Sunday, January 3, 2016

Frigiliana

by Robert Bovington
 

I have visited Frigiliana on a number of occasions. It is an attractive pueblo blanco, a short drive from the equally pretty coastal town of Nerja. Administratively it is part of Torrox in the Axarquia region of the province of Málaga.

Frigiliana © Robert Bovington

 The village lies on the southern slopes of the Sierra de Almijara and is 300 meters above sea level.

Places to see:
The village has a number of attractions:-
 
The Church of San Antonio de Padua, located in Calle Real, was built in the 17th century on the site of an old mosque. Its bell tower is the former minaret of the mosque.

Iglesia de San Antonio de Padua, Frigiliana © Robert Bovington
   
Another religious building is La Ermita del Ecce Homo. This small chapel was built in the 18th century. Nowadays, many citizens prefer to call it the "Ermita de Santo Cristo de la Caña". 
 
The Palacio de los Condes de Frigiliana used to be a 16th century renaissance-style palace which belonged to the Count and Countess of Frigiliana, the Manrique de Lara family. Nowadays it tends to be known as El Ingenio and is believed to be the last remaining sugar cane honey factory in Europe. Just around the corner, Bar el Ingenio is a pleasant little place to drink. 
 
Nearby are the Reales Pósitos. Back in the 18th century, it was built to store grain. Nowadays, it is used for both dwellings and shops. And bars!
  
Calle Real, Frigiliana © Robert Bovington
  
The 17th century Casa del Apero originally served as a granary and a warehouse. In 1990, the building was restored and it is now the Municipal House of Culture. Inside there is there is a library, an exhibition room and the tourist information office. 
 
Tourist guides mention two other places of interest in the town - La Fuente Vieja and the 9th century Castillo de Lizar. The former is attractive enough but it is after all only a fountain! The latter is only worth visiting for the spectacular views because there is hardly anything left of the original castle!

La Fuente Vieja © Robert Bovington
 
So, there are a number of interesting places to see in the town but probably the best bit is just wandering around the old Moorish quarter!
 
   
Festivals:
Like all Spanish towns and villages, Frigiliana has its fair share of festivals. A couple, in particular, are pretty spectacular:
 
The Cruces de Mayo celebration occurs on May 3 every year. Every plaza of the town gets a big wooden cross. The crosses are adorned with Spanish shawls, plants and flowers. Many villagers offer visitors tapas and wine for free. In the afternoon, the town band and other musicians make music. 
 
Cruces de Mayo
  
During the last week of August, the ‘Festival Frigiliana Tres Culturas’ brings together the influences of the Moors, Jews and Christian cultures with a festival of food, music, art and street entertainment.
 
http://mynerja.com/view/news/the-three-cultures-festival-in-frigiliana/
  
Other festivals in Frigliana are listed below:
   Fiesta de San Sebastián in January;
   Carnaval in February;
   The Feria of San Antonio in June;
   Feria de San Juan in June (usually on the beach in Nerja);
   Fiesta de las Candelarias in September.
 
Of course there are also the national celebrations including Christmas, Holy Week.
 
In summer, there are other cultural events held in Frigiliana including the traditional dance festival; the annual band contest, and the contest between choirs dedicated to Our Lady of El Rocío.

Robert Bovington



more blogs by Robert Bovington...
"Photographs of Spain"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"bits and bobs"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba

by Robert Bovington

Córdoba was once the most important city in Europe. It was the centre of the medieval Caliphate of Córdoba and capital of the western Islamic Empire. It reached its peak in the 10th century when it rivalled Baghdad and Constantinople as one of the great cities of the World. Its greatest surviving monument to the city's magnificent past is its Grand Mosque – the Mezquita. 

Córdoba Mezquita © Robert Bovington

Work on the mosque actually started in 786 when it was built on the site of an old Visigothic church. However, it was enlarged three times before reaching its present size in 987 when it became the largest sacred building in the Islamic world.

And big it most certainly is - so massive that a Gothic cathedral was built inside the mosque - and lots of chapels!

Following the Christian Reconquest of Córdoba in 1236, the mosque was consecrated as a Christian cathedral. During the 14th century, the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Capilla Real were built and then in 1523, work on the cathedral started with the building of a huge nave inside the mosque.

The interior of the mosque is spectacular – a forest of pillars and arches. 856 of the granite, jasper and marble columns remain – some were removed to make way for the Christian parts of the building. Horseshoe-shaped arches consisting of alternating red brick and white stone were placed above the lower pillars, which has given the Mezquita its distinctive character. 

Córdoba Mezquita © Robert Bovington

Of course, there is much more to this magnificent building than pillars and arches! The Mihrab is particularly magnificent with its intricately carved marble ceiling and exquisitely decorated chambers with their Byzantine mosaics. All this ornamentation is in great contrast to the worn flagstones – an indication that many Muslims prayed here.

The Villaviciosa and Capilla Real chapels are both quite splendid and are good examples of Mudéjar architecture.

There used to be many entrances into the mosque but nowadays, the only one open to the public is the Puerta del Perdón.

No self-respecting mosque should be without a patio where prospective worshippers can perform their ritual ablutions. The Patio de los Naranjos was used for this purpose. Visitors still pass through this delightful courtyard with its orange trees and fountains on their way into the Mezquita.

Patio de los Naranjos  © Robert Bovington

The minaret of the mosque is no longer visible. It is enveloped in a Baroque bell tower – the Torre del Alminar.

Torre del Alminar  © Robert Bovington

Finally, there is the Cathedral. Charles V later regretted the decision to build it within the Mezquita and many people since have agreed that its construction has devalued the mosque’s simple beauty. Nevertheless, the Cathedral has many impressive features, particularly the choir with its Baroque mahogany choir stalls that were carved by Pedro Duque Correjo in the 18th century. 

Mezquita Cathedral - part of the choir © Robert Bovington

Anything this special ought to be afforded special protection and it is – UNESCO has declared the Mezquita a World Heritage site.

more blogs by Robert Bovington... 

"Photographs of Spain"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"bits and bobs"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pablo Picasso museum in Málaga

by Robert Bovington

Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga in 1881 and is perhaps the best known of modern painters - certainly he was one of the pioneers of Cubism.



He had a bit of a head start with his painting career because his father was an art teacher so no doubt he was already skilled in the basics when he entered the Academy at Barcelona in 1895 at the age of 14!

Whilst there, he painted 'Barefoot Girl (1895)'. Later, he studied in Madrid and won a gold medal for 'Customs of Aragón (1898)'.

In 1901 he started working in his studio in Paris - in the Montmatre area. He worked for many years there and, after mastering the traditional forms of art, he started developing his own style.

He went through his 'Blue' period - in colour as well as mood and then broke with tradition with his Cubism work.

One of his masterpieces, in Cubism style, was 'Guernica (1937)' - Picasso's horror at the bombing of the Basque town during the Spanish Civil War was expressed in this spectacular canvas.



His home city of Málaga has honoured him by opening the Picasso Casa y Museo in the city and very interesting it is too. When I visited the gallery recently, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the museum. Beforehand, I did wonder whether I would appreciate the exhibits there. I like a cow to look like a cow so artists like Constable are more my cup of tea. My perception of Picasso women was that they were too abstract for my tastes. Well, on my visit to the Picasso Gallery, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes - many of his works are abstract but nevertheless most are strangely attractive and most certainly I could appreciate that here was a true artist - the exhibits were true works of art unlike most of the garbage in Tate Modern where unmade beds and the innards of cows seem to be the norm. 

Picasso Museum Málaga © Robert Bovington

Picasso painted his first picture at the age of 10 and went on to produce over 20,000 paintings, sketches and sculptures. Some are in the museum in Málaga - well about 200 are! The artist's daughter-in-law has donated them. Many of Picasso's works displayed in the museum in Málaga are abstract and many are of his second wife, Jacqueline. I particularly liked one of Picasso's paintings of her - "Señora Z (Jacqueline con flores) 1954", which is an abstract but not so 'way out' as many of his works.

Another painting in the museum that I liked was "Olga Koklova con mantilla 1917". Olga was a prima ballerina who Picasso had met in 1916. They were married in 1918.

The artist shared his life with a number of women - he had a number of mistresses - and all featured prominently in his works. These paintings had varying degrees of abstractness - some like "Woman in Red Chair 1932" were painted during the artists surrealism period and bear little resemblance to real women. Other works by the artist do capture the likeness of the subject but exhibit Picasso's fondness for disfiguring part of the human form. "The Yellow Pullover 1939" is one such work. It is a portrait of Dora Maar, one of the artist's mistresses.

Picasso - "The Yellow Pullover" (1939)

Following my visit to the museum in Málaga, I determined to find out more about the artist. I discovered that there are many paintings by Picasso that I actually like - even some of the abstract ones but then, during his long lifetime, he had produced a tremendous variety of work and contributed greatly to the development of modern art in the 20th century!

more blogs by Robert Bovington...
"Photographs of Spain"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"bits and bobs"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Costa del Sol

by Robert Bovington

The Costa del Sol is essentially the coastal areas of Málaga province in the south of Spain. This 'Sun Coast' stretches from Estepona in the west to Nerja in the east of the province.

Originally, it was a region of quiet fishing settlements but since the 1950s, it has become a massive urban abomination - sorry - agglomeration of high-rise hotels and apartment blocks running the length of the coastline.


This Mediterranean coastline includes the towns of Nerja, Vélez-Málaga, Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Fuengirola, Mijas, Marbella, Puerto Banús and Estepona together with the city of Málaga.


Benalmadena harbour © Robert Bovington
In my opinion, this coastal region suffers from all the worst excesses of mass tourism - a concrete jungle with parades of bars, supermarkets and shops selling cheap souvenirs and beachwear. 'Full English Breakfast', 'Fish n Chips', 'John Smiths Smooth Bitter', 'Football on Sky TV tonight!' appear on the signs outside many establishments. I think Spain is a fantastic country with beautiful cities and spectacular natural parks and yet the majority of British visitors to Spain head for the Costa del Sol. The good news, of course, is that it leaves the other areas of Spain free from beer swilling, football shirt-clad morons!

To be fair, not all the towns in this coastal strip are that bad - some are rather pleasant to live or visit including Marbella, Nerja and Mijas.


Marbella is rather swish. It is a jet-setting resort with many luxurious holiday complexes, mansions and shops yet despite this opulence it has managed to preserve its old Moorish quarter with its maze of winding streets and whitewashed houses.


Marbella © Robert Bovington

Nerja too consists of whitewashed alleyways, though the old Moorish houses here are perched on a rocky promontory. There are magnificent views of the Mediterranean below especially from the Balcón de Europa.


Nerja - Balcón de Europa © Robert Bovington

Mijas is one of my favourite places. It is situated in the foothills of the coastal mountain range that overlooks the coast - from the gardens of 'La Muralla' there are magnificent views of the coast below. This park is a quiet oasis away from the bustle of tourists, yet is only a few minutes walk to the centre of the village. Its maze of old Moorish streets are awash with colour - pottery, basketwork and other goods are displayed in the many shops and colourful floral displays adorn the walls of the houses. Mijas is a good place to get away from the urban sprawl of Fuengirola.

a street in Mijas © Robert Bovington

Another delightful place to visit is Puerto Banús. It is a magnificent marina filled with the most luxurious yachts imaginable. Alongside the moorings stand a huge array of luxury shops and plush restaurants where it is quite common to see Ferraris, Mercedes and other luxurious cars parked.

The main city in these parts is Málaga. Even though it is the international gateway to the Costa de Sol, Málaga has escaped the depressing image of brash tourism. In fact, it is refreshingly Spanish and has many examples of historic architecture, excellent museums and leafy parks and gardens. Just some of the sights on offer are the Alcazaba, Gibralfaro Castle, the Cathedral and the Palacio Episcopal. The Picasso Museum is well worth a visit.
 


more blogs by Robert Bovington...
"Photographs of Spain"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"bits and bobs"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"

Friday, December 4, 2015

Vitoria-Gasteiz

Basque place names can be confusing. Elburgo is Burgelu in Euskadi, Elvillar is Bilar, Guernica is Gernika-Lumo and there are many more places where the Basque name is different to its Castilian appellation. There is no such problem when visiting the capital as in both languages it is known as Vitoria-Gasteiz. Vitoria, to give it its Castilian name, is situated in the province of Álava (Araba). As well as being the capital of the whole of Pais Vasco, it is also capital of the province. 

Plaza de la Virgen Blanca en Vitoria-Gasteiz
photo: public domain by Guyletsbuild
 Vitoria has many architectural gems - many of them in the old town - thanks to the city's historical development. Well over 800 years ago, a small hamlet stood on the hill where the historic centre of the city now stands. It was known as Gasteiz. In 1181, Sancho VI the Wise, the King of Navarra, founded 'Nueva Victoria'. In 1200, Alfonso VIII of Castile captured the town and incorporated it into his kingdom. Over the succeeding years, the town grew and, in 1431, King Juan II granted Vitoria the title of city. On 21 June 1813, the armies of Napoleon were defeated at the Battle of Vitoria - the defining moment of the Peninsula War. The British army, led by the Duke of Wellington, comprehensively beat the French whose control of Spain was finally ended. In 1980, Vitoria-Gasteiz was chosen as the capital of the Basque Country.  

The city still conserves much of its medieval layout that, during the time of Sancho the Wise, was surrounded by a wall. As Vitoria grew the urban centre spread down the sides of the hill. In spite of this growth, the city is remarkably green with tree-lined avenues, pedestrian and cycle paths and open countryside within walking distance of the historic centre.

To begin our exploration of the city, let's start at the top - at the Cathedral of Santa María. It was built as a church-fortress in Gothic style in the 13th century. Further additions were made in the 14th & 15th centuries and, in 1496, it became a collegiate church. Finally, in 1861, it obtained the rank of cathedral. It is known as the Old Cathedral because there is a newer one down in El Ensanche the 19th century suburb. The Cathedral of Santa María has been declared a Historic-Artistic Monument. 

In the area around the Cathedral are the oldest streets in the city. They have names like Cuchillería (knifesmiths), Herrería (blacksmiths), Zapatería (shoemakers) and Pintorería (painters) reflecting the craftsmen's guilds that thrived there. In this medieval area there are a number of Renaissance buildings including the Palace of Escoriaza-Esquibel with its picturesque courtyard. Other palaces include those of Urbina Zárate, Bendaña, Villa Suso and the Casa del Cordón, which was built in the 15th century in late Gothic style. This Historic-Artistic Monument has an attractive façade that includes the coat of arms of the Catholic Monarchs. 
In the Plaza de la Virgen Blanca is a monument to Wellington's victory at the Battle of Vitoria. The Church of San Miguel is located in this square. It was built between the 14th and 16th centuries and is a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance elements. It houses the image of the White Virgin, the patron saint of the city. The Gothic portico of the church leads to Los Arquillos, an arcaded walk that connects the historic quarter with the nineteenth century new suburb. Here, too, there are fine palaces, churches and civic architecture but they are more modern, having been built in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Monumento a la Batalla de Vitoria (1813), en la Plaza de la Virgen Blanca
photo: public domain by Zarateman

The new cathedral is called Concatedral de María Inmaculada. It is a Neogothic building that was started at the beginning of the 20th century. Next door, is the 19th-century Basque Parliament. Of the palaces built in this area of Vitoria, the Augusti Palace is yet another building that has been declared a Historic-Artistic Monument. It houses the Museum of Fine Arts, one of many museums in the city.


Catedral Nueva de Vitoria-Gasteiz
photo: public domain by Zarateman

Other museums in Vitoria-Gasteiz include the Museum of Archaeology; the Arms Museum which contains weaponry rather than body parts; the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Natural Sciences which is housed in the Torre de Doña Otxanda, a slender tower constructed in the 15th century. A museum with a difference is the Museo Fournier de Naipes. It is a museum of playing cards. It contains - um - playing cards - lots of them - 18,500 decks to be precise. They cover a vast range of subjects and are made with different types of material. All the different printing techniques used by card-makers over the years are represented in this delightful museum.

With all these medieval monuments and museums, some of you may be forgiven for thinking that Vitoria is a dull boring city - it is not! There are many green spaces - more than other cities in Spain. Only minutes from the historic quarter is Parque Florida - a 19th-century garden with bandstands, statues, ponds and, of course, plants. Other parks include San Juan de Arriaga Park, the largest in the city. Only half an hour's walk from the city center is the Forest of Armentia - a vast parkland crisscrossed by cycle paths. And that is another thing; the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz has promoted the use of bicycles. There are many cycle routes both within and without the city and, what's more, the Vitoria-Gasteiz Town Council has decreed that there is no charge for hiring the bikes. It is just one of a number of environmentally friendly schemes drawn up by this forward thinking band of politicians - like rubbish collection - rubbish is efficiently disposed of through underground tubes to distant incinerators. No wonder that the city has won prizes for its cleanliness and its greenness. A vast green belt completely surrounds the city and the citizens enjoy more open space per head of population than any other city in Europe. 

Kiosko del música en el Parque de la Florida
http://www.euskoguide.com/es/lugares-pais-vasco/espana/vitoria-turismo/



more blogs by Robert Bovington... 

"Photographs of Spain"
"postcards from Spain"
"you couldn't make it up!"
"a grumpy old man in Spain"
"bits and bobs"
"Spanish Expressions"
"Spanish Art"
"Books About Spain"