Spain - Andalucia
Pictures from and information about Spain / Andalucia
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On this and following pages you will find pictures of Spanish cities and villages, popular destinations and well worth visiting, like Malaga, Ojen, Mijas, Marbella, Istan, Tarifa, Castellar de la Frontera, Gaucin, Genalguacil, Ronda, Grazalema, El Rocio, Gines, Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, Aguilas, Nerja, Frigiliana.
Málaga is the major coastal city of Andalucia and
is a genuine and typical Andaluz city with a gritty individualism untouched by
tourism and, to a large extent, the passage of time.
The Moors occupied the city until the mid fifteenth century, after which it grew to become one of the foremost merchant centres in the entire Iberian Peninsula. This illustrious past has left its imprint on the historic centre, particularly around La Alcazaba, a fortress which dates back to 1065 and is now a fascinating archaeological museum.
Pablo Picasso is the city’s famous son and there are several galleries showing his work, including the 16th century Museum of Fine Arts, adjacent to the Cathedral.
Also worth a visit is the nearby castle which was rebuilt by the Moors and is today a traditional parador (state hotel) with superb panoramic views. During the nineteenth century, Málaga was a popular winter resort for the wealthy famed for its elegance and sophistication. The impressive park on Calle Alameda dates back to this era and is recognised as being one of the most celebrated botanical collections in Europe. During the winter, open air concerts are held here every Sunday which makes a refreshing change from the bucket and spade scenario on the coast.
It is situated beside the Almadán stream above the valley of the rio Real at an altitude of 650ft, hemmed in by the sierras Blanca and Alpujata. In that, we may have a clue to the Moors' determination to stay in spite of their apparent antipathy, for both ranges of mountains have long been known as rich sources of talc, nickel, iron and lead. This mineral wealth put the area in the forefront of the Spanish industrial revolution of the 19th Century.
Today Ojén is a curiously schizophrenic town, neatly cut in half by a modern highway. On one side of the road, the newer, more affluent half rises into the hills around the stunted, almost invisible vestigial remains of the Moorish castle which in its heyday dominated the skyline. The village survived the reconquest, but the castle predictably did not. The few stones that are left are now scattered among weeds and rough grass, home only to insects and beetles, and scarcely worth the climb to see.
Of more interest to the visitor is the old part of town which spreads down the mountainside on the other side of the road. Here the cobbled streets are narrow and well served by welcome drinking fountains. But Ojén used to be famous for something a little stronger than water. The production of the anise liqueur, aguardiente, which many Spaniards take each day with their morning coffee, once played a major part in the town's economy.
Mijas is a typical Andaluz village, perched high above Fuengirola and Mijas Costa like so many sugar cubes with spectacular views of the coast and surrounding heavily wooded mountains. There are no main thoroughfares here, instead a web of narrow cobbled streets complete with terraces overflowing with geraniums, red tile roofs, archways and, of course, the occasional chirruping canary.
Since this village was first discovered in the sixties, close to sixty nationalities have made the pueblo their home and the impact can be agreeably appreciated via the international cuisine, cosmopolitan clubs and associations and, in general, the influence of foreign culture and the arts.
Fortunately, however, the village has still managed to retain some of its quaint traditions, one of the most unusual being the donkey-taxis which line the central plaza. Like Ronda just over the mountaintop, the village dates back to distant times and there are two Mudejar churches here to prove it, as well as the sanctuary of the patron saint of Mijas, from the year 850.
Marbella's motto is "A Way of Life" and, certainly, this luxurious resort town seems to have it all and is, once again, rising to the fore as a favourite location with the rich and famous, as well as more ordinary folk who are willing to pay just a little bit extra for southern Spain's answer to St Tropez.
But Marbella has a down to earth side as well, an air of individuality which can be best appreciated by exploring back streets in the old part of town. One of the prettiest places is the fabled 'Orange Square' which is located just off the main street in the older district and is also home to the 16th century town hall and tourist office where you can pick up a detailed map and visitor information.
Back to Orange Square, or "La Plaza de los Naranjos", as it is called in Spanish, expect to meet with stately buildings, small shops, art galleries, bars and bistros and is a hub of activity day and night. And, depending on the time of year, the colours here can be vibrant, with the trees and exotic tropical plants set against a backdrop of dazzling white buildings and a deep blue sky.
Be sure to explore the honeycomb of surrounding narrow streets where homes and shops intermingle to create the atmosphere of a small village, rather than a cosmopolitan town. There are numerous excellent restaurants to choose from, ranging from those specialising in the predictably pricey exclusive cordon bleu to the gritty individuality of a backstreet Spanish bar where the Serrano ham is gently cured by tobacco smoke and the tapas are both tasty and filling.
Istán is one of a number of villages of Moorish origin which owes its survival to its distance from the coast.
The village is tucked away beneath the Sierra Blanca at the head of the
valley of the rio Verde, close to the Serrania de Ronda hunting reserve.
To reach it, leave the N-340 coastal highway 5 kilometres south of Marbella just beyond the Hotel Puente Romano.
As with so many mountain villages, creations of a time and place in which the only practical means of transport was the mule and the packhorse, Istán's streets are narrow and unsuited to the motor car. The only sensible way to experience it is on foot.
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