Self-traveling in Andalusia

Experiments: Andalusia by Car

Anastasia Baklanovskaya, a translator from Moscow, decided to show her mother her favorite Spain this spring. The two weeks trip across Andalusia by car turned out very rich – well, because the plan for the trip was planned in advance to detail. The route of Don Quixote, Granada, white villages, spectacular Sevilla, the best patios of Córdoba and a bunch more locations – vanguly, you will want to go to Spain after this story.

Spain is the land of sun, siesta, sangria and paella. These are classic associations that only in a small part reflect the essence of this country. I conceived of a trip through Madrid through Andalucía to see how prominent the Arab influence, preserved after more than 500 years, is as I move away from the political and geographic center.

Spain opened up to me a new culture, new people and an endless field of learning. I really wanted to share this and finally I had the opportunity to introduce my mother to the country. The route was thought over beforehand, because we wanted to fit everything in. It was decided to rent a car for the trip – a nearly new Fiat 500. The car cost about € 175, which is quite good for two weeks. The insurance costs about the same, so it was decided not to buy it.

Upon arrival in Madrid, we hopped in to pick up the car and set off to conquer the Iberian Peninsula.

Madrid and the missing turrón

In the capital during siesta it was possible to buy a SIM card only in a store owned by hardworking Arabs. There we had an hour with them and with youtube to configure on my phone the Internet, which, despite all their assurances, has worked only three days.

We did not spend much time on Madrid, because the purpose of the trip was the province. But for me when getting to know the country it is necessary to try the national cuisine, so I did not neglect the “San Miguel” market of Madrid. Despite the inflated prices, the market is one of the important centers of Madrid. This market, all glass and openwork wrought iron structures, seems to float in the air. Inside are many small cafes with oysters, stuffed olives, cheese and all kinds of tapas and wines from all over Spain and beyond. I tried the tapas with burrata, marmalade and sun-dried tomatoes for €3.50 – delicious!

Another find was the “San Ginés” churreria. It is, of course, found in all the guides to Madrid, as is the comment that there is invariably a long queue there. However, cold rainy weather in April in Spain made the impossible possible – and we managed to get there without queuing at all. The place is considered so legendary for a reason! During my trip, I’ve bought churros in different cities, and everywhere they are different, but the best combination of good chocolate and tasty churros for €4 is still in “San Ginés”. It’s not even a shame to soak yourself in this chocolate while you’re eating your big portion.

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I was also pleasantly surprised by the people on this trip. In “vacation” mode, you can often be completely unconcerned and distracted. So, in one of the cafes was safely forgotten bag with turrons and other specialty sweets for a decent amount. We remembered it only an hour later. What was the result? The good Samaritan found our sweets near the table and gave them to the cafe staff, who returned them to us safely.

But what was all that about food?

The route of Don Quixote

Spain is famous for its themed routes. It so happened that our route coincided with the Don Quixote route. It begins in Madrid and continues in the old capital of Spain, Toledo. With this historic city should begin to get acquainted with the observation deck of the Mirador del Valle.

And then Don Quixote leads through the mills. To see the mills at sunset seemed to me very romantic – such was the plan even before the weather changed from sunny +18 to rainy-windy +8. But perseverance was stronger than the winds, so I bought a winter jacket, and here we were rushing through miles of olive fields.

I thought the mills should be visible from afar, but they hide behind the hills to the last. There are seven windmills in the small town of Mota del Cuervo, dedicated to the story of the cunning hidalgo. They are located on a hill with the poetic name “balcony of La Mancha”. Each windmill has a name, referring to the work of Miguel Cervantes. It is true that most of them are not old – no one is going to grind grain here in the old fashioned way. The mills were erected to preserve the culture of the region on the site of their great-grandmothers, which existed in the writer’s time.

The largest mill by the name of “Giant” houses a free museum. On the first floor sits a local watchman who offers to look at souvenirs dedicated to Don Quixote. Talking to him turned out to be a unique linguistic experience. We exchanged a few lines about the structure of the mill, and he asked for a cigarette. I was stunned for the first 10 seconds because I was a trained interpreter and had difficulty understanding what he wanted from me. But we continued to chat, and every minute he was more and more interesting to listen to. We weren’t far from the capital, and already the linguistic difference was so palpable.

The winds near the mills are usually strong, and this day was no exception. We were drenched by rain and nearly blown away. But we drove to the next hidalgo town.

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Campo de Criptana is home to 10 more mills. There is also a tourist center there where they can give you a tour and tell you curious details. It is very important for the locals to convey all the cultural and historical significance that Cervantes has for them. By the way, the three mills in this town date back to the 16th century and retain their original mechanism and structure.

In the evening, after a day of fighting the winds and mills, an overnight stay in a medieval castle awaited me. It was not so easy to find the castle – a terrible downpour began, and it took us a long time to find the entrance to the Castillo de Pilas Bonas, so well camouflaged. It was a small hotel, set up in a castle. There were only five rooms, two-story wooden and very cozy. Here I tasted for the first time eggplant in deep fryer and honey, as well as flamenco – despite its name, it has very little to do with the dance. Flamenquin is a pork roll stuffed with jamon, which is also poured with roquefort sauce.

Despeñaperros Nature Park

Waking up in the morning after the rain in the castle is a special romance. But Andalusia won’t see itself, so after getting the national toast with olive oil and grated tomatoes for breakfast, we hit the road. The road led through the natural park Despeñaperros. The Spanish respect nature, so they have many protected areas scattered around the country. Time was running out, the day was busy, but I could not resist the temptation to wander through the woods after miles of asphalt roads in big cities.

You drive, and around every corner the scenery opens up with incredible beauty. But make sure you get out to walk through the mountains, across the rivers, up to the top and see that everything around is green! The park is enchanting.

The six main cities of Andalusia.

The beauty of nature, the mysteries of history, and the charm of the cities came together in a stunning cocktail just in Andalusia.

Why go to Andalusia?

Andalusia is the southern region of Spain, located on the Iberian Peninsula, where the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Strait of Gibraltar meet.

To travel through the southern region of Spain is to buy a ticket to an endless holiday of sunshine and fun. The Romans, Greeks, Vandals, Moors and kings of Castile have left traces in the region’s history for centuries; every town or village here has a glorious past. Plus, Game of Thrones fans can take a drive through the picturesque filming locations in Almeria, Cordoba, and Seville. The Costa de la Luz (“Coast of Light”) is a wonderful beach vacation here, with the Atlantic Ocean lapping the Atlantic Ocean and the Costa del Sol and Costa de Almería the Mediterranean Sea.

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Andalusia is the birthplace of flamenco and bullfighting. The gastronomic richness of Andalusia will surprise you with a variety of tastes and flavors, will tell you that there is never a lot of appetizers, and soup is not a hot meal. Spanish in Andalusia will be a new language to you, even if you have learned and understood it before meeting the locals. Andalusians swallow sounds and whole syllables, deliberately shortening words and changing letters, simplifying and changing the language beyond recognition.

How to get to Andalusia?

The southern region of Spain can be reached by direct and connecting flights from Russia. The main tourist airports are in Malaga, Granada and Seville. From Barcelona and Madrid you can travel by bus, train or car.

Spain Railways – renfe.com Spain Buses – alsa.com Ridesharing – BlaBlaCar Getting around by car – autotraveler.ru/spain

When to go?

Andalusia is beautiful at any time of year. However, from May to mid-October the weather is hot, with temperatures rising above 35 degrees. At this time is the peak of the tourist season. In late autumn and winter in Andalusia is cool, rainy and the average temperature is 10-15 degrees. If you decide to visit the region at this time, you should stock up on warm clothing and prepare for the lack of heating in the homes.

The best time to travel to Andalusia is from March to April and from September to October, when there isn’t the stifling heat, but at the same time there is warm and sunny weather. February’s carnival season kicks off with festivities and fairs, an integral part of the Andalusian experience.

Itinerary

Andalusia consists of eight provinces and many small towns and villages about which we could talk endlessly. For your convenience, we offer you an itinerary of towns without which a visit does not count as a visit to Andalusia.

Malaga

To discover Andalusia go to the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas – Malaga. You can immerse yourself in surrealism, find out what cubism is, and get acquainted with the work of famous Picasso at the 16th-century palace-museum Buenavista, where about 300 works of the artist are exhibited (entrance fee €8). Audioguide (included in the ticket price) will explain in detail the history and ideas behind each work.

Museum website: museopicassomalaga.org Admission: 8 euros

The Soho neighborhood is definitely worth a walk. Here emerald parrots fly overhead, fantasies of one’s dreams grow in the form of graffiti on medieval ruins, houses turn into canvases for street artists. The urban project Malaga Arte Urbano Soho (MAUS) actively promotes the cultural transformation of the city and supports talented residents.

To look from above the coast and the bullfighting arena of Málaga can be found in the 14th century eastern fortress Castillo de Gibralfaro, located on the 142 meters high mountain of the same name. The entrance costs 2.2 euros. The road to Gibralfaro begins in the old part of the town and leads through the park.

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Gibralfaro: Camino de Gibralfaro, 11

Wander among the stalls of the Mercado Central. Taste olives, caramelized almonds, cheese and strawberries. Also worth trying are the local dishes: espetos de sardinas (grilled sardines), porra antequerana (cold tomato soup with garlic, pepper and olive oil), arroz negro (black rice with seafood), fig bread with nuts (pan de higo) and tapas. For dessert head to the old Casa Aranda (open since 1932), which offers delicious churros with chocolate.

Central Market: Atarazanas, 10 Casa Aranda: Herrería del Rey, 3

Olvera

Feel like a fairy tale hero in one of the white towns (pueblas blancas) of Andalusia, Olvera, in the province of Cadiz. Snow-white, slender houses with tiled roofs spread out between two hills. On one is an eastern castle of the XII century with a panoramic platform on the surrounding valleys, on the other – a sand-colored church. Walk through the maze of cobblestone streets, smell the mandarins, see how olives grow among the silver leaves, live in an old house with wooden beams on the ceiling and cracked by age walls, it is worthwhile to be in Olvera at least once. The white city is known throughout Andalusia for the production of the highest quality olive oil.

Caminito del Rey

One hour from Olvera is one of the most dangerous roads in the world, the Royal Trail. The road above the El Chorro Gorge (El Chorro) hangs in the air at an altitude of 400 meters. In the twentieth century, the Caminito del Rey was used to move people and materials between the two power plants on either side of the gorge. The Royal Trail got its name after a visit to the King of Spain in 1920. The road collapsed several times and was closed to the public altogether for a long time. Today it is a safe but breathtaking five kilometers of trail with eagles, vultures and falcons soaring overhead.

The trail is open only to hikers and takes no more than 600 people a day. So you should think about buying tickets (10 euros) in advance, especially during the high season, from June to October, and buy them from the official website.

Caminito del Rey website: caminitodelrey.info

Ronda

Ronda is the city that inspired writer Ernest Hemingway’s story of Spanish bullfighting, Death in the Afternoon. Ronda is frozen in time between two gorges over a rushing river. A new bridge (Puente Nuevo) connected the two parts of the city into one and became the place to see all the hypnotic beauty of the city. Ronda is the birthplace of Spanish bullfighting and is home to the largest bullring in the world, the Plaza de Toros, at a ticket price of 7 euros.

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During the day, be sure to walk among the age-old mansions of the city and descend into the El Tajo Gorge to see the city from below and all the beauty of the green valleys. Visit La Casa del Rey Moro, the House of the Moors King in Rondo, and the water mine that leads through dark cellars into the gorge. At the wine museum (Museo del vino de Ronda) you can taste local wines. In the Alameda del Tajo (Alameda del Tajo) park, feel like a bird standing on a balcony over a precipice, and in the evening have dinner at one of the cliff-top restaurants overlooking the city.

Plaza de Toros: Virgin de la Paz, 15 Moorish King’s house: Santo Domingo Savio, 9 Wine museum: Gonzales Campos, 2

Granada

Once and for all, East and West meet in Granada. Add in views of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains, gypsy neighborhoods, and centuries of history, and the city is sure to impress.

Look for the richness of the Oriental past in the Alhambra architectural complex: Arabic ligature on the ornate arches and vaults of palaces, carved windows in luxurious halls, the elegance of internal squares and courtyards. The Alhambra offers a panoramic view of the entire city and the snowy mountains. You can walk around the complex not only during the day but also at night, avoiding the crowds of tourists (day ticket price €13, night – €8).

Website of the Alhambra: alhambra.org Website to buy tickets: alhambra-patronato.es

Continue your journey through the Orient in the medieval Arab quarter of Albaicin, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Oriental restaurants with embroidered cushions and carpets on the floor, dozens of flavored teas and products from around the world make a great addition to your stroll.

In Sacromonte’s gypsy quarter, the guitar’s lilting voice and flamenco dancers’ heels break the city’s evening silence. Here one can enjoy some of the best flamenco in town. As you walk around Sacromonte, you will notice the old cave houses where people still live. The houses are built in the rocks and look very cozy, despite their unusual location.

In Granada, the selection of local tapas will surprise you with its variety. Tapas are offered free of charge when you order a drink. Also, be sure to try the roasted eggplant with honey (berenjenas con miel), Russian salad with tuna (ensalada rusa), beans with jamon (habitas con jamón).

For dessert, you can go not to a candy store, but to a monastery. Go inside any monastery (Monasterio San Bernando, Monasterio de Santiago), where there is a sign selling sweets. Ring the bell and ask for the candy of your choice, put down the money, and in a couple of minutes you will be given your purchase. The nuns are forbidden to show themselves to other people, so the conversation takes place through a closed window.

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