Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Christmas vacation is giving us some nice opportunities to travel. We´ve had a stretch of very pleasant weather, and decided that it was time to go down and visit the Mediterranean Sea. Málaga is a very popular destination along Spain´s Costa del Sol. We received varying recommendations from our friends. My students told me it was the coolest city ever, and that we had to go there. Another friend said that it´s an ugly city, and it doesn´t have a pretty old-town district like Córdoba´s Judería. Take a look at the pictures and judge for yourself:

Although Málaga doesn´t have a conventional old-town area, it´s actually an older city than Córdoba or Sevilla. It was founded by Phoenician traders in the 8th century B.C., with the original name of Malaka. It was taken by the Carthaginians in the 6th century B.C. The Carthaginians lost it to the Romans in the 3rd century B.C. in the Second Punic War (this was the war in which Hannibal marched his elephants over the Pyrenees). The Visigoths moved in during the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century A.D. They were in turn defeated by the Moors in 8th century A.D. The Moors held it until Fernando and Isabel, Los Reyes Católicos, conquered it in 1487 and made it part of the kingdom of Spain. This is a city with a lot of history. Beneath the Picasso Museum, there were the preserved foundations of an old Phoenician residence and a section of the Phoenician city wall (6th century B.C.), an old Roman fish-processing factory (3rd to 5th centuries A.D.), and a ducal palace (16th century A.D.). The ruins were much more interesting than the Picasso museum itself; unfortunately, no cameras were allowed.

We´ve gotten pretty good at navigating Spanish cities. From the train station, we went directly to the Alcazaba, the Moorish castle / fortress on a hill overlooking the city. One of the informational signs advanced the theory that the hill was the reason that Málaga had been continuously occupied for so many years; other Phoenician cities in less defensible locations simply disappeared. We took the coward´s route of catching a bus up the hill to the Castillo Gibralfaro, but we did enjoy the walk back down the hill afterward. At the castillo was a remarkably good and economical outdoor restaurant. We enjoyed our afternoon comida sipping Moscatel (a sweet wine which is a specialty of Málaga) and enjoying the view of the Mediterranean. Ah, Spain!

Probably the most enjoyable part of the day was a stroll along the beach. It´s been a long time since we´ve been able to walk on the sand and hear the crash of the waves. The temperatures were in the 60´s; comfortable, but not exactly swimming weather. We may have to spend a weekend here when it warms up a bit. We picked up a couple of seashells from the sand. They definitely look different than the shells you´ll find on an Oregon or California beach.

¡Feliz Navidad a todos!

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