Friday, August 11, 2017

Summer Vacation in Andalusia, Spain (August 2017)

Andalusia is a region in Spain which is located in the South of the country. The part of the region near the sea is named Costa del Sol. English translation for Costa del Sol is a shore of the sun. We stayed in the city Torremolinos on this coast. We had our 12 days summer vacation in hotel Anguamarina.

The beach holiday on Costa del Sol is special due to the temperature of the water in the sea. The temperature in the Summers drops to 16-18 degrees in Celsius but cold go even lower! The reason being the flow from the Atlantic ocean. We were fortunate because the temperature of the water was about 23 degrees in Celsius, the temperature of the air in the middle of the day was about 33 degrees in Celsius.


The beaches in Spain are free of charge, people come to the beach with their umbrellas and a part of the territory is occupied by seaside restaurants, they offer sunbeds and umbrellas. With fresh breeze from the seaside we felt comfortable lying on the beach beds. The cost of one seat under umbrella is 5 euros in a day.



During one excursion I had a conversation with the girl who stayed in Marbella (the town not far away from Torremolinos well known place for affluent tourist). She said that the temperature of water in Marbella was unbearable, about 18 degrees. The price for the beach beds was 6 euro (more expensive than in Torremolinos).

The town Torremolinos looks quite pleasant, it includes the center on the hills and the coastal area with several well-equipped beaches and long avenue.



The Hillside of the city is different. Bright & shiny pavements are typical of the city of Andalusia.



The railway station is hidden between the ordinary looking buildings: with no signs post , We took almost two rounds before we could locate the entrance to the train station.

Being in different parts of the city, we saw that each district of Torremolinos has a very distinct view and atmosphere: beach avenue near the sea, souvenir shops streets on the hill's slopes, crowded squares, residential districts, villas etc. We discovered that there is a net of supermarkets Mercadona which offers extremely low prices for the goods. The first time I saw the wine which had a price less than one euro for a usual 0.5 liter bottle and not a small brick of chocolate for 60 cents.

Andalusia is a very attractive place for tourists who are interested in historical sightseeings. This region of modern Spain was occupied by Arabs for several hundreds years during the Middle Ages. That was the time when Europe was not developed in comparison with highly developed Arabic civilization. Since the time when it returned under the Spanish rule, the most significant palaces, gardens, bridges and so on were kept completely untouched, the other parts were rebuilt according to Spanish traditions.

It takes about 20 minutes to reach Malaga by local train, the price of one ticket is 2.10 euro. Malaga was the first big city which we visited in Andalusia. It’s always better to start exploring the city from the hills (it's better to go by the public bus). The former Arab fortress Castillo de Gibralfaro which was built in the 14th-century is located on the hills. From this high point the tourists can see the entire city before they go down to the historical centre.



The old city of Malaga is not a large area with Cathedral, museum of Picasso. They are located in the pedestrian area. Apart from general impression of watching a mixture of Moorish and European architectural styles, one detail stayed in our memories: there is a lot of graffiti everywhere. This picture represents the passion of inhabitants for that sort of art (imagine that the nickname of this building would be The House of Rats).



The centre of the old city is not overcrowded by tourists. There is a suggestion to stay in each city of Andalusia at least for one night, in that case tourist can see the place differently, how locals live there.



Visitors need to pay for entering almost to all tourist attractions in Malaga. Our impression was that Malaga has less interesting places for tourists than other cities in Andalusia but if you are dwelling during vacation at least for one night in Malaga, it would be more interesting.

The next excursion was Ronda. It is the town famous for surrounding landscape, white streets and for the old bridge between old and new cities. The regular bus goes about 2.5 hours through a serpentine road. Ronda is divided in two parts by a very deep abyss. Staying in front of the great bridge we compared it with fifty-storey house.



Inhabitants maintain the “white image” of the city. When we passed through the streets in the town, somebody was painting a building, probably, his house.



The number of tourists in this place is high, many wandered around the town, we saw them from above. The plato, where Ronda is located, disposes along mountains and the city seems isolated. It was a little bit strange to see so many great constructions in such a separated place.

Next excursion which we had was the trip to Cordoba. The option for self-organized journey wasn't so attractive because the train from Malaga to Cordoba was quite expensive, the round ticket cost about 40 euros. We found better option: we bought the excursion trip in local travel agency for 56 euros. It was a right decision. Our guide told us about history of the area. The land around Cordoba is called "the ocean of olive trees". The ground and weather condition here are suitable only for this tree. If you have a thousand of them, you are able to serve the family. The olive tree lives hundreds years and this job passed on from one generation to another.



After passing through olive fields we came to Cordoba. The name of the city is pronounced "Cordova" despite the spelling with "d". Cordoba is the city with incredible interesting history. There was a time when in was the biggest city in the world, in the 10th century the population there was about one million people! In other times the number of inhabitants was only ten thousands people. The region was occupied by Rome's, Barbarians, Arabs, Spanish.

The main tourist attraction in Cordoba is the Great Mosque-Cathedral, La Mezquita, the world's third- largest mosque. The different parts of this mosque were built in a different time but the architecture's style remained the same: the columns and arches in red and white colors. While we were walking through the mosque, our guide told us about a history of creating each part, it seemed like we traveled on the time-machine. It was amazing!



We can see on the right site of the picture several private churches, they were built by the rich Spanish. After Arabs left the region, Christian's dwellers of Cordoba kept the mosque as a great monument of architecture. One Christian church has been built inside the mosque as shown in the picture below.



When the Christian inhabitants of Cordoba go to church, they don't call it cathedral, the say "Let's go to mosque".

It is necessary to mention another wonderful historical attraction - Roman's bridge, it was built two thousand years ago!



After we left the cool shade of the mosque we came out to shining sun, the temperature at that moment was more than 40 degrees in Celsius. But this kind of harsh weather condition is also a part of unforgettable Andalusian memories.

Walking in the old city of Cordoba was very pleasant, we had so many opportunities to take beautiful photos which will help to remember this sunny city of Cordoba during the coming cold Russian winters :)



Next excursion which we had was Gibraltar. It is the last colony of the United Kingdom in Europe surrounded by Spanish territory. It occupied the edge of the land near the straits of Gibraltar.

This small piece of land is a reason of permanent arguments between Spain and the UK because of its strategic location. Gibraltar includes two parts: the city-place and the rock.

There are two tourist attractions on the rock: caves and monkeys. The group of caves look as a large night club as they are illuminated by constantly changing colors of light.






A Hundred monkeys belonging to six families live on the rock in the open. They are not afraid of people, they like the tourists who offer them something tasty, like a nut or a piece of chocolate etc.



Next picture was taken from the rock. It shows the greater part of the city. Owing to its tiny size, the cost of real estates here in five times more expensive than in neighboring Spain.



Next picture represents a runway, an airport in Gibraltar and the border with Spain.



This is the most dangerous runway in the World because it is short, it is difficult for the planes to land. When the aircraft is landing or taking off, the traffic light shows red color and the cars and pedestrians have to wait. It is listed in The Guinness Book as the closest airport to the center of the city which is located only in 400 meters away.

There is only one relatively big street in Gibraltar: "The Main Street". It is just a shopping street, nothing interesting.



But walking through this way we witnessed an interesting action (like short play): how inhabitants of this place gave the keys from the city to Britishers.



This is just legend, it never happened, but citizens of Gibraltar like this version. For justice' sake it needs to notice that during the referendum a few years ago for the question about staying under British rule 99% of citizens voted for being included in the UK.

Gibraltar is a really small place and it receives a great number of tourists. The main sources of wealth is the income earned from the service of the ships and from tourists. It is also notorious offshore zone.

The last excursion in this summer vacation was to Granada. We had to buy the tickets to Granada from travel agency because it is the only way to visit the Alhambra. It is a medieval Arab palace and one of the most popular monuments in Spain. The Alhambra is located on the Hill overlooking the city of Granada. It was set in the 11th century and the palace flourished from the 13th to 15th centuries.



It was a very important for Caliph to make a great impression on his guests (ambassadors or other rulers). He met visitors sitting in the dark in order to see their faces and remain invisible for them.



Caliph and members of his family didn't have furniture. The hall with the fountain surrounded by sculptures of lions was an exclusive private area for Royal Family. The arches and ceilings are made with great skill. Imagine, it was built in the 10th century!

I especially liked the carvings on the pillars. Symmetrical designs were carved on the stones of the pillars giving the palace a majestic look and feel to it.



We didn’t have much time to see the sights of Granada. We walked near the Cathedral, trying to feel the atmosphere of the city. It was a hot day, about 41 degrees Celsius.



Summing up the impressions for the time of the summer holiday, I would highlight the three most enjoyable things:
- being on the beach (fresh marine breeze, cool water, the sun, comfortable beach beds made this sort of relaxation unforgettable);
- tour to Cordoba and feeling of the history of Andalusia (walking inside Mosque-Cathedral with an excellent guide who told about the history of each part of the mosque, created a fabulous feeling of traveling on time-machine, the link between Arab and European styles of architecture are wonderful);
- excursion to Gibraltar was fulfilled by many memorable things like crossing the border, the view of Africa, monkeys, current events in the city etc.

That's the end of the story about our 12-days journey to the magical place: Andalusia!