Travelling In Andalusia – Part Five

Ronda cliffs

We drive to Ronda, a town divided by a 100m-deep gorge cut by the Guadalevín River, with the two sides connected by three bridges.

We use the town as a base to visit the string of villages nestled in the mountains on the route south to Malaga. They are known as the White Towns. We stop at a vantage point and count the villages we can see with one sweep of our eyes – six, seven villages nestled in their own fold of the mountains.

One of the White Towns on the route from Ronda to Malaga

Ronda

It is pleasant, but without the thrill of Seville or Cordoba. At least we think so until the municipality starts digging up the bridge and we and our car and on the wrong side to get to our hotel after a day following the route of the White Towns.

We ask and follow directions, and descend into the valley and drive along tracks (surely these are not for cars, but there are other cars travelling the route) – and we arrive at our hotel having encountered a different slice of Spanish life. It is good fun and we truly see how important the main bridge is to the life of the town.

We spend a couple of days enjoying the views across the valley, as the sun late in the year sweeps across and picks out the folds in the countryside. On the other side of the town, we spend pleasant days and evenings walking along the paths that skirt the canyon.

Bandoleros

We go to the Museo del Bandolero. I am not keen to go, but Tamara prevails and it turns out to be fascinating. The bandoleros spawned a whole genre of romantic films about their adventures. The reality was less appealing, with executions and men hunted down across the mountains, even into the early part of the twentieth century.

Ronda - view into the valley

Ronda - view into the valley

The Bullring

It is out of season for bullfights, and the season is short. This is a view of the bullring (now a museum) – and the nearest we want to come to bullfighting.

Ronda bullring


This is the fifth and final part of our travels across Andalucia. Part four is here

Travelling In Andalusia – Part Four

We hire a car (booked before we left the UK) in Granada. The plan is to drive up into the Sierra Nevada and stay there a few days, and then drive to Ronda and back to Seville.

We stop off at a village and have lunch sitting outside by the road. We get talking to the proprietor and he offers us tiger nuts. I ate them when I was a child, but these are soft like tiny grapes.

We learn that they are underground tubers of a grass – and that they are found entwined with the roots of other plants. We laugh at life and remark how with tiger nuts it has taken me decades to know what I was eating as a child.

We drive on and the road ascends and we are into the mountains. We see how very narrow and twisty the road is. I invent a new word for the hairpin turns. ‘scarepin turns’.

Capileira

We drive into the clouds until we reach our destination – Capileira – the highest and most northerly of the three villages in the gorge of the Poqueira river in the La Alpujarra district.

This is Capileira from above where the road ends and the track continues over the mountains.

Capileira in Las Alpujarras

Mist

And here is the village shrouded in mist that comes and goes throughout the day. It is noticeably colder here in the mountains and wonderfully peaceful.

Capileira in Las Alpujarras

From Our Hotel Window

And this is the view from our hotel window. These tall chimneys are everywhere and add to the mystery of the houses that are linked together with overhead buttresses and interlinked paths against a blinding white backdrop of thick walls.

The streets are very steep and the village is cut off for part of the winter when ice takes hold.

Capileira rooftops - view from our hotel window

Brief Encounter

I met this man and horse on their way down while I was walking to get a view of the village. I am so pleased with the shot. It has all the immediacy of an impromptu shot, but it has good composition.

Our next stop is Ronda and a trip down the string of villages known as the White Towns.

Man with packhorse above Capileira in Las Alpujarras


If you missed it, Part Three of our travels across Andalucia, is here.

Travelling In Andalusia – Part Three

A view of Granada from the Alhambra with the Sierra Nevada in the background
We travel by train from Cordoba to Granada. At least we try to. There is a problem with the train service. We get off part way and travel the rest of the way by a bus that is laid on by the train company.

Coming into Granada on the bus, we see that the city is built on a hill. The Alhambra is at the top, with steep and narrow Moorish streets winding down the hill to the ‘European’ part below. The contrast is striking. There is a lot of graffiti and there is a tension here that is absent in Seville.

The Moorish area is known as the Albaicín, and dates back to the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. It and the Alhambra were declared a World Heritage Site in 1984.

The Nasrids were the last to hold out against the resurgence of Catholic Spain that recaptured Granada from the succession of Moorish kingdoms that held the south of Spain for centuries.

This painting in the museum in Granada depicts the Nasrid queen leaving the palace after the defeat by Catholic Spain. If it is historically accurate, then the Moors were well regarded even in defeat.

Painting in the museum in Granada depicting the Nasrid queen leaving the palace after the defeat by Catholic Spain.

We stay in a hotel on a broad street, European in feel and layout, that divides the Moorish and the European areas. Turn up the nearest side street out of the hotel and we are in the bubbling Kasbah. And in the background to the south, the Sierra Nevada mountains.

We eat in a restaurant that is reminiscent of Morocco – dark, with low seats in booths, the smell of hookahs.

The Alhambra

We want to visit the world-famous Moorish citadel and palace that is the Alhambra. We learn that there are a limited number of tickets available and that we have no chance of getting a ticket because they are sold out months in advance.

We don’t give up. We telephone and we learn that the trick is to go onto the Alhambra website immediately after midnight, when agents release some of the tickets they reserved in block bookings. We do it and we are successful. Oh how happy we are that we have tickets, and so pleased with ourselves that we did not just sit back and lament when we first heard that there were none.

Twenty minutes after we get our tickets, we check again. It is true – they are all sold. It was worth hovering over the website at midnight.

The next day we go. That is when we realise that it is possible to see a lot of the Alhambra without a ticket. It is only to see the innermost parts that a ticket is needed. We are glad when we see the Almohad influence on the architecture and see the reflecting pools. We would have been disappointed not to see this part of the Alhambra.

And yet.

We compare our impressions of the Alhambra with the Alcazar in Seville. We think the Alcazar is more impressive in its detail. Oh, that we could stop comparing.

The Alhambra in Granada

The Alhambra in Granada

The Gardens Of The Alhambra

We like the gardens of the Alhambra. There are flowers and bushes and trees, and a steady stream of people from all over the world walking along the paths.

We sit on a bench and watch them pass. Down the hill to the south, to the city below, we see beyond to the Sierra Nevada mountains. From Cordoba to Granada has been interesting. In a couple of days we will hire and car and drive into the mountains.

View over Granada from the Alhambra - from Cordoba to Granada


If you missed it, Part Two of this travelogue is here.