Saturday, November 23, 2013

Travelling Spain: Málaga

I knew southern Spain was going to be different. But until seeing brown rugged mountains on the approach to Málaga, I didn't really expect it to "strike" me. My flight had departed Dublin in early-morning darkness, leaving behind some of this year's most uninviting Irish weather. After tiring of futile attempts to sleep, Andalucía from the air looked exotic enough to delay my inevitable fatigue. 

It was sunny of course. This part of the world sees few days that aren't. A very comfortable seventeen degrees sprang my step all the way to the accommodation.
Yet the sight of coat and scarf-wearing locals conveyed that this was Málaga's version of winter. 

The abiding memory of "day one" will be my first deployment of Spanish, just weeks after learning my first word. It was, admittedly, to ask a waiter if he spoke English, which turned out to be of similar standard to my Spanish. Still, propelled my willingness to eat and his eagerness to sell, we managed to do a deal. Afterwards I asked him if there was a bathroom.

"Si" he replied cheerily, pointing the way in tandem. 

Then, for reasons unknown, I attempted to ask him if I'd posed the question correctly. That was when we finally hit the linguistic difficulty we'd being do so well to avoid. He presumed I was reasking the question, and merely repeated his answer more vigorously. Then I tried explaining that I wasn't asking the same question, that I was wondering if I'd asked the question correctly. Such deadlocks are broken only by smiling broadly and going, finally, to the bathroom. 

My first full day in Málaga was spent exploring the old city as part of a walking tour. The history was surmised by an Italian tour guide. Romans, Moors and Reconquista played their supporting roles before the emphasis settled on the Civil War and Franco. That totalitarian Spain remains very much in living memory was a point he made eagerly, and made well.  

Franco's terming of Pablo Picasso as a "degenerate" seemed as good a reason as any to visit the latter's hometown museum. Pablo left Málaga at age nineteen and vowed never to return as long as Spain stayed Francoist. In the event, the Generalísimo outlived him by two years. The Museo Picasso Málaga boasts 285 of the celebrated artist's works, each one as discussable as the last. I imagine.

Málaga's Moorish remnants are best exemplified by the Alcazaba and Gibralfaro fortifications that sit on elevated ground between the city and the port. While the strenuous 130 metre-climb to the Gibralfaro is rewarded by stunning views, the sheer elegance of the Alcazaba's interior secured its place on my "What I enjoyed most about Málaga" list.


  1. Nice article! Where will you be going next?

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