Travel day! Up again at 6 am, breakfast in the hotel, then off to the airport for our flight to Malaga. Our flight got us into Malaga a little after 2, we picked up our bags, and went in search of the Enterprise Shuttle bus. We were a little confused because they sent us an e-mail with directions that said leave the airport, turn left, and walk 500 yards. Well, that would be a hell of a long walk, and as it happens, not even possible. But while we were standing there contemplating this, we noticed a lot of shuttles right across the drive from us, and then an Enterprise shuttle pulled in. We got our ride to the Enterprise office, and asked them what the 500 yard thing was all about. They were mystified, and snapped a photo of the email. It was more like 50 feet than 500 yards. But we picked up the car, and drove to Torrenueva Park where we will be staying for a few weeks. After getting in to our apartment and sussing out the situation, we went to a nearby Lidl supermarket and stocked up on necessities. In Barcelona we were eating out, but while we are staying at Torrenueva we will mostly be making our own food in the kitchen here. But we are on the Costa Del Sol, it is sunny and warm, and we have stuff to look forward to.
We had considered going into Malaga to try and catch the processions, but after researching it a bit more decided against it. Easter Sunday in Malaga would mean huge crowds, problems with parking, and all that in a city we had never been in before. So we chose to stay in and take a rest day. Nothing wrong with that.
Our first excursion into Malaga. We asked the person at the front desk at Torrenueva Park for parking suggestions, and went to the underground parking garage at Plaza de la Marina. We found an empty space after some driving around and then walked the Bus Station, where we expected to board the Hop On/ Hop Off bus. We asked, and were directed to #1which we thought meant Bus Lane #1 at the station. While standing there I managed to get on to the County Rec site on my phone and register for my Water Aerobics classes.The thing is they open registration at 6am Michigan time, and the classes fill fast. But here in Malaga, that translated to noon. The site was nearly impossible to navigate with phone, but I persisted and ultimately got all of my classes. Yay for me! We continued to stand there, and finally went back in to the Information office and discovered that we had been standing in the wrong place all along. They were referring the #1 stop of the bus route, which was not in the Bus station but a block away outside the Train station. So we finally go on and went for our tour of Malaga. It was not the most exciting tour I have ever been on, but it did the job. It gave us an idea of how the old city of Malaga is laid out.
We rode the bus until we got to the Castillo de Gibralfaro, and got off. We were on a high hill overlooking the city, and toured the fortification. It was built by the Muslims when they ran the place, and of course fortifications are almost always on the high ground to make them hard to attack. I know I wouldn’t want to climb that hill and then face those fortifications. After touring them, we walked down the hill, which was bad enough, to the Alcazaba. That is a generic Arab term for an urban fortress, I believe. By the time we got there, though, it was late in the day and we were tired, so we hopped on the Hop On/Hop Off bus to get back to where we were parked, and went back to Torrenueva Park.
Malaga is quite ancient. There were tribes in this area thousands of years ago, but the first major power here was the Carthaginians. They were a naval power based in North Africa, in Tunis, and set up colonies all along the coasts of the Western Mediterranean. Unfortunately for them, that eventually brought them into conflict with the Romans, and they were completely wiped out in a series of wars we call the Punic Wars, from another name for the Carthaginians. Carthage was originally a colony set up by Phoenicia, in what is now Lebanon, and we noticed that in Spain they tend to refer to the Carthaginians as Phoenicians. Punic is from the Latin word for the Phoenicians. After that, Spain became a Roman province, and one of the wealthier ones at that. The Romans called the Mediterranean Sea “Mare Nostrum”, meaning Our Sea, and the Roman Empire did indeed encompass the entire Mediterranean coast. But after the empire fell in 476 AD, Spain was taken over by the Visigoths, who established their own kingdoms on the peninsula. In the early 8th century, two of these kingdoms came into conflict, and one of them asked for assistance from the Islamic inhabitants of North Africa. That was a mistake: just like the Britons who invited in some Saxons, the Muslims decided they liked the place, and conquered it in short order. And they stayed for centuries. The Reconquista, the recovery of Spain by the Catholics, was not completed until 1492, when Granada fell. You can see all of these influences in Spain.
Got up early today as we have a lot to do. We have a tour booked for Granada and the Alhambra. So we were up at 5am, then into Malaga where we parked, then walked to the hotel where the bus would pick us up. Granada is about 1 hour, 40 minutes from Malaga, which isn’t bad, so we were there a little before 11. We were shown a few of the sights of the city, before getting back on the bus to go to the Alhambra.
The Alhambra Is a massive site, and in fact was a built as a separate city from Granada, which it overlooks. It was started in 1238 by Muhammad I Ibn al-Ahmar, the first Nasrid emir and founder of the Emirate of Granada, the last Muslim state of Al-Andalus. It contains an Alcazaba, a Christian palace commissioned by Charles V, the Generalife (Garden of the Architect), and some other Nasrid palaces, which we were unfortunately not able to see because the tickets were sold out at least a month in advance.
We met our guide Cristina out front, and entered the complex. You needed to have your passport to get entry, but the tour company told us that in advance so no problem. They scan your passport on entry, then entry to the Alcazaba, and finally on exit. We started our tour at the Generalife, which is a fantastic garden complex with many water features. They bring water down from the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains (the original ones that the range in California is named after), and it is all gravity fed. The water would then go into fountains and pools. It contained the residence for the Sultana, wife of the ruler. The name Garden of the Architect is reference to Allah, the Architect, and there are inscriptions all around that say that only Allah is victorious. These gardens were absolutely fantastic.
After the fall of Granada to the Catholics in 1492, the Alhambra did get some modifications of course, but the biggest one is the palace commissioned by Charles V. A large square building of Renaissance architecture, it was in fact never completed. So it is an imposing exterior, but nothing special inside. This also houses the Museum and the Gift Shop. The Museum appeared to be closed, and there was nothing of interest in the gift shop.
Then we went to the Alcazaba, which housed all of the soldiers. Since the Alhambra was built to be a small city with robust defenses, you had to have soldiers manning the fortifications. We climbed to the top of the highest tower which had great views of Granada. The Old Town as pretty much directly below the Alhambra, but like so many cities in Europe the modern urban sprawl has extended out well beyond the old limits. I did get a shot of part of the old city wall going up a hill from this high vantage point.
Our guided tour came to an end at this point. We wandered around a little, but decided we’d had enough for now and went back to wait for the bus. I noticed a number of people snoozing on the bus ride back to Malaga, where we got off and walked to the parking lot, then back to Torrenueva Park.
We have had two strenuous days in a row, and we’re running out of clean clothes, so it a day off to do laundry and maybe look for a bigger supermarket with more variety than the local Lidl. The apartment we are in does have a washer, but we had to go the Torrenueva front desk to get someone to explain to us how to use it. Drying is very environmentally efficient: clothespins and a hanging rack. So a combination of solar power and wind power! So we did our laundry, did some shopping, and just hung out all day.