Granada (Alhambra), Aguilas, Nerja, Frigiliana - Spain / Spanje
foto's uit Andalusie / Pictures from Spain
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The city of Granada is dominated by the Alhambra, arguably the most exciting, sensual and romantic of all European monuments. It was the palace-fortress of the Nasrid Sultans, rulers of the last Spanish Moorish kingdom and in its construction Moorish art reached a spectacular and serene climax. But the building seems to go further than this, revealing something of the whole brilliance and spirit of Moorish life and culture.
This mighty compound of buildings – including the summer palace called Generalife, with its fountains and gardens - stands at the foot of Spain's highest mountain range, the Sierra Nevada, and overlooks the city below and the fertile plain of Granada.
At the centre of the Alhambra stands the massive Palace of Charles V, an outstanding example of Spanish Renaissance architecture. Other major Christian monuments found in the city are the Cathedral, including the Royal Chapel where Isabel and Ferdinand lie buried, the Monastery of La Cartuja and many churches built by Moorish craftsmen after the Reconquest, in Granada's unique "mudéjar" style.
The hill facing the Alhambra is the old Moorish casbah or "medina", called the Albaicin, a fascinating labyrinth of narrow streets and whitewashed houses with secluded inner gardens, known as "cármenes". The Plaza de San Nicolas, at the highest point of the Albaicin, is famous for its magnificent view of the Moorish palace.
Nerja is on the seashore some 50 kilometres from Málaga on the N340 coastal highway, and marks the eastern tip of Málaga's Costa del Sol. Once a sleepy fishing village, the town now has a population of over 12,000.
Nerja boasts 16 kilometres of beaches with powdery sand and sparkling clear water. All major water sports are available here, including water skiing, scuba diving and sailing.
Flanked by a dramatic mountain range, Sierra Almijara, to the east, the town has, fortunately, managed to avoid being blighted by the concrete high-rise scenario which has been the inevitable result of the tourist boom in some of the coastal resorts. The old quarter of the town is still virtually unchanged with narrow, winding streets, whitewashed houses with wrought iron terraces overflowing with geraniums, on which a canary can sometimes be heard singing...
However, the heart of Nerja is its spectacular Balcón de Europa, the "Balcony of Europe", a magnificent promenade along the edge of a towering cliff, once the site of the great Moorish castle, with sweeping panoramic views of the Mediterranean and the small coves and beaches below, against an awesome backdrop of hazy blue mountains.
However, Nerja's most spectacular attraction is undoubtedly its fascinating caves, located just three kilometres from the centre of town. They include archaeological treasures such as paintings over 20,000 years old and other pre-historic remains. One of the enormous natural caverns has been transformed into a concert hall, where many performances are staged during the summer. This year Nerja is celebrating the 38th International Cave Festival, with the participation of many top international entertainers.
Just seven kilometres north of Nerja is the typical pueblo blanco of Frigiliana which sits high on a mountain ridge overlooking the sea with spectacular panoramic views.
Voted the 'prettiest village in Andalucía' by the Spanish tourism authority, Frigiliana is also important from an historical viewpoint. El Fuerte, the hill that climbs above the village, was the scene of the final bloody defeat of the Moors of La Axarquía in their 1569 rebellion. The hill is topped by scanty remains of a ruined fort from which some of the Moors reputedly threw themselves rather than be killed or captured by the Spanish. It is said that bones and rusted weapons dating from this encounter still lie among the scrub on El Fuerte. The village is a tangle of narrow cobbled streets lined by whitewashed houses, their wrought-iron balconies filled with planters of brilliant red geraniums. Small plazas provide shady seating while the village bars are popular with visitors who come here to taste the locally produced wine. There are also several excellent shops selling pottery and ceramics, including decorative plates with their distinctive Arab design.
Frigiliana is best explored by foot. There are several buses a day that run from Nerja or, alternatively, leave your car at the car park at the bottom of the hill.
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