Roman ones. It took the Christians a while to catch up in the cleanliness stakes.

                               Almeria Castle, and baths.
Not a walking holiday then, but we averaged six miles a day according to the iphones.
And I had full English breakfast everyday!
Gadgie walks return next week.