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History and politics
Beevor, A, The Battle for Spain (2007). Detailed but readable, it’s not perhaps as good as Hugh Thomas’s, but it’s shorter and benefits from recent research.
Brenan, G, The Spanish Labyrinth (1943). A good explanation of the background to the Spanish Civil War, particularly in Andalucía.
Carr, R (ed), Spain: A History (2000). An interesting compilation of recent writing on Spanish history, with entertaining and contributions from leading academics.
Elliott, J, Imperial Spain (1963). History as it should be: precise, sympathetic and very readable.
Fletcher, R, Moorish Spain (1992). A simple and approachable history of the Moorish presence in Spain with an attempt to gauge how life was for the average citizen.
Sánchez Montero, R, A Short History of Seville (1992). Succinct, readable and intelligent.Thomas, H, The Spanish Civil War (1961/77). The first unbiased account of the war read by many Spaniards in the censored Franco years, this is large but always readable. A superbly researched work.
Alarcón, P, The Three-Cornered Hat (1874). Tales of colourful characters and political corruption from 19th-century Spain.
Alberti, R, Concerning the Angels (1995). Some of this writer’s finest poems, written in the late 1920s.
Aleixandre, V, A Longing for the Light (1985). The collected poems of the Sevillian Nobel Prize winner.
Burns, J, Spain: A Literary Companion (1995). Good anthology of Spanish writers.
Jiménez, J, Platero and I (1994). Lyric prose poem about a conversation between the poet and his donkey.
Lorca, F, The Collected Poems (2002). Complete bilingual edition of Lorca’s poems.
Lorca, F, Three Plays (1993). A translation of the plays Blood Wedding , Yerma and The House of Bernarda Alba.
Machado, A, Border of a Dream: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado (2003). A good recent bilingual collection of Machado’s work.
Muñoz Molina, A, Sepharad (2003). One of Spain’s best contemporary novelists. This weaves together tales from the Holocaust and rural Andalucía to examine the Diaspora and Sephardic Spain.Pérez-Reverte, A, The Seville Communion (1995). Entertaining novel of renegade priests and shifty Sevilla characters who spend their time in various cafés and tapas bars.
Webster, J, Duende (2004). A no-punches- pulled exploration of the world of flamenco. The same author’s Andalus is a light and easy read on the investigation of Moorish Spain.
Ball, P, ¡Morbo! (2001). Entertaining review of rivalry in Spanish football with plenty to say on Sevilla-Betis and the creation of Recreativo de Huelva, the first Spanish club.
Barrucand, M and Bednorz, A, Moorish Architecture (2002). Updated edition of this beautifully illustrated handbook to the principal Islamic buildings of the peninsula. Excellent detail and incisive historical background.
Casas, Penelope, The Foods and Wines of Spain (1982). Considered by many as the definitive book on Spanish cooking, the author is married to a Madrileño and covers regional cuisine as well as tapas and traditional desserts.
Collins, L and Lapierre, D, Or I’ll Dress You in Mourning (1968). Fascinating biography for those into tauromachy, on the rags-to-riches tale of the famous bullfighter, known as El Cordobés. Apart from the superb insight into bullfighting, the account documents the shocking poverty of life under Franco.
Davidson, A, Guide to the Seafood of Spain and Portugal (1992). A comprehensive guide to any of the finny tribes that may turn up on your plate in restaurants and tapas bars.
Hemingway, €, Death in the Afternoon (1939). Superb book on bullfighting by a man who fell heavily for it.
Ross, C, Contemporary Spain: A Handbook (1997). Slightly dry but useful overview of Spain’s politics and economy.
Radford, J, The New Spain: A Complete Guide to Contemporary Spanish Wine (2004). A guide to Spain’s wines and wineries. New edition should be due soon.Woodall, J, In Search of the Firedance (1992). An excellent and impassioned history and travelogue of flamenco, if inclined to over-romanticize.
García, Ernest and Patterson, Andrew, Where to Watch Birds in Southern Spain.
Farino, T and Grunfeld, F, Wild Spain. Knowledgeable book on Spain’s wildlife and the quiet corners where you find it.
Hunter-Watts, Guy, Walking in Andalucía (2000). Details of specific walks, background information and accommodation.
Molesworth Allen, Betty, Wildflowers of Southern Spain .Palmer, Michael, A Birdwatching Guide to Southern Spain.
Bohme, L, Granada: City of my Dreams (2000). Entertaining and personal account of the city of Granada, generally only available in bookshops there. Full of entertaining anecdotes and observations.
Borrow, G, The Bible in Spain (1842). Amusing account of a remarkable 19th-century traveller who travelled widely through Spain trying to distribute Bibles during the first Carlist war and spent much time with the gypsy population.
Brenan, G, The Face of Spain (1950). Worth a read for Brenan’s insights into the people he lived among for many years. Returning after the Civil War, he seeks to rediscover his country and probe Lorca’s death.
Brenan, G, South from Granada (1957). An account of this writer’s time living in the remote Alpujarran village of Yegen. Incisive commentary on local culture; recently made into a faithful film.
Chetwode, P, Two Middle-Aged Ladies in Andalusia (1963). Likeable account of an English lady’s solo ride through the little visited upland areas of Granada on the back of the Marquesa, an elderly mare.
Ford, R, A Hand-Book for Travellers in Spain (1845). Difficult to get hold of (there have been several editions) but worth it; amazingly comprehensive and entertaining guide written by a 19th-century British gentleman who spent 5 years in Spain.
Ford, R, Gatherings from Spain (1846). Superb and sweeping overview of Spanish culture and customs; Richard Ford was something of a genius and has been surpassed by few if any travel writers since.
Gibson, I, Lorca’s Granada (1992). A superb collection of walks through Granada, evoking the ghosts of Lorca at every corner. Written by his pre-eminent biographer and including a wealth of detail about the poet’s life. Recommended. Gibson has also recently published an excellent Spanish biography of Antonio Machado, which may be translated into English.
Irving, W, Tales of the Alhambra (1832), Ed Miguel Sánchez. This American diplomat travelled to Granada and stayed in the Alhambra itself. He describes the colourful characters he found there and recounts tales he heard of sighing Moorish princesses and ardent lovers.
Jacobs, M, Andalucía (1998). An excellent series of essays and information by a British writer who knows the region deeply. Never straying into sentimentality, the writer captures much of the magic and history of the region.
Jacobs, M, The Factory of Light (2003). A class above any of the other expat-in-Andalucía experiences, this biography of the remote village of Frailes in Jaén province brings out the humanity and quirkiness of a typical yet unusual rural settlement. Recommended.
Lee, L, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969). A poignant account of a romantic walk across pre-Civil War Spain, ending with a spell in Almuñécar. A Rose in Winter is the same author’s story about returning after the war.
Nooteboom, C, Roads to Santiago (1992). An offbeat travelogue that never fails to entertain. One of the best travel books around; it manages to be soulful, literary and moving. It’s written by a Dutch author with a deep love of architecture and solitude. Highly recommended.Stewart, C, Driving over Lemons (1999). The account of an ex-Genesis drummer and itinerant sheep-shearer settling in the Alpujarra. Candid and unpretentious and a better read than the sequel, A Parrot in the Pepper Tree . His third account of Alpujarra life is The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society.
Spain’s architectural heritage is one of Europe’s richest and certainly its most diverse, due in large part to the dual influences of European Christian and Islamic styles during the eight centuries of Moorish presence in the peninsula. Another factor is economic: both during the Reconquista and in the wake of the discovery of the Americas, money seemed limitless and vast building projects were undertaken. Entire treasure fleets were spent in erecting lavish churches and monasteries on previously Muslim soil, while the relationships with Islamic civilization spawned some fascinating styles unique to Spain. The Moors adorned their towns with sensuous palaces, such as Granada’s Alhambra, and elegant mosques, as well as employing compact climate-driven urban planning that still forms the hearts of most towns. In modern times Spain has shaken off the ponderous monumentalism of the Franco era and become something of a powerhouse of modern architecture.
Andalucía’s finest early stone structures are in Antequera, whose dolmens are extraordinarily monumental burial spaces built from vast slabs of stone. The dwellings of the period were less permanent structures of which little evidence remains, except at the remarkable site of Los Millares near Almería, a large Chalcolithic settlement, necropolis, and sophisticated associated fortifications that has provided valuable information about society in the third millennium BC. The first millennium BC saw the construction of further fortified settlements, usually on hilltops. Little remains of this period in Andalucía, as the towns were then occupied by the Romans and Moors.
Similarly, while the Phoenicians established many towns in southern Spain, their remains are few; they were so adept at spotting natural harbours that nearly all have been in continual use ever since, leaving only the odd foundations or breakwater. There are also few Carthaginian remains of note. Their principal base in Andalucía was Cádiz, but two millennia of subsequent occupation have taken their toll on the archaeological record.
The story of Spanish architecture really begins with the Romans, who colonized the peninsula and imposed their culture on it to a significant degree. More significant still is the legacy they left; architectural principles that endured and to some extent formed the basis for later peninsular styles.
There’s not a wealth of outstanding monuments; Itálica, just outside Sevilla, and Baelo Claudia, on the Costa de la Luz, are impressive, if not especially well-preserved Roman towns. Acinipo, near Ronda, has a large and spectacularly sited theatre, Carmona has a beautifully excavated necropolis and Almuñécar has the ruins of its fish sauce factory on display. In many towns and villages you can see Roman fortifications and foundations under existing structures.
There are few architectural reminders of the Visigothic period, although it was far from a time of lawless barbarism. Germanic elements were added to Roman and local traditions and there was widespread building; the kings of the period commissioned many churches, but in Andalucía these were all demolished to make way for mosques.
The first distinct period of Moorish architecture in Spain is that of the Umayyads ruling as emirs, then as caliphs, from Córdoba from the eighth to 11th centuries. Although the Moors immediately set about building mosques, the earliest building still standing is Córdoba’s Mezquita. Dating from the late ninth century, the ruined church at the mountain stronghold of Bobastro exhibits clear stylistic similarities with parts of the Mezquita and indicates that already a specifically Andalusi architecture was extant.
The period of the caliphate was the high point of Al-Andalus and some suitably sumptuous architecture remains. Having declared himself caliph, Abd al-Rahman III had the palace complex of Madinat az-Zahra built just outside of Córdoba. Now in ruins, excavation and reconstruction have revealed some of the one-time splendour, particularly of the throne room, which has arcades somewhat similar to those of the Mezquita and ornate relief designs depicting the Tree of Life and other vegetal motifs. The residential areas are centred around courtyards, a feature of Roman and Moorish domestic architecture that persists in Andalucía to this day.
The Mezquita had been added to by succeeding rulers, who enlarged it but didn’t stray far from the original design. What is noticeable is a growing ornamentality, with use of multi-lobed arches, sometimes interlocking, and blind arcading on gateways. The mihrab was resituated and topped with a recessed dome, decorated with lavish mosaic work, possibly realized by Byzantine craftsmen. A less ornate mosque from this period can be seen in a beautiful hilltop setting at Almonaster la Real in the north of Huelva province.
Many defensive installations were also put up at this time: the castles of Tarifa and Baños de la Encina mostly date from this period. Bathhouses such as those of Jaén were also in use, although were modified in succeeding centuries. The typical Moorish hammam had a domed central space and vaulted chambers with star-shaped holes in the ceiling to admit natural light.
The taifa period, although politically chaotic, continued the rich architectural tradition of the caliphate. Málaga’s Alcazaba preserved an 11th-century pavilion with delicate triple arches on slender columns. Elaborate stucco decoration, usually with repeating geometric or vegetal motifs, began to be used commonly during this time.
The Almoravids contributed little to Andalucían architecture, but the Almohads brought their own architectural modifications with them. Based in Sevilla, their styles were not as flamboyant and relied heavily on ornamental brickwork. The supreme example of the period is the Giralda tower that once belonged to the Mosque in Sevilla and now forms part of the cathedral. The use of intricate wood-panelled ceilings began to be popular and the characteristic Andalucían azulejo decorative tiles were first used at this time. Over this period the horseshoe arch developed a point. The Almohads were great military architects and built or improved a large number of walls, fortresses and towers; these often have characteristic pointed battlements. The Torre del Oro in Sevilla is one of the most famous and attractive examples.
The climax of Moorish architecture ironically came when Al-Andalus was already doomed and had been reduced to the emirate of Granada. Under the Nasrid rulers of that city the sublime Alhambra was constructed; a palace and pleasure garden that took elegance and sophistication in architecture to previously unseen levels. Nearly all the attention was focused on the interior of the buildings, which consisted of galleries and courtyards offset by water features and elegant gardens. The architectural high point of this and other buildings is the sheer intricacy of the stucco decoration in panels surrounding the windows and doorways. Another ennobling feature is mocárabes, a curious concave decoration of prisms placed in a cupola or ceiling and resembling natural crystal formations in caves. The Alcázar in Sevilla is also a good example of the period, though actually constructed in Christian Spain; it is very Nasrid in character and Granadan craftsmen certainly worked on it.
As the Christians gradually took back Andalucía, they introduced their own styles, developed in the north with substantial influence from France and Italy. The Romanesque barely features in Andalucía; it was the Gothic style that influenced post-Reconquista church building in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. It was combined with styles learned under the Moors to form an Andalucían fusion known as Gothic-mudéjar. Many of the region’s churches are constructed on these lines, typically featuring a rectangular floor plan with a triple nave surrounded by pillars, a polygonal chancel and square chapels. Gothic exterior buttresses were used and many had a bell tower decorated with ornate brickwork reminiscent of the Giralda, which was also rebuilt during this period.
The Andalucían Gothic style differs from the rest of the peninsula in its basic principles. Whereas in the north, the ‘more space, less stone, more light’ philosophy pervaded, practical considerations demanded different solutions in the south. One of these was space; the cathedrals normally occupied the site of the former mosque, which had square ground plans and were hemmed in by other buildings. Another was defence – on the coast in particular, churches and cathedrals had to be ready to double as fortresses in case of attack, so sturdy walls were of more importance than stained glass. The redoubt of a cathedral at Almería is a typical example. Many of Andalucía’s churches, built in the Gothic style, were heavily modified in succeeding centuries and present a blend of different architectures.
Mudéjar architecture spread quickly across Spain. Moorish architects and those who worked with them began to meld their Islamic tradition with the northern influences. The result is distinctive and pleasing, typified by the decorative use of brick and coloured tiles, with tall elegant bell towers a particular highlight. Another common feature is the highly elaborate wooden panelled ceilings, some of which are masterpieces. The word artesonado describes the most characteristic type of these. The style became popular nationwide; in certain areas, mudéjar remained a constant feature for over 500 years of building.
The final phase of Spanish Gothic was the Isabelline, or Flamboyant. Produced during and immediately after the reign of the Catholic Monarchs (hence the name), it borrowed decorative motifs from Islamic architecture to create an exuberant form characterized by highly elaborate façades carved with tendrils, sweeping curves and geometrical patterns. The Capilla Real in Granada is an example and the Palacio de Jabalquinto in Baeza is a superb demonstration of the style.
The 16th century was a high point in Spanish power and wealth, when it expanded across the Atlantic, tapping riches that must have seemed limitless. Spanish Renaissance architecture reflected this, leading from the late Gothic style into the elaborate peninsular style known as Plateresque. Although the style originally relied heavily on Italian models, it soon took on specifically Spanish features. The word refers particularly to the façades of civil and religious buildings, characterized by decoration of shields and other heraldic motifs, as well as geometric and naturalistic patterns such as shells. The term comes from the word for silversmith, platero, as the level of intricacy of the stonework approached that of jewellery. Arches went back to the rounded and columns and piers became a riot of foliage and ‘grotesque’ scenes.
A classical revival put an end to much of the elaboration, as Renaissance architects concentrated on purity. To classical Greek features such as fluted columns and pediments were added large Italianate cupolas and domes. Spanish architects were apprenticed to Italian masters and returned to Spain with their ideas. Elegant interior patios in palacios are an especially attractive feature of the style, to be found across the country. Andalucía is a particularly rich storehouse of this style, where the master Diego de Siloé designed numerous cathedrals and churches. The palace of Carlos V in the Alhambra grounds is often cited as one of the finest examples of Renaissance purity. One of Diego de Siloé’s understudies, Andrés de Vandelvira, evolved into the über-architect of the Spanish Renaissance. The ensemble of palaces and churches he designed in Jaén province, particularly in the towns of Ubeda and Baeza, are unsurpassed in their sober beauty. Other fine 16th-century palacios can be found in nearly every town and city of Andalucía; often built in honey-coloured sandstone, these noble buildings were the homes of the aristocrats who had reaped the riches of the Reconquista and the new trade routes to the Americas.
The pure lines of this Renaissance classicism were soon to be transformed into a new style, Spanish Baroque. Although it started fairly soberly, it soon became rather ornamental, often being used to add elements to existing buildings. The Baroque was a time of great genius in architecture as in the other arts in Spain, as masters playfully explored the reaches of their imaginations; a strong reaction against the sober preceding style. Churches became ever larger, in part to justify the huge façades, and nobles indulged in one-upmanship, building ever-grander palacios. The façades themselves are typified by such features as pilasters (narrow piers descending to a point) and niches to hold statues. Andalucía has a particularly vast array of Baroque churches; Sevilla in particular bristles with them, while Cádiz cathedral is almost wholly built in this style. Smaller towns, such as Priego de Córdoba and Ecija, are also well endowed, as they both enjoyed significant agriculture-based prosperity during the period.
The Baroque became more ornate as time went on, reaching the extremes of Churrigueresque, named for the Churriguera brothers who worked in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The result can be overelaborate but on occasion transcendentally beautiful. Vine tendrils and cherubs decorate façades and retablos, which seem intent on breaking every classical norm, twisting here, upside-down there and at their best seeming to capture motion.
Neoclassicism, encouraged by a new interest in the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome, was an inevitable reaction to such joie de vivre. It again resorted to the cleaner lines of antiquity, which were used this time for public spaces as well as civic and religious buildings. Many plazas and town halls in Spain are in this style, which tended to flourish in the cities that were thriving in the late 18th and 19th centuries, such as Cádiz, whose elegant old town is largely in this style. The best examples use symmetry to achieve beauty and elegance, such as the Prado in Madrid, or Sevilla’s tobacco factory, which bridges Baroque and neoclassical styles.
The late 19th century saw Catalan modernista architecture break the moulds in a startling way. At the forefront of the movement was Antoni Gaudí. Essentially a highly original interpretation of art nouveau, Gaudí’s style featured naturalistic curves and contours enlivened with stylistic elements inspired by Muslim and Gothic architecture. There is little modernista influence in Andalucía, but more sober fin de siècle architecture can be seen in Almería, which was a prosperous industrial powerhouse at the time.
Awakened interest in the days of Al-Andalus led to the neo-Moorish (or neo-mudéjar) style being used for public buildings and private residences. The most evident example of this is the fine ensemble of buildings constructed in Sevilla for the 1929 Ibero-American exhibition. Budgets were thrown out the window and the lavish pavilions are sumptuously decorated. Similarly ornate is the theatre in Cádiz.
Elegance and whimsy never seemed to play much part in fascist architecture and during the Franco era Andalucía was subjected to an appalling series of ponderous concrete monoliths, all in the name of progress. A few avant-garde buildings managed to escape the drudgery from the 1950s on, but it was the dictator’s death in 1975, followed by EEC membership in 1986, that really provided the impetus for change.Andalucía is not at the forefront of Spain’s modern architectural movements, but the World Expo in Sevilla in 1992 brought some of the big names in. Among the various innovative pavilions, Santiago Calatrava’s sublime bridges stand out. The impressive Teatro de la Maestranza and public library also date from this period, while the newer Olympic stadium, and Málaga’s Picasso Museum and Centro de Arte Contemporáneo – both successful adaptations of older buildings – are more recent offerings. Elsewhere, the focus has been on softening the harsh Francoist lines of the cities’ 20th-century expansions. In most places this has been quietly successful. Much of the coast, however, is still plagued by the concrete curse, where planning laws haven’t been strict enough in some places, and have been circumvented with a well-placed bribe in others.
In the first millennium BC, Iberian cultures produced fine jewellery from gold and silver, as well as some remarkable sculpture and ceramics.These influences derived from contact with trading posts set up by the Phoenicians, who also left artistic evidence of their presence, mostly in the port cities they established. Similarly, the Romans brought their own artistic styles to the peninsula and there are many cultural remnants, including some fine sculpture and a number of elaborate mosaic floors. Later, the Visigoths were skilled artists and craftspeople and produced many fine pieces, most notably in metalwork.
The majority of the artistic heritage left by the Moors is tied up in their architecture . As Islamic tradition has tended to veer away from the portrayal of human or animal figures, the norm was intricate applied decoration with calligraphic, geometric and vegetal themes predominating. Superb panelled ceilings are a feature of Almohad architecture; a particularly attractive style being that known as artesonado, in which the concave panels are bordered with elaborate inlay work. During this period, glazed tiles known as azulejos began to be produced; these continue to be a feature of Andalucían craftsmanship.
The gradual process of the Reconquista brought Christian styles into Andalucía. Generally speaking, the Gothic, which had arrived in Spain both overland from France and across the Mediterranean from Italy, was the first post-Moorish style in Andalucía. Over time, Gothic sculpture achieved greater naturalism and became more ornate, culminating in the technical mastery of sculptors and painters, such as Pedro Millán, Pieter Dancart (who is responsible for the massive altarpiece of Sevilla’s cathedral) and Alejo Fernández, all of whom were from or heavily influenced by northern Europe.
Though to begin with, the finest artists were working in Northern Spain, Andalucía soon could boast several notable figures of its own. In the wake of the Christian conquest of Granada, the Catholic Monarchs and their successor Carlos V went on a building spree. The Spanish Renaissance drew heavily on the Italian but developed its own style. Perhaps the finest 16th-century figure is Pedro de Campaña, a Fleming whose exalted talent went largely unrecognized in his own time. His altarpiece of the Purification of Mary in Sevilla’s cathedral is particularly outstanding. The Italian sculptor Domenico Fancelli was entrusted by Carlos to carve the tombs of Fernando and Isabel in Granada; these are screened by a fine reja (grille) by Maestro Bartolomé, a Jaén-born artist who has several such pieces in Andalucían churches. The best-known 16th-century Spanish artist, the Cretan Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco), has a few works in Andalucía, but the majority are in Toledo and Madrid.
As the Renaissance progressed, naturalism in painting increased, leading into the Golden Age of Spanish art. As Sevilla prospered on New World riches, the city became a centre for artists, who found wealthy patrons in abundance. Pre-eminent among all was Diego Rodríguez de Silva Velásquez (1599-1660), who started his career there before moving to Madrid to become a court painter. Another remarkable painter working in Sevilla was Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664) whose idiosyncratic style often focuses on superbly rendered white garments in a dark, brooding background, a metaphor for the subjects themselves, who were frequently priests. During Zurbarán’s later years, he was eclipsed in the Sevilla popularity stakes by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1618-1682). While at first glance his paintings can seem heavy on the sentimentality, they tend to focus on the space between the central characters, who interact with glances or gestures of great power and meaning. Juan Valdés Leal painted many churches and monasteries in Sevilla; his greatest works are the macabre realist paintings in the Hospital de la Caridad. The sombre tone struck by these works reflects the decline of the once-great mercantile city.
At this time, the sculptor Juan Martínez Montañés carved numerous figures, retablos and pasos (ornamental floats for religious processions) in wood. Pedro Roldán, Juan de Mesa and Pedro de Mena were other important Baroque sculptors from this period, as was Alonso Cano, a crotchety but talented painter and sculptor working from Granada. The main focus of this medium continued to be ecclesiastic; retablos became ever larger and more ornate, commissioned by nobles to gain favour with the church and improve their chances in the afterlife.
The 18th and early 19th centuries saw fairly characterless art produced under the new dynasty of Bourbon kings. Tapestry production increased markedly but never scaled the heights of the earlier Flemish masterpieces. One man who produced pictures for tapestries was the master of 19th-century art, Francisco Goya. Goya was a remarkable figure whose finest works included both paintings and etchings; there’s a handful of his work scattered around Andalucía’s galleries, but the best examples are in Madrid’s Prado and in the north.
After Goya, the 19th century produced few works of note as Spain tore itself apart in a series of brutal wars and conflicts. Perhaps in reaction to this, the costumbrista tradition developed; these painters and writers focused on portraying Spanish life; their depictions often revolving around nostalgia and stereotypes. Among the best were the Bécquer family: José; his cousin Joaquín; and his son Valeriano, whose brother Gustavo Adolfo was one of the period’s best-known poets.
The early 20th century saw the rise of Spanish modernism and surrealism, much of it driven from Catalunya. While architects such as Gaudí managed to combine their discipline with art, it was one man from Málaga who had such an influence on 20th-century painting that he is arguably the most famous artist in the world. Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881-1973) is notable not just for his artistic genius, but also for his evolution through different styles. Training in Barcelona, but doing much of his work in Paris, his initial Blue Period was fairly sober and subdued, named for predominant use of that colour. His best early work, however, came in his succeeding Pink Period, where he used brighter tones to depict the French capital. He moved on from this to become a pioneer of cubism. Drawing on non-western forms, cubism forsook realism for a new form of three-dimensionality, trying to show subjects from as many different angles as possible. Picasso then moved on to more surrealist forms. He continued painting right throughout his lifetime and produced an incredible number of works. One of his best-known paintings is Guernica, a nightmarish ensemble of terror-struck animals and people that he produced in abhorrence of the Nationalist bombing of the defenceless Basque market town in April 1937. The new Picasso Museum in Málaga displays a range of his works.
A completely different contemporary was the Córdoban Julio Romero de Torres, a painter who specialized in sensuous depictions of Andalucían women, usually fairly unencumbered by clothing. A more sober 20th-century painter was Daniel Vásquez Díaz, a Huelvan who adorned the walls of La Rábida monastery with murals on the life of Columbus and also has a museum in Nerva devoted to him.The Civil War was to have a serious effect on art in Spain, as a majority of artists sided with the Republic and fled Spain with their defeat. Franco was far from an enlightened patron of the arts and his occupancy was a monotonous time. Times have changed, however, and the regional governments, including the Andalucían, are extremely supportive of local artists these days and the museums in each provincial capital usually have a good collection of modern works.
After years under the cultural anaesthetic of the fascist dictatorship, Spanish cinema has belatedly made a strong impression on the world stage. With an enthusiastic home audience of cinema-goers, increased funding, and a huge global Spanish-speaking population, it was perhaps only a matter of time.
One of the early pioneers of cinema was the Aragonese film maker Segundo de Chomón who was hired by the French film company Pathé in order for them to compete against the great Georges Méliès in the late 19th century. He was an innovator in trick photography and made one of the earliest colour films Le scarabée d’or (The Golden Beetle). However, it was telling that he had to work outside his homeland. A shortage of capital and an underdeveloped home market meant that it was very difficult to develop any indigenous production facilities. As public awareness slowly mounted, the demand was mostly met by imported American films.
One of the greatest figures in the history of cinema came from a small town in the underdeveloped province of Teruel. Luis Buñuel sprang to prominence in France, where he collaborated with Salvador Dalí in the late 1920s, pioneering surrealism on the screen. Buñuel was sure that the critics were going to hate their first film, Un chien andalou, so he took some stones along to the première to lob at any that voiced their disapproval. Luckily, it went down a treat, and they followed it up with the successful L’Âge d’Or; both produced images that are still iconic. Along with a whole generation of talented artists, Buñuel left Spain with the onset of fascism but did return shortly before his death to work on a number of collaborations. His work has influenced generations of directors.
The beginnings of a native Spanish film industry came during the 1930s with the help of the Republican Government. Locally produced films such as La Verbena de la Paloma (Paloma Fair) (1935) and Morena Clara (Clara the Brunette) (1936) proved to be immensely popular and produced the first Spanish-language star, the unlikely named Imperio Argentina. Another important development in this period was the move to dub imported films into Spanish, a practice which continues to this day.
The Civil War and its lead-up saw numerous propaganda films made, then the establishment of the Franco dictatorship saw the end of progress and development in the Spanish film industry. For the next 40 years the film industry was to be made subservient to the goals of the state, all film production had to be approved and censorship was strict. The emphasis was on films with a unifying message. Glorified histories, inoffensive comedies and chaste romances were the order of the day. Regional differences were not encouraged and the use of Catalan, Euskara and Gallego was forbidden.
Despite this, some film makers managed to put their message across. The most important was Antonio Bardem. His films, especially Death of a Cyclist (1956) suggested that it was possible to introduce some elements of criticism into film making. He founded the magazine Objectivo in 1953 which, for the 15 issues that it was allowed to operate, became a rallying point for critics of the Franco regime. However, Bardem was arrested on numerous occasions and it became increasingly difficult for him to produce in Spain. Luis Berlanga was another who risked persecution to satirize the state.
Carlos Saura was the stand-out figure of Spanish cinema in the 1960s and 1970s. Films such as La Caza (The Hunt, 1965) and Ana y los lobos (Ana and the Wolves, 1973) managed to employ symbolism to attack the institutions of the dictatorship, which had become somewhat freer by these times. A similar approach was taken by Victor Erice and his El espíritu de la colmena (Spirit of the Beehive, 1973), a film of haunting beauty set in post-war Castilla. Meanwhile, foreign film makers were still taking advantage of good weather and low overheads to shoot many films in the southeastern corner of Spain, where the desert landscape of Almería became the United States for films such as A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and many other westerns.
Since the abolition of censorship after Franco’s death, things have changed. Spanish cinema has witnessed the transformation mirrored in many aspects of life in the peninsula. Without a doubt, the best-known post-Franco director has been Pedro Almodóvar. Films such as Atame (Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down), Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown) and the Oscar-winning Todo sobre mi madre (All About my Mother) explore the themes of desire and obsession in Madrid that have made Almodóvar one of the world’s most popular and prominent directors. His films have propelled actors Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz to international stardom. His latest film, Volver, won an Oscar nomination in 2007.
Another Oscar-winning director is Fernando Trueba, whose Belle Époque (1993) is a romantic comedy set in the pre-Civil War republic, also starring Cruz. Bigas Luna explores the strange worlds of sex, the unconscious and food in films such as Jamón Jamón and La Teta y la Luna. Basque director Alex de la Iglesia’s 800 Balas (800 Bullets) was set in Andalucía, and focuses on former stuntmen and extras from the golden days of the spaghetti western now reduced to doing shootouts for tourists. His latest film, The Oxford Murders, starring Elijah Wood, was based on the award-winning novel by the Argentine writer Guillermo Martínez. Another prominent director is José Luis Garcí, whose 2008 release Sangre de Mayo tells of the Spanish resistance against the French occupation in the early 19th century.
Carlos Saura is still directing; his Carmen (1983) was highly acclaimed and he has made several quirky films inspired by the world of art and music. Fernando León is another talented writer and director whose 2002 socially aware comedy Los Lunes al Sol (Mondays in the Sun) focused on a group of unemployed friends in a north-coast fishing town. It starred Javier Bardem, one of Spain’s most talented cinematic actors, nephew of the great Antonio. Bardem, who won an Oscar in 2008 for his role as Anton Chigger in No Country for Old Men. He’d previously captured the world’s attention in 2004, starring in Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside), a moving story of a man crippled and bedridden by an accident.
Another famous recent Spanish release was Alatriste, starring Viggo Mortensen in the title role. The film, an adaptation from novels by Arturo Pérez Reverte, was directed by Agustín Díaz Yanes, known for his work on the quirky Sin Noticias de Dios (2001). Plenty of the filming was done in Andalucía, including the beaches of the Costa de la Luz, Sevilla, and the towns of Ubeda and Baeza. Another recent Pérez Reverte adaption for the screen came in 2007 with Carta Esférica, a rollicking maritime adventure filmed along the Andalucían coast. The same year saw one of Andalucía’s favourite daughters, the flamenco star Lola Flores, brought to film in Lola: La Película. A better depiction of a famous Andalucían came in early 2009 with the much-awaited release of Manolete, the story of the young Córdoban bullfighter whose life and death have made him a semi-legendary figure in the south. Adrien Brody plays the torero, and Penélope Cruz stars opposite him.At the end of September each year, the film world turns its attention to San Sebastián and over 200,000 visitors come to view the enormous number of both Spanish and international films on offer. As well as awarding internationally prestigious prizes, the festival also focuses attention on regional Spanish cinema and tries to ensure that it is seen outside the limited area of its production. Recently there has been a recognition that Spanish cinema has been too Madrid and Barcelona focused and that regional film making has been given inadequate support; it has only survived with the patronage of local governments and TV companies. Spain’s other main film event is the awarding of the Goya prizes, which are presented at the end of January. Andalucía’s major film body is the Andalucía Film Commission (http://www.andaluciafilm.com) ; the website has English pages and is a good way to keep up with what’s going on in the world of cinema down south.
The peninsula’s earliest known writers lived under the Roman occupation. Of these, two of the best known hailed from Córdoba; Seneca the Younger (3 BC-AD 65), the Stoic poet, philosopher and statesman who lived most of his life in Rome, and his nephew Lucan (AD 39-AD 65), who is known for his verse history of the wars between Caesar and Pompey, Bellum Civile. Both were forced to commit suicide for plotting against the emperor Nero. After the fall of Rome, one of the most remarkable of all Spain’s literary figures was the bishop of Sevilla, San Isidoro, whose works were classic texts for over a millennium.
In Al-Andalus a flourishing literary culture existed under the Córdoba caliphate and later. Many important works were produced by Muslim and Jewish authors; some were to have a large influence on European knowledge and thought. The writings of Ibn Rushd (Averroes; 1126-1198) were of fundamental importance, asserting that the study of philosophy was not incompatible with religion and commentating extensively on Aristotle. The discovery of his works a couple of centuries on by Christian scholars led to the rediscovery of Aristotle and played a triggering role in the Renaissance. His contemporary in Córdoba, Maimonides (1135-1204) was one of the foremost Jewish writers of all time; writing on Jewish law, religion and spirituality in general and medicine, he remains an immense and much- studied figure. Another important Jewish writer was the philosopher and poet Judah ha-Levi (1075-1141); although born in the north, he spent much of his time writing in Granada and Córdoba. Throughout the Moorish period, there were many chronicles, treatises and studies written by Arab authors, but poetry was the favoured form of literary expression. Well-crafted verses, often about love and frequently quite explicit, were penned by such authors as the Sevilla king Al-Mu’tamid and the Córdoban Ibn Hazm.
After the Moors, however, Andalucía didn’t really produce any literature of note until the so-called Golden Age of Spanish writing, which came in the wake of the discovery of the Americas and the flourishing of trade and wealth; patronage was crucial for writers in those days. The most notable poet of the period is the Córdoban Luis de Góngora (1561-1627), whose exaggerated, affected style is deeply symbolic (and sometimes almost inaccessible). His work has been widely appreciated recently and critics tend to label him the greatest of all Spanish poets, though he still turns quite a few people off.
The extraordinary life of Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) marks the start of a rich period of Spanish literature. Don Quijote came out in serial form in 1606 and is rightly considered one of the finest novels ever written; it’s certainly the widest-read Spanish work. Cervantes spent plenty of time in Andalucía and some of his Novelas Ejemplares are short stories set in Sevilla.
The Sevillian, Lope de Rueda (1505-1565), was in many ways Spain’s first playwright. He wrote comedies and paved the way for the explosion of Spanish drama under the big three – Lope de Vega, Tirso de la Molina and Calderón de la Barca – when public theatres opened in the early 17th century.
The 18th century was not such a rich period for Andalucían or Spanish writing but in the 19th century the costumbrista movement produced several fine works, among them La Gaviota (the Seagull), by Fernán Caballero, who was actually a Sevilla-raised woman named Cecilia Böhl von Faber, and Escenas Andaluzas (Andalucían Scenes), by Serafín Estébanez Calderón. Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer died young having published just one volume of poetry, popular, yearning works about love. Pedro Antonio de Alarcón (1833-1901), who hailed from Guadix, is most famous for his work The Three-Cornered Hat, a light and amusing tale which draws heavily on Andalucían customs and characters; it was also made into a popular ballet.
At the end of the 19th century, Spain lost the last of its colonial possessions after revolts and a war with the USA. This event, known as the Disaster, had a profound impact on the nation and its date 1898 gave its name to a generation of writers and artists. This group sought to express what Spain was and had been and to achieve new perspectives for the 20th century. One of their number was Antonio Machado (1875-1939), one of Spain’s greatest poets.
Another excellent poet of this time was Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881-1958), from Moguer in Huelva province, who won the Nobel Prize in 1956. His finest work is the long prose poem Platero y Yo, a lyrical portrait of the town and the region conducted as a conversation between the writer and his donkey. He was forced into exile by the Spanish Civil War.
The Granadan Federico García Lorca was a young poet and playwright of great ability and lyricism with a gypsy streak in his soul. His play Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding) sits among the finest Spanish drama ever written and his verse ranges from the joyous to the haunted and draws heavily on Andalucían folk traditions. Lorca was shot by fascist thugs in Granada just after the outbreak of hostilities in the Civil War; one of the most poignant of the thousands of atrocities committed in that bloody conflict.
Lorca was associated with the so-called Generation of 27, another loose grouping of artists and writers. One of their number was Rafael Alberti (1902-1999), a poet from El Puerto de Santa María and a close friend of Lorca’s. Achieving recognition with his first book of poems, Mar y Tierra, Alberti was a Communist (who once met Stalin) and fought on the Republican side in the Civil War. He was forced into exile at the end of the war, only returning to Spain in 1978. Other Andalucían poets associated with this movement were the neo-romantic Luis Cernuda (1902-1963) and Vicente Aleixandre (1898-1984), winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize for his surrealist-influenced free verse. Both men were from Sevilla.Although Aleixandre stayed in Spain, despite his poems being banned for a decade, the exodus and murder of the country’s most talented writers was a heavy blow for literature. The greatest novelists of the Franco period, Camilo José Cela and Miguel Delibes, both hailed from the north, but in more recent times Andalucía has come to the fore again with Antonio Múñoz Molina (born 1956) from Ubeda in Jaén province. His Ardor Guerrero (Warrior Lust) is a bitter look at military service, while his highly acclaimed Sepharad is a collection of interwoven stories broadly about the Diaspora and Jewish Spain and set in various locations ranging from concentration camps to rural Andalucían villages.
Music and dance
Flamenco aside, Andalucía doesn’t have a cutting-edge contemporary music scene. Most bars and discotecas play a repetitive selection of Spanish pop, much of it derived from the phenomenally successful TV show Operación Triunfo, a star-creation program that spawned Fame Academy in the UK.In contrast, the Andalucían Joaquín Sabina is a heavyweight singer-songwriter who works both solo and in collaboration with other musicians. His songs draw on Andalucían folk traditions and he is deeply critical of modern popular culture. His gravelly voice is distinctive and has deservedly won him worldwide fame.
Few things symbolize the mysteries of Andalucía like flamenco but, as with the region itself, much has been written that is over-romanticized, patronizing or just plain untrue. Like bullfighting, flamenco as we know it is a fairly young art, having basically developed in the 19th century. It is constantly evolving and there have been significant changes in its performance in the last century, which makes the search for classic flamenco a bit of a wild goose chase. Rather, the element to search for is authentic emotion and, beyond this, duende, an undefinable passion that carries singer and watchers away in a whirlwind of raw feeling, with a devil-may-care sneer at destiny.
Though there have been many excellent payo flamenco artists, its history is primarily a gypsy one. It was developed among the gypsy population in the Sevilla and Cádiz area but clearly includes elements of cultures encountered further away. Watching flamenco is like dozing through a travelogue; one moment you seem to be in Arabia, other moments recall Greece, southern India, Georgia, Israel. Flamenco certainly feels primal and ancient, but that perhaps is a function of it being so very different to most European musical traditions.
Flamenco consists of three basic components: el cante (the song), el toque (the guitar) and el baile (the dance). In addition, el jaleo provides percussion sounds through shouts, clicking fingers, clapping and footwork (and, less traditionally, castanets). Flamenco can be divided into four basic types: tonás, siguiriyas, soleá and tangos, which are characterized by their comps or form, rhythm and accentuation and are either cante jondo (emotionally deep)/cante grande (big) or cante ligero (lighter)/cante chico (small). Related to flamenco, but not in a pure form, are sevillanas, danced till you drop at Feria, and rocieras, which are sung on (and about) the annual romería pilgrimage to El Rocío.
For a foreigner, perhaps the classic image of flamenco is a woman in a theatrical dress clicking castanets. A more authentic image is of a singer and guitarist, both sitting rather disconsolately on ramshackle chairs, or perhaps on a wooden box to tap out a rhythm. The singer and the guitarist work together, sensing the mood of the other and improvising. A beat is provided by clapping of hands or tapping of feet. If there’s a dancer, he or she will lock into the mood of the others and vice versa. The dancing is stop-start, frenetic: the flamenco can reach crescendoes of frightening intensity when it seems the singer will have a stroke, the dancer is about to commit murder, and the guitarist may never find it back to the world of the sane. These outbursts of passion are seen to their fullest in cante jondo, the deepest and saddest form of flamenco.After going through a moribund period during the mid-20th century, flamenco was revived by such artists as Paco de Lucía, and the gaunt, heroin-addicted genius Camarón de la Isla, while the flamenco theatre of Joaquín Cortés put purists’ noses firmly out of joint but achieved worldwide popularity. More recently, Diego ‘El Cigala’ carries on Camarón’s angst-ridden tradition. Fusions of flamenco with other styles have been a feature of recent years, with the flamenco-rock of Ketama and the flamenco-chillout of Málaga-based Chambao achieving notable success. Granada’s Enrique Morente, a flamenco artist from the old school, outrages purists with his willingness to experiment with other artists and musical forms; his release Omega brought in a punk band to accompany him and featured flamenco covers of Leonard Cohen hits.
Music formed a large part of cultural life in the days of the Córdoba emirate and caliphate. The earliest known depiction of a lute comes from an ivory bottle dated around AD 968; the musician Ziryab, living in the 11th century, made many important modifications to the lute, including the addition of a fifth double-string.
Like other art forms, music enjoyed something of a golden age under the early Habsburg monarchs. It was during this period that the five-string Spanish guitar came to be developed and the emergence of a separate repertoire for this instrument.
In 1629 Lope de Vega wrote the libretto for the first Spanish opera, which was to become a popular form. A particular Spanish innovation was the zarzuela, a musical play with speech and dancing. It became widely popular in the 19th century and is still performed in the larger cities. Spain’s contribution to opera has been very important and continues to present times producing a number of world-class singers such as Montserrat Caballé, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras and Teresa Berganza.
The Cádiz-born Manuel de Falla is the greatest figure in the history of a country that has produced few classical composers. He drew heavily on Andalucían themes and culture and also helped keep flamenco traditions alive.De Falla’s friendship with Debussy in Paris led to the latter’s work Ibéria, which, although the Frenchman never visited Spain, was described by Lorca as very evocative of Andalucía. It was the latest of many Andalucía-inspired compositions, which include Bizet’s Carmen, from the story by Prosper Merimée and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, based on the play by Beaumarchais.
Spain’s proximity to Africa meant that Andalucía was one of Europe’s frontlines for migrating hominids from the south. Discoveries near Burgos, in Spain’s north attest that ancestors of modern humans inhabited the peninsula over a million years ago, and worked tools found in Granada province imply an even earlier presence. Presumably Andalucía was the entry point.
One of the most important prehistoric European finds was discovered in Gibraltar; the finding of a woman’s skull in one of the enclave’s numerous caves was the first evidence of Neanderthals. The fossilized cranium has been dated to some 60,000 years.
While these fragments from an inconceivably distant past do little more than tantalize, there is substantial archaeological evidence of extensive occupation of Andalucía in the Upper Palaeolithic period. Several caves across the region have painting dating from this period, such as La Pileta near Ronda, and Nerja on the Málaga coast. Although not as sophisticated as the roughly contemporary works at Altamira in northern Spain, the depictions of horses, deer, fish and other animals are almost 20,000 years old and give a valuable insight into the lives of these early Homo sapiens.
In 6000 BC, waves of immigration in the Almería area seem to have to ushered southern Spain rapidly into the Neolithic era. The Granada archaeological museum , has some stunning finds from the Cueva de los Murciélagos in the south of the province, where burial goods include finely worked gold jewellery and some happily preserved woven esparto objects. From the same period are a new series of cave paintings at sites such as the Cueva de los Letreros near Vélez Blanco; one of the motifs here is the Indalo, a stick figure that was still used in the region until relatively recently as protection against evil spirits.
Around the middle of the third millennium, megalithic architecture began to appear in the form of dolmens, stone burial chambers whose most impressive exemplars are the massive structures at Antequera. At around the same time, the site of Los Millares in Almería province reveals a thriving and expanding society with an economy based on animal husbandry and working of copper; there is clear evidence of some form of contact with other Mediterranean peoples.
The Almería area is in a favoured geographical position for this type of cultural interchange, and it is no coincidence that the peninsula’s first Bronze Age culture, known as Agaric, emerged in this region. Although almost nothing remains of the hilltop settlements themselves, excavations have retrieved bronze artefacts of a high technical standard and material that suggests extensive sea trading networks around the beginning of 2000 BC.
Around the turn of the first millennium, the face of the region was changing significantly. The people named as Iberians in later texts, and probably of local origin, inhabited the area and were joined by some Celts, although these peoples predominantly settled in the north of the peninsula. The Iberians had two distinct languages, unrelated to the Indo-European family, and benefited significantly from the arrival of another group, the Phoenicians.
These master sailors and merchants from the Levant set up many trading stations on the Andalucían coast. These included modern Huelva, Málaga and Cádiz; the latter, which they named Gadir, was possibly founded around 1100 BC, which would make it Western Europe’s most venerable city. The Phoenicians set about trading with the Iberians, and began extensive mining operations, extracting gold, silver and copper from Andalucía’s richly endowed soils.
Profitable contact with this maritime superpower led to the emergence of the wealthy local Tartessian civilization. Famed in classical sources as a mystical region where demigods walked streets paved with gold, precious little is actually known about this culture. Although they developed writing, it is undeciphered. Although it seems that they had an efficiently controlled society, no site worthy of being identified as the capital, Tartessos, has been excavated. Seemingly based in the region around the Guadalquivir valley, including in such settlements as Carmona, Niebla and Huelva, the Tartessians were highly skilled craftsmen; the Carambolo hoard found in Sevilla province consists of astonishingly intricate and beautiful gold jewellery.
Towards the end of the sixth century BC, the Tartessian culture seems to disappear and Iberian settlements appear to have reverted to self-governing towns, usually fortified places on hilltops. Continued contact with the Mediterranean, including with the Greeks, who had a brief presence on Spanish shores in the middle of the millennium, meant that these towns produced coins, texts and, particularly, fine sculpture, including such examples as the Dama de Baza, a lifesize seated goddess found in Granada province, and the Porcuna sculptures displayed in the provincial museum in Jaén.As Phoenician power waned, their heirs and descendants, the Carthaginians, increased their operations in the western Mediterranean and settled throughout Andalucía, particularly at Cádiz. While the Phoenicians had enjoyed a mostly prosperous and peaceful relationship with the local peoples, the Carthaginians were more concerned with conquest and, under Hamilcar Barca and his relatives Hasdrubal and Hannibal, they took control of much of southern Spain and increased mining operations. The Iberian tribes, who included the Turdetanians, the group that had inherited the Tartessian mantle in the Guadalquivir basin, seem to have had mixed relations with the Barcid rulers. Some towns accepted Carthaginian control, while others resisted it.
In AD 711 an event occurred that was to define Spanish history for the next eight centuries. The teachings of Mohammed had swept across North Africa and the Moors were to take most of Spain before the prophet had been dead for a century. After a number of exploratory raids, Tarik, governor of Tanger, crossed the straits with a small force of mostly Berber soldiers. It is said that he named the large rock he found after himself; Jebel Tarik (the mountain of Tarik), which over time evolved into Gibraltar. Joined by a larger force under the command of the governor of North Africa, Musa ibn-Nusair, the Moors then defeated and slew the Visigothic king Roderic somewhere near Tarifa. The conquests continued under Musa’s son Abd al-Aziz until almost the whole peninsula was in Moorish hands: the conquest had taken less than three years, an extraordinary feat. Soon the Muslim armies were well advanced on the autoroutes of southern France.
The Moors named their Iberian dominions Al-Andalus and while these lands grew and shrunk over time, the heartland was always in the south. After the conquest, Al-Andalus was administered by governors based in Córdoba, who ultimately answered to the Ummayad caliph in distant Damascus. This shift of the effective capital south from Toledo to Córdoba meant that the peninsula’s focus was much more in Andalucía and, consequently, the Mediterranean and North Africa.
In AD 750, an event occurred in distant Damascus that was to shape the destiny of Moorish Spain. The Abbasid dynasty ousted the ruling Umayyad family and proceeded to massacre them. One prince, Abd al-Rahman, managed to escape the carnage and made his way to Spain in AD 756. Arriving in Córdoba, he contrived to gain and hold power in the city. Gradually taking control over more and more of Al-Andalus, he established the emirate of Córdoba, which was to rule the Moorish dominions in Spain for nearly three centuries.
Romantic depictions of Al-Andalus as a multicultural paradise are way off the mark; the situation is best described by Richard Fletcher as one of “grudging toleration, but toleration nonetheless”. Christians and Jews were allowed relative freedom of worship and examples of persecution are comparatively few. Moorish texts throughout the history of Al-Andalus reveal a condescending attitude towards non-Muslims (and vice-versa in Christian parts of Spain), but it is probable that in day-to-day life there was large-scale cultural contact, a process described by Spanish historians as convivencia (cohabitation). The conversion of Christians and Jews to Islam was a gradual but constant process; this was no doubt given additional impetus by the fact that Muslims didn’t pay any tax beyond the alms required as part of their faith. Christian converts to Islam were known as muwallads, while those who remained Christian under the rule of the Moors are called mozárabes or Mozarabs.Arabic rapidly became the major language of southern Spain, even among non- Muslims. The number of Arabic words in modern Spanish attests to this. Many of them refer to agriculture and crops; the Moors brought with them vastly improved farming and irrigation methods, as well as a host of fruits and vegetables not grown before on the peninsula’s soil. This, combined with wide and profitable trading routes in the Mediterranean, meant that Al-Andalus began to thrive economically, which must have assisted in the pacification of the region. Córdoba’s Mezquita, begun in the eighth century, was expanded and made richer in various phases through this period; this can be seen as reflecting both the growing wealth and the increasing number of worshippers.
Geography divides Spain into distinct regions, which have tended to persist through time, and it was one of these – Asturias – that the Moors had trouble with. They were defeated in what was presumably a minor skirmish in AD 717 at Covadonga, in the far northern mountains. While the Moors weren’t too rattled by this at the time, Spain views it today as a happening of immense significance, a victory against all odds and a sort of mystical event where God proved himself to be on the Christian side. It was hardly a crippling blow to the Moors, but it probably sowed the seeds of what became the Asturian and Leonese monarchy. A curious development in many ways, this royal line emerged unconquered from the shadowy northern hills and forests. Whether they were a last bastion of Visigothic resistance, or whether they were just local folk ready to defend their lands, they established an organized little kingdom of sorts with a capital that shifted about but settled on Oviedo in AD 808.
The Asturian kingdom began to grow in strength and the long process of the Reconquista, the Christian reconquest of the peninsula, began. The northerners took advantage of cultural interchange with the south, which remained significant during the period despite the militarized zone in between, and were soon strong enough to begin pushing back. The loose Moorish authority in these lands certainly helped; the northern zone was more or less administered by warlords who were only partially controlled by the emirs and caliphs in Córdoba. Galicia and much of the north coast was reclaimed and in AD 914 the Asturian king Ordoño II reconquered León; the capital shortly moved to here and the line of kings took on the name of that town. As the Christians moved south, they re-settled many towns and villages that had lain in ruins since Roman times.
By the 10th century, the economy was booming in Córdoba and its dominions. A growing sophistication in politics and the arts was partly driven by cultured expats from Damascus and Baghdad who brought learning and fashions from the great cities of the Arab world. It was a time of achievement in literature, the sciences and engineering, including the works of classical writers such as Aristotle and Arabic treatises on subjects such as astronomy and engineering. The whole of Europe felt the benefit as knowledge permeated to the Christian north.
Little wonder then, that the emir Abd al-Rahman III (AD 912-961) felt in bullish mood. In AD 929 he gave himself the title of caliph, signalling a definitive break with the east as there can only be one caliph (ordained successor to Mohammed) and he was in Baghdad. Although he had no basis to name himself caliph, the declaration served to establish Al-Andalus as a free-standing Islamic kingdom in the west. Córdoba at this time probably had over 100,000 inhabitants, which would have put it at the same level as Constantinople and far above any other European city. Abd al-Rahman celebrated the new status by building an incredibly lavish palace and administration complex, Madinat al-Zahra (Medina Azahara), to the west of the city.
But Asturias/León wasn’t the only Christian power to have developed. The Basques had been quietly pushing outwards too and their small mountain kingdom of Navarra grew rapidly. Aragón emerged and gained power and size via a dynastic union with Catalunya. The entity that came to dominate Spain, Castilla, was born at this time too. In the middle of the 10th century, a Burgos noble, Fernán González, declared independence from the kingdom of León and began to rally disparate Christian groups in the region. He was so successful in this endeavour that it wasn’t long before his successors labelled themselves kings.
Both the Christian and Muslim powers were painfully aware of their vulnerability and constructed a series of massive fortresses that faced each other across the central plains. The Muslim fortresses were particularly formidable; high eyries with commanding positions, accurately named the ‘front teeth’ of Al-Andalus. Relations between Christian and Muslim Spain were curious. While there were frequent campaigns, raids and battles, there was also a high level of peaceful contact and diplomacy. Even the fighting was far from being a confrontation of implacably opposed rivals: Christian knights and Moorish mercenaries hired themselves out to either side, none more so than the famous El Cid.
The caliphate faced a very real threat from the Fatimid dynasty in North Africa and campaigning in the Christian north was one way to fund the fortification of the Mediterranean coast. No-one campaigned more successfully than the formidable Al- Manzu , who, while regent for the child-caliph Hisham II, conducted no fewer than 57 victorious sallies into the peninsula, succeeding in sacking almost every city in Northern Spain in a 30-year campaign of terror. Al-Manzur was succeeded by his equally adept son Abd al-Malik, but when he died young in 1008, the caliphate disintegrated with two rival Ummayad claimants seeking to fill the power vacuum.
Twenty years of civil war followed and Córdoba was more or less destroyed. Both sides employed a variety of Christian and Muslim mercenaries to prosecute their claims to the caliphal throne; the situation was bloody and chaotic in the extreme. When the latest puppet caliph was deposed in 1031, any pretence of centralized government evaporated and Berber generals, regional administrators and local opportunists seized power in towns across Al-Andalus, forming the small city-states known as the taifa kingdoms; taifa means faction in Arabic.
This first taifa period lasted for most of the rest of the 11th century and in many ways sounded an early death-knell for Muslim Spain. Petty rivalries between the neighbouring taifas led to recruitment of Christian military aid in exchange for large sums of cash. This influx led in turn to the strengthening of the northern kingdoms and many taifas were then forced to pay tribute, or protection money, to Christian rulers or face obliteration.
The major taifas in Andalucía were Sevilla and Granada, which gradually swallowed up several of their smaller neighbours. The Abbadid rulers of Sevilla led a hedonistic life, the kings Al-Mu’tadid and his son Al-Mu’tamid penning poetry between revelries and romantic liaisons. A pogrom against the Jewish population in 1066 indicated that there was little urban contentment behind the luxuriant façade.
The Christian north lost little time in taking advantage of the weak taifa states. As well as exacting punitive tribute, the Castillian king Alfonso VI had his eye on conquests and crossed far beyond the former frontline of the Duero valley. His capture of highly symbolic Toledo, the old Visigothic capital and Christian centre, in 1085, finally set alarm bells ringing in the verse-addled brains of the taifa kings.
They realized they needed help, and they called for it across the Straits to Morocco. Since the middle of the 11th century, a group of tribesmen known as the Almoravids had been establishing control there and their leader, Yusuf, was invited across to Al-Andalus to help combat Alfonso VI. A more unlikely alliance is hard to imagine; the Almoravids were barely literate desert warriors with a strong and fundamentalist Islamic faith, a complete contrast to the taifa rulers in their blossom-scented pleasure domes. The Almoravid armies defeated Alfonso near Badajoz in 1086 but were appalled at the state of Islam in Al-Andalus, so Yusuf decided to stay and establish a stricter observance. He rapidly destroyed the taifa system and established governors, answerable to Marrakech, in the major towns, including Sevilla, having whisked the poet-king off to wistful confinement in Fez.
Almoravid rule was marked by a more aggressive approach to the Christian north, which was matched by the other side. Any hope of retaking much territory soon subsided, as rebellions from the local Andalusi and pressure from another dynasty, the Almohads in Morocco, soon took their toll. This was compounded by another factor: tempted by big lunches, tapas, siestas and free-poured spirits, the hardline Almoravids were lapsing into softer ways. Control again dissolved into local taifas; Alfonso VII took advantage, seizing Córdoba in 1146 and Almería in 1147.
They weren’t held for long, though. The Almohads, who by now controlled Morocco, began crossing the Straits to intervene in Andalusi military affairs. Although similarly named and equally hard line in their Islamism, the Almohads were significantly different to the Almoravids, with a canny grasp of politics and advanced military tactics. They founded the settlement of Gibraltar in 1159, took back Almería and Córdoba and gained control over the whole of Al-Andalus by about 1172. Much surviving military architecture in Andalucía was built by the Almohads, including the great walls and towers of Sevilla. Yet they too lapsed into decadence, and bungled planning led to the very costly military defeat at Las Navas de Tolosa at the hands of Alfonso VIII in 1212. This was a major blow. Alfonso’s son Fernando III (1217-1252) capitalized on his father’s success, taking Córdoba in 1236, Jaén, the ‘Iron Gate’ of Andalucía, in 1246, and then Sevilla, the Almohad capital, in 1248, after a two-year siege. The loss of the most important city of Al-Andalus, mourned across the whole Muslim world, was effectively the end of Moorish power in Spain, although the emirate of Granada lingered on for another 250 years. Fernando, sainted for his efforts, kicked out all Sevilla’s Moorish inhabitants, setting a pattern of intolerance towards the mudéjares, as those Muslims who lived under Christian rule came to be called.
What was left of Muslim Spain was the emirate of Granada. The nobleman Mohammed Ibn-Yusuf Ibn-Nasr set himself up here as ruler in 1237 and gave his name to the Nasrid dynasty. Although nominally independent, it was to a large extent merely a vassal of the Castillian kings. Mohammed surrendered Jaén and began paying tribute to Fernando III in exchange for not being attacked in Granada. He even sent a detachment of troops to help besiege Sevilla, a humiliation that eloquently shows how little real power he had. His territory included a long stretch of the Andalucían coastline from the Atlantic eastwards past Almería and a small inland area that included Granada itself, Antequera and Ronda.
Meanwhile, the Christians were consolidating their hold on most of Andalucía, building churches and cathedrals over the mosques they found and trying to find settlers to work the vast new lands at their disposal as many of the Moors had fled to the kingdom of Granada or across the sea to North Africa. Nobles involved in the Reconquista claimed vast tracts of territory; estates known as latifundias that still exist today and that have been the cause of numerous problems in Andalucía over the centuries.
The Christians still had some fighting to do. The Marinid rulers of Morocco were a constant menace and managed to take Algeciras in the late 13th century. Tarifa was recaptured in 1292 and became the scene of the famous heroic actions of Guzmán ‘El Bueno’ who defended it against another siege two years later. There were also regular, if half-hearted, Christian campaigns agaist Nasrid Granada, one of which involved Sir James ‘the Black’ Douglas, who met his death carrying the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce into combat at Teba in 1329.The Nasrid kingdom continued to survive, partly because its boundaries were extremely well fortified with a series of thousands of defensive towers. The Alhambra as we know it was mostly built under Mohammad V in the second half of the 14th century; at the same time, the enlightened Castillian king Pedro I was employing Moorish craftsmen to recreate Sevilla’s Alcázar in sumptuous style.
Decline of the empire
The struggle of the Spanish monarchy to control the spread of Protestantism was a major factor in the decline of the empire. Felipe II fought expensive and ultimately unwinnable wars in Flanders that bankrupted the state; while within the country the absolute ban on the works of heretical philosophers, scientists and theologists left Spain behind in Renaissance Europe. In the 18th century, for example, the so-called Age of Enlightenment in western Europe, theologists at the noble old university of Salamanca debated what language the angels spoke; that Castillian was proposed as a likely answer is certain. Felipe II’s successors didn’t have his strength of character; Felipe III was ineffectual and dominated by his advisors, while Felipe IV, so sensitively portrayed by Velásquez, tried hard but was indecisive and unfortunate, despite the best efforts of his favourite, the remarkable Conde-Duque de Olivares. As well as being unwillingly involved in several costly wars overseas, there was also a major rebellion in Catalunya in the mid-17th century. The decline of the monarchy parallelled a physical decline in the monarchs, as the inbred Habsburgs became more and more deformed and weak; the last of them, Carlos II, was a tragic victim of contorted genetics who died childless and plunged the nation into a war of succession. “Castilla has made Spain and Castilla has destroyed it,” commented early 20th century essayist José Ortega y Gasset. While the early 17th century saw the zenith of the Seville school of painting, the city was in decline; the expulsion of the moriscos had removed a vital labour force and merchants and bankers were packing up and going elsewhere as the crown’s economic problems led to increasingly punitive taxation. The century saw several plagues in Andalucían cities and Sevilla lost an incredible half of its inhabitants in 1649.
The death of poor heirless Carlos II was a long time coming and foreign powers were circling to try and secure a favourable succession to the throne of Spain. Carlos eventually named the French duke Felipe de Bourbon as his successor, much to the concern of England and Holland, who declared war on France. War broke out throughout Spain until the conflict’s eventual resolution at the Treaty of Utrecht; at which Britain received Gibraltar, and Spain also lost its Italian and Low Country possessions.
The Bourbon dynasty succeeded in bringing back a measure of stability and wealth to Spain in the 18th century. Sevilla’s decline and the silting up of the Guadalquivir led to the monarchs establishing Cádiz as the centre for New World trade in its place and Spain’s oldest city prospered again. The Catholic church, however, was in a poor state intellectually and came to rely more and more on cults and fiestas to keep up the interest of the populace: many of Andalucía’s colourful religious celebrations were formed during this period. The 18th century also saw the energetic reformer Pedro de Olavide, chief adviser to King Carlos III, try to repopulate rural Andalucía by creating planned towns and encouraging foreign settlers to live in them .
The 19th century in Andalucía and Spain was turbulent to say the least. The 18th century had ended with a Spanish-French conflict in the wake of the French revolution. Peace was made after two years, but worse was to follow. First was a heavy defeat for a joint Spanish-French navy by Nelson off Cabo Trafalgar near Cádiz. Next Napoleon tricked Carlos IV. Partitioning Portugal between France and Spain seemed like a good idea to Spain, which had always coveted its western neighbour. It wasn’t until the French armies seemed more interested in Madrid than Lisbon that Carlos IV got the message. Forced to abdicate in favour of his rebellious son Fernando, he was then summoned to a conference with Bonaparte at Bayonne, with his son, wife and Manuel Godoy, his able and trusted adviser (who is often said to have been loved even more by the queen than the king). Napoleon had his own brother Joseph (known among Spaniards as Pepe Botellas for his heavy drinking) installed on the throne.
On 2 May 1808 (still a red-letter day in Spain), the people revolted against this arrogant gesture and Napoleon sent in the troops later that year. Soon after, a hastily assembled Spanish army inflicted a stunning defeat on the French at Bailén, near Jaén; the Spaniards were then joined by British and Portuguese forces and the ensuing few years are known in Spain as the Guerra de Independencia (War of Independence). The allied forces under Wellington won important battles after the initiative had been taken by the French. The behaviour of both sides was brutal both on and off the battlefield. Marshal Soult’s long retreat across the region saw him loot town after town; his men robbed tombs and burned priceless archives. The allied forces were little better; the men Wellington had referred to as the ‘scum of the earth’ sacked the towns they conquered with similar destructiveness.
Significant numbers of Spaniards had been in favour of the French invasion and were opposed to the liberal republican movements that sprang up in its wake. In 1812, a revolutionary council in Cádiz, on the point of falling to the French, drafted a constitution proclaiming a democratic parliamentary monarchy of sorts. Liberals had high hopes that this would be brought into effect at the end of the war, but the returning king, Fernando, revoked it. Meanwhile, Spain was on the point of losing its South American colonies, which were being mobilized under libertadores such as Simón Bolivar. Spain sent troops to restore control; a thankless assignment for the soldiers involved. One of the armies was preparing to leave Cádiz in 1820 when the commander, Rafael de Riego, invoked the 1812 constitution and refused to fight under the ‘unconstitutional’ monarchy. Much of the army joined him and the king was forced to recognize the legality of the constitution. Things soon dissolved though, with the ‘liberals’ (the first use of the word) being split into factions and opposed by the church and aristocracy. Eventually, king Fernando called on the king of France to send an invading army; the liberals were driven backwards to Sevilla, then to Cádiz, where they were defeated and Riego taken to his execution in Madrid. In many ways this conflict mirrored the later Spanish Civil War. Riego, who remained (and remains) a hero of the democratically minded, did not die in vain; his stand impelled much of Europe on the road to constitutional democracy, although it took Spain itself over a century and a half to find democratic stability.
The remainder of the century was to see clash after clash of liberals against conservatives, progressive cities against reactionary countryside, restrictive centre against outward-looking periphery. Spain finally lost its empire, as the strife-torn homeland could do little against the independence movements of Latin America. When Fernando died, another war of succession broke out, this time between supporters of his brother Don Carlos and his infant daughter Isabella. The so-called Carlist Wars of 1833-1839, 1847-1849 (although this is sometimes not counted as one) and 1872-1876 were politically complex. Don Carlos represented conservatism and his support was drawn from a number of sources. Wealthy landowners, the church and the reactionary peasantry, with significant French support, lined up against the loyalist army, the liberals and the urban middle and working classes. In between and during the wars, a series of pronunciamientos (coups d’état) plagued the monarchy. In 1834, after Fernando’s death, another, far less liberal constitution was drawn up. An important development for Andalucía took place in 1835 when the Prime Minister, desperate for funds to prosecute the war against the Carlists, confiscated church and monastery property in the Disentailment Act. The resulting sale of the vast estates aided nobody but the large landowners, who bought them up at bargain prices, further skewing the distribution of arable land in Andalucía towards the wealthy.
Despite the grinding poverty, the middle years of the 19th century saw the beginnings of what was eventually to save Andalucía: tourism. Travellers, such as Washington Irving, Richard Ford and Prosper Merimée, came to the region and enthralled the world with tales of sighing Moorish princesses, feisty sevillanas, bullfights, gypsies, bandits and passion. While to the 21st-century eye, the uncritical romanticism of these accounts is evident, they captured much of the magic that contemporary visitors still find in the region and have inspired generations of travellers to investigate Spain’s south.
During the third Carlist war, the king abdicated and the short-lived First Spanish Republic was proclaimed, ended by a military-led restoration a year later. The Carlists were defeated but remained strong and played a prominent part in the Spanish Civil War. (Indeed, there’s still a Carlist party and a nominal pretender to the Spanish throne.) As if generations of war weren’t enough, the wine industry of Andalucía received a crippling blow with the arrival of the phylloxera pest, which devastated the region.
The 1876 constitution proclaimed by the restored monarchy after the third Carlist war provided for a peaceful alternation of power between liberal and conservative parties. In the wake of decades of strikes and pronunciamientos this was not a bad solution and the introduction of the vote for the whole male population in 1892 offered much hope. The ongoing curse, however, was caciquismo, a system whereby elections and governments were hopelessly rigged by influential local groups of ‘mates’.Spain lost its last overseas possessions; Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Phillippines, in the ‘Disaster’ of 1898. The introspective turmoil caused by this event gave the name to the ‘1898 generation’, a forward-thinking movement of artists, philosophers and poets among whom were numbered the poets Antonio Machado and Juan Ramón Jiménez, the philosophers José Ortega y Gasset and Miguel de Unamuno and the painter Ignacio de Zuloaga. It was a time of discontent, with regular strikes culminating in the Semana Trágica (tragic week) in Barcelona in 1909, a week of church-burning and rioting sparked by the government’s decision to send a regiment of Catalan conscripts to fight in the ‘dirty war’ in Morocco. The growing disaffectation of farmworkers in Andalucía, forced for centuries into seasonal labour on the vast latifundias with no security and minimal earnings, led to a strong anarchist movement in the region. The CNT, the most prominent of the 20th-century anarchist confederations, was founded in Sevilla in 1910.
The Romans were bent on ending Punic power in the Mediterranean and soon realized that the peninsula was rapidly becoming a second Carthage. Roman troops arrived in Spain in 218 BC and Andalucía became one of the major theatres of the Second Punic War. Some of the local tribes, such as the Turdetanians, sided with the Romans against the Carthaginians and the final Roman victory came in 206 BC, at the Battle of Ilipa near Sevilla. The Carthaginians were kicked out of the peninsula.
During the war, the Romans had established the city of Itálica near Sevilla as a rest camp for dissatisfied Italian troops but it was only some time after the end of hostilities that the Romans appear to have developed an interest in the peninsula itself. Realizing the vast resources of the region, they set about conquering the whole of Hispania, a feat that they did not accomplish until late in the first century BC. It was the Romans that first created the idea of Spain as a single geographical entity, a concept it has struggled with ever since.
Rome initially divided the peninsula into two provinces, Hispania Citerior in the north and Hispania Ulterior in the south. Here, the military faced immediate problems from their one-time allies, the Turdetanians, who were not happy that the invaders hadn’t returned home after defeating the Carthaginians. This rebellion was quelled brutally by Cato the Elder around 195 BC and, although there were several uprisings over the succeeding centuries, the Romans had far fewer problems in Andalucía than in the rest of the peninsula.
Part of this was due to the region’s wealth. The ever-increasing mining operations mostly used slave labour and gave little back to the locals, but exports of olive oil, wine and garum meant the local economy thrived, despite the heavy tributes exacted by the Republic. Roman customs rubbed off on the Iberians and the local languages gradually disappeared as Latin became predominant.
The wealth of Hispania meant that it became an important pawn in the power struggles of the Roman republic and it was in Andalucía, near modern Bailén, that Julius Caesar finally defeated Pompey’s forces in 45 BC. With peace established, Caesar set about establishing colonies in earnest; many of Andalucía’s towns and cities were built or rebuilt by the Romans in this period. Julius knew the region pretty well; he had campaigned here in 68 BC and later had been governor of Hispania Ulterior. The contacts he had made during this period served him well and Caesar rewarded the towns that had helped him against Pompey, such as Sevilla and Cádiz, by conferring full Roman citizenship on the inhabitants. Later, Vespasian granted these rights to the whole of the peninsula.
Augustus redivided Hispania into three provinces; the southernmost, Baetica, roughly corresponded to modern Andalucía. Initially administered from Córdoba, the capital was switched to Hispalis (Sevilla), which, along with neighbouring Itálica, prospered under the Imperial regime. The south of Spain became a real Roman heartland, the most Roman of the Roman colonies. Itálica was the birthplace of the Emperor Trajan and sometime home of his protegé Hadrian, while the Seneca family originated in Córdoba. The first century AD was a time of much peace and prosperity and Andalucía’s grandest Roman remains date largely from this period.
It was probably during this century that the bustling Andalucían ports heard their first whisperings of Christianity, which arrived early in the peninsula. Around this time, too, a Jewish population began to build up; the beginnings of what was a crucial segment of Andalucían society for 1500 years.
A gradual decline began late in the second century AD, with raids from North Africa nibbling at the edges of a weakening empire. The Iberian provinces took the wrong side in struggles for the emperorship and suffered as a result; by the fourth century, Cádiz was virtually in ruins and the lack of control meant that an almost feudal system developed, with wealthy citizens controlling local production from fortified villas. Christianity had become a dominant force, but religious squabblings exacerbated rather than eased the tension.In the fifth century, as the Roman order tottered, various barbarian groups streamed across the Pyrenees and created havoc. Alans and Vandals established themselves in the south of Spain; it has been (almost certainly erroneously) suggested that the latter group lent their name to Andalucía. The Romans enlisted the Visigoths to restore order on their behalf. This they succeeded in doing, but they liked the look of the land and returned as they lost control of their French territories. After a period of much destruction and chaos, a fairly tenuous Visigothic control ensued. They used Sevilla as an early capital, but later transferred their seat of power to Toledo.
The king was initially predicted to be just a pet of Franco’s and therefore committed to maintaining the stultifying status quo, but he surprised everyone by acting swiftly to appoint the young Adolfo Suárez as prime minister. Suárez bullied the parliament into approving a new parliamentary system; political parties were legalized in 1977 and elections held in June that year. The return to democracy was known as la transición; the accompanying cultural explosion became known as la movida (madrileña). Suárez’s centrist party triumphed and he continued his reforms. The 1978 constitution declared Spain a parliamentary monarchy with no official religion; Franco must have turned in his grave and Suárez faced increasing opposition from the conservative elements in his own party. He resigned in 1981 and as his successor was preparing to take power, the good old Spanish tradition of the pronunciamiento came to the fore once again. A detachment of Guardia Civil stormed parliament in their comedy hats and Lieutenant Colonel Tejero, pistol waving and moustache twitching, demanded everyone hit the floor. After a tense few hours in which it seemed that the army might come out in support of Tejero, the king remained calm and, dressed in his capacity as head of the armed forces, assured the people of his commitment to democracy. The coup attempt thus failed and Juan Carlos was seen in an even better light.
In 1982, the Socialist government (PSOE) of Felipe González was elected. Hailing from Sevilla, he was committed to improving conditions and infrastructure in his native Andalucía. The single most important legislation since the return to democracy was the creation of the comunidades autónomas, in which the regions of Spain were given their own parliaments, which operate with varying degrees of freedom from the central government. This came to bear in 1983, although it was a process initiated by Suárez. Sevilla became the capital of the Andalucían region.The Socialists held power for 14 years and oversaw Spain’s entry into the EEC (now EU) in 1986, from which it has benefited immeasurably, although rural Andalucía remains poor by western European standards. But mutterings of several scandals began to plague the PSOE government and González was really disgraced when he was implicated in having commissioned death squads with the aim of terrorizing the Basques into renouncing terrorism, which few of them supported in any case.
The Golden Age
In the 15th century, there were regular rebellions and much kinstrife over succession in the Nasrid kingdom, which was beginning to seem ripe for the plucking. One of the reasons this hadn’t yet happened was that the Christian kingdoms were involved in similar succession disputes. Then, in 1469, an event occurred that was to spell the end for the Moorish kingdom and have a massive impact on the history of the world. The heir to the Aragonese throne, Fernando, married Isabel, heiress of Castilla, in a secret ceremony in Valladolid. The implications were enormous. Aragón was still a power in the Mediterranean (Fernando was also king of Sicily) and Castilla’s domain covered much of the peninsula. The unification under the Reyes Católicos, as the monarchs became known, marked the beginnings of Spain as we know it today. Things didn’t go smoothly at first, however. There were plenty of opponents to the union and forces in support of Juana, Isabel’s elder (but claimed by her to be illegitimate) sister waged wars across Castilla.
When the north was once more at peace, the monarchs found that they ruled the entire peninsula except for Portugal, with which a peace had just been negotiated, the small mountain kingdom of Navarra, which Fernando stood a decent chance of inheriting at some stage anyway, and the decidedly un-Catholic Nasrids in their sumptuous southern palaces. The writing was on the wall and Fernando and Isabel began their campaign. Taking Málaga in 1487 and Almería in 1490, they were soon at Granada’s gates. The end came with a whimper, as the vacillating King Boabdil, who had briefly allied himself with the monarchs in a struggle against his father, elected not to go down fighting and surrendered the keys of the great city on New Year’s Day in 1492 in exchange for a small principality in the Alpujarra region (which in the end he decided not to take and left for Morocco). His mother had little sympathy as he looked back longingly at the city he had left. “You weep like a woman,” she allegedly scolded, “for what you could not defend like a man”.
The Catholic Monarchs had put an end to Al-Andalus, which had endured in various forms for the best part of 800 years. They celebrated in true Christian style by kicking the Jews out of Spain. Andalucía’s Jewish population had been hugely significant for a millennium and a half, heavily involved in commerce, shipping and literature throughout the peninsula. But hatred of them had begun to grow in the 14th century and there had been many pogroms, including an especially vicious one in 1391, which began in Sevilla and spread to most other cities in Christian Spain. Many converted during these years to escape the murderous atmosphere; they became known as conversos. The decision to expel those who hadn’t converted was far more that of the pious Isabel than the pragmatic Fernando and has to be seen in the light of the paranoid Christianizing climate. The Jews were given four months to leave the kingdom and even the conversos soon found themselves under the iron hammer of the Inquisition.
The valleys of the Alpujarra region south of Granada were where many refugees from previously conquered Moorish areas had fled to from the Christians. When Granada itself fell, many Muslims came here to settle on the rich agricultural land. Although under the dominion of the Catholic Monarchs, it was still largely Muslim in character and it is no surprise that, as anti-Islamic legislation began to bite, it was here that rebellion broke out. From 1499, the inhabitants fought the superior Christian armies for over two years until the revolt was bloodily put down. In no mood for conciliation, Fernando and Isabel gave the Moors the choice of baptism (converts became known as moriscos) or expulsion. Emigration wasn’t feasible for most; a vast sum of money had to be handed over for the ‘privilege’ and in most cases parents weren’t allowed to take their children with them.
There was another morisco revolt in 1568, again centred on the Alpujarra region. After this, there was forcible dispersal and resettlement of their population throughout Spain. Finally, the moriscos too were expelled (in 1609) by Felipe III. It is thought that the country lost some 300,000 of its population and parts of Spain have perhaps still not wholly recovered from this self-inflicted purge of the majority of its intellectual, commercial and professional talent (particularly areas such as Aragón and Andalucía) and the lack of cultural diversity led to long-term stagnation. The ridiculous doctrine of limpieza de sangre (purity of blood) became all-important; the enduring popularity of pig meat surely owes something to these days, when openly eating these foods proved that one wasn’t Muslim or Jewish.
But we move back for a moment to 1492. One of the crowd watching Boabdil hand the keys to Granada over to Fernando and Isabel was Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus), who had been petitioning the royal couple for ships and funds to mount an expedition to sail westwards to the Indies. Finally granted his request, he set off from Palos de la Frontera near Huelva and, after a deal of hardship, reached what he thought was his goal. In the wake of Columbus’s discovery, the treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 partitioned the Atlantic between Spain and Portugal and led to the era of Spanish colonization of the Americas. In many ways, this was an extension of the Reconquista as young men hardened on the Castillian and Extremaduran meseta crossed the seas with zeal for conquest, riches and land. Andalucía was both enriched and crippled by this exodus: while the cities flourished on the New World booty and trade, the countryside was denuded of people to work the land. The biggest winner proved to be Sevilla, which was granted a monopoly over New World trade by the Catholic Monarchs in 1503. It grew rapidly and became one of Western Europe’s foremost cities. In 1519 another notable endeavour began here. Ferdinand Magellan set sail from Triana, via Sanlúcar de Barrameda, in an attempt to circumnavigate the world. He didn’t make it, dying halfway, but one of the expedition’s ships did. Skippered by a Basque, Juan Sebastián Elkano, it arrived some three years later.
Isabel died in 1504, but refused to settle her Castillian throne on her husband, Fernando, to his understandable annoyance, as the two had succeeded in uniting virtually the whole of modern Spain under their joint rule. The inheritance passed to their mad daughter, Juana la Loca, and her husband, Felipe of Burgundy (el Hermoso or the Fair), who came to Spain in 1506 to claim their inheritance. Felipe soon died, however, and his wife’s obvious inability to govern led to Fernando being recalled as regent of the united Spain until the couple’s son, Carlos, came of age. During this period Fernando completed the boundaries of modern Spain by annexing Navarra. On his deathbed he reluctantly agreed to name Carlos heir to Aragón and its territories, thus preserving the unity he and Isabel had forged. Carlos I of Spain (Carlos V) inherited vast tracts of European land; Spain and southern Italy from his maternal grandparents, and Austria, Burgundy and the Low Countries from his paternal ones. He was shortly named Holy Roman Emperor and if all that power weren’t enough, his friend, aide and tutor, Adrian of Utrecht, was soon elected Pope.Under the Habsburg monarchy, Carlos V and then his son Felipe II relied on the income from the colonies to pursue wars (often unwillingly) on several European fronts. It couldn’t last; Spain’s Golden Age has been likened by Spanish historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto to a dog walking on its hind legs. While Sevilla prospered from the American expansion, the provinces declined, hastened by a drain of citizens to the New World. The comunero revolt of the early 16th century expressed the frustrations of a region that was once the focus of optimistic Christian conquest and agricultural wealth, but had now become peripheral to the designs of a ‘foreign’ monarchy. Resentment was exacerbated by the fact that the king still found it difficult to extract taxes from the cortes of Aragón or Catalunya, so Castilla (of which Andalucía was a part) bankrolled a disproportionate amount of the crippling costs of the running of a worldwide empire. The growing administrative requirements of managing an empire had forced the previously itinerant Castillian monarchs to choose a capital and Felipe II picked the small town of Madrid in 1561, something of a surprise, as Sevilla or Valladolid were more obvious choices. Although central, Madrid was remote, tucked away behind a shield of hills in the interior. This seemed in keeping with the somewhat paranoid nature of Habsburg rule. And beyond all other things, they were paranoid about threats to the Catholic religion; the biggest of which, of course, they perceived to be Protestantism. This paranoia was costly in the extreme.
The Second Republic
The early years of the 20th century saw repeated changes of government under King Alfonso XIII. A massive defeat in Morocco in 1921 increased the discontent with the monarch, but General Miguel Primo de Rivera, a native of Jerez de la Frontera, led a coup and installed himself as dictator under Alfonso in 1923. One of his projects was the grandiose Ibero-American exhibition in Sevilla. The preparation for this lavish event effectively created the modern city we know today and, despite bankrupting the city, set the framework for a 20th-century urban centre.
Primo de Rivera’s rule was relatively benign, but growing discontent eventually forced the king to dismiss him. Having broken his coronation oath to uphold the constitution, Alfonso himself was soon toppled as republicanism swept the country. The anti-royalists achieved excellent results in elections in 1931 and the king drove to Cartagena and took a boat out of the country to exile. The Second Republic was joyfully proclaimed by the left.
Things moved quickly in the short period of the republic. The new leftist government moved fast to drastically reduce the church’s power. The haste was ill-advised and triumphalist and served to severely antagonize the conservatives and the military. The granting of home rule to Catalunya was even more of a blow to the establishment and their belief in Spain as an indissoluble patria, or fatherland.
Through this period, there was increasing anarchist activity in Andalucía, where land was seized as a reaction to the archaic latifundia system under which prospects for the workers, who were virtually serfs, were nil. Anarchist cooperatives were formed to share labour and produce in many of the region’s rural areas. Squabbling among leftist factions contributed to the government’s lack of control of the country, which propelled the right to substantial gains in elections in 1933. Government was eventually formed by a centrist coalition, with the right powerful enough to heavily influence lawmaking. The 1933 elections also saw the son of the old dictator, José Antonio Primo de Rivera, elected to a seat on a fascist platform. Although an idealist and no man of violence, he founded the Falange, a group of fascist youth that became an increasingly powerful force and one which was responsible for some of the most brutal deeds before, during and immediately after the Spanish Civil War.
The new government set about reversing the reforms of its predecessors; provocative and illegal infractions of labour laws by employers didn’t help the workers’ moods. Independence rumblings in Catalunya and the Basque country began to gather momentum, but it was in Asturias that the major confrontation took place. The left, mainly consisting of armed miners, seized the civil buildings of the province and the government response was harsh, with generals Goded and Franco embarking on a brutal spree of retribution with their well-trained Moroccan troops.
The left was outraged and the right feared complete revolution; the centre ceased to exist as citizens and politicians were forced to one side or the other. The elections of February 1936 were very close, but the left unexpectedly defeated the right. In an increasingly violent climate, mobilized Socialist youth and the Falange were clashing daily, while land seizures continued. A group of generals began to plan a coup and in July 1936 a military conspiracy saw garrisons throughout Spain rise against the government and try to seize control of their provinces and towns. Within a few days, battle lines were clearly drawn between the Republicans (government) and the Nationalists, a coalition of military, Carlists, fascists and the Christian right. Most of northern Spain rapidly went under Nationalist control, while Madrid remained Republican. In Andalucía, Córdoba, Cádiz, Sevilla, Huelva and Granada were taken by Nationalists, but the remainder was in loyalist hands.
In the immediate aftermath of the uprising, frightening numbers of civilians were shot behind the lines, including the Granadan poet, Federico García Lorca. This brutality continued throughout the war, with chilling atrocities committed on both sides.
The most crucial blow of the war was struck early. Francisco Franco, one of the army’s best generals, had been posted to the Canary Islands by the government, who were rightly fearful of coup attempts. As the uprising occurred, Franco was flown to Morocco where he took command of the crack North African legions. The difficulty was crossing into Spain: this was achieved in August in an airlift across the Straits of Gibraltar by German planes. Franco swiftly advanced through Andalucía where his battle-hardened troops met with little resistance. Meanwhile, the other main battle lines were north of Madrid and in Aragón, where the Republicans made a determined early push for Zaragoza.
At a meeting of the revolutionary generals in October 1936, Franco had himself declared generalísimo, the supreme commander of the Nationalists. Few could have suspected that he would rule the nation for nearly four decades. Although he had conquered swathes of Andalucía and Extremadura with little difficulty, the war wasn’t to be as short as it might have appeared. Advancing on Madrid, he detoured to relieve the garrison at Toledo; by the time he turned his attention back to the capital, the defences had been shored up and Madrid resisted throughout the war.
A key aspect of the Spanish Civil War was international involvement. Fascist Germany and Italy had troops to test, and a range of weaponry to play with; these countries gave massive aid to the Nationalist cause as a rehearsal for the Second World War, which was appearing increasingly inevitable. Russia provided the Republicans with some material, but inscrutable Stalin never committed his full support. Other countries, such as Britain, USA and France, disgracefully maintained a charade of international non-intervention despite the flagrant breaches by the above nations. Notwithstanding, thousands of volunteers mobilized to form the international brigades to help out the Republicans. Enlisting for idealistic reasons to combat the rise of fascism, many of these soldiers were writers and poets such as George Orwell and WH Auden.
Although Republican territory was split geographically, far more damage was done to their cause by ongoing and bitter infighting between anarchists, socialists, Soviet-backed communists and independent communists. There was constant struggling for power, political manoeuvring, backstabbing and outright violence, which the well-organized Nationalists must have watched with glee. The climax came in Barcelona in May 1937, when the Communist party took up arms against the anarchists and the POUM, an independent communist group. The city declined into a mini civil war of its own until order was restored. Morale, however, had taken a fatal blow.
Cities continued to fall to the Nationalists, for whom the German Condor legion proved a decisive force. In the south, the armies were under the command of Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, who though of broadly republican sympathies, was one of the original conspirators, and had expertly taken Sevilla at the beginning of things. Although his propaganda broadcasts throughout the war revealed him to be both humourist and nutcase, this charismatic aristocrat was an impressive general and took Málaga in early 1937. Fleeing refugees were massacred by tanks and aircraft. Republican hopes now rested solely in the outbreak of a Europe-wide war. Franco had set up base appropriately in deeply conservative Burgos; Nationalist territory was the venue for many brutal reprisals against civilians perceived as leftist, unionist, democratic, or owning a tasty little piece of land on the edge of the village. Republican atrocities in many areas were equally appalling although rarely sanctioned or perpetrated by the government.
The Republicans made a couple of last-ditch efforts in early 1938 at Teruel and in the Ebro valley but were beaten in some of the most gruelling fighting of the Civil War. The Nationalists reached the Mediterranean, dividing Catalunya from the rest of Republican territory and putting Barcelona under intense pressure; it finally fell in January 1939. Even at this late stage, given united resistance, the Republicans could have held out a while longer and the World War might have prevented a Franco victory, but it wasn’t to be. The fighting spirit had largely dissipated and the infighting led to meek capitulation. Franco entered Madrid and the war was declared over on 1 April 1939.
If Republicans were hoping that this would signal the end of the slaughter and bloodshed, they didn’t know the generalísimo well enough. A vengeful spate of executions, lynchings, imprisonments and torture ensued and the dull weight of the new regime stifled growth and optimism. Although many thousands of Spaniards fought in the Second World War (on both sides), Spain remained nominally neutral. After meeting Franco at Hendaye, Hitler declared that he would prefer to have three or four teeth removed than have to do so again. Franco had his eye on French Morocco and was hoping to be granted it for minimal Spanish involvement; Hitler accurately realized that the country had little more to give in the way of war effort and didn’t offer an alliance.
The post-war years were tough in Spain, particularly in poverty-stricken Andalucía, where the old system was back in place and the workers penniless. Franco was an international outcast and the 1940s and 1950s were bleak times throughout the nation. Thousands of Andalucíans left in search of employment and a better life in Europe, the USA and Latin America. The Cold War was to prove Spain’s saviour. Franco was nothing if not anti-communist and the USA began to see his potential as an ally. In a disgraceful betrayal of the Republican and Basque governments-in-exile, Eisenhower offered to recognize the dictatorship as legitimate and provide a massive aid package in exchange for Spanish support against the Eastern Bloc. In practice, this meant the creation of American airbases on Spanish soil; one of the biggest is at Rota, just outside Cádiz.The dollars were dirty, but the country made the most of them; Spain boomed in the 1960s as industry finally took off and the flood of tourism to the Andalucían coasts began in earnest. But dictatorship was no longer fashionable in western Europe and Spain was regarded as a slightly embarassing cousin. It was not invited to join the European Economic Community (EEC) and it seemed as if nothing was going to really change until Franco died. He finally did, in 1975, and his appointed successor, King Juan Carlos I, the grandson of Alfonso XIII, took the throne of a country burning with democratic desires.
While there is little enough archaeological and historical evidence from this period, what has been found shows that the Visigoths had inherited Roman customs and architecture to a large degree, while many finds exhibit highly sophisticated carving and metalworking techniques. The bishop and writer San Isidoro produced some of Europe’s most important post-Roman texts from his base in Sevilla. There were likely comparatively few Visigoths; a small warrior class ruling with military strength best fits the evidence, and they seem to have fairly rapidly become absorbed into the local culture.
The politics of the Visigothic period are characterized by kinstrife and wranglings over Christian doctrine. Some of the numerous dynastic struggles were fought across a religious divide: the Visigothic monarchs were initially adherents of Arianism, a branch of Christianity that denied the coëval status of the Son in the Trinity. While the general population was Catholic, this wasn’t necessarily a major stumbling block, but various pretenders to the throne used the theological question as a means for gaining support for a usurpment. During these struggles in the mid-sixth century, various of the pretenders called upon Byzantine support and Emperor Justinian I took advantage of the situation to annex the entire Andalucían coastline as a province, which was held for some 70 years. Inland Andalucía had proved difficult to keep in line for the Visigothic monarchs: King Agila was defeated by a rising in Córdoba and the Sevilla-based businessman Athanagild managed to maneouvre his way on to the throne. He and his successor Leovigild finally pacified the unruly Córdobans, but Leovigild faced a revolt in Andalucía from his own son, Hermenegild, who had converted to Catholicism. Father defeated offspring and the kingdom passed to Leovigild’s younger son Reccared (AD 586-601), who wisely converted to Catholicism and established a period of relative peace and prosperity for the people of the peninsula.The seventh century saw numerous changes of rulers, many of whom imposed increasingly severe strictures on the substantial Jewish population of the peninsula. Restrictions on owning property, attempted forced conversions and other impositions foreshadowed much later events in Spain. The Visigoths possibly paid a heavy price for this persecution; several historians opine that the Moorish invasion was substantially aided by the support of Jewish communities that (rightly, as it finally turned out) viewed the conquerors as liberators.
Land and environment
In an area that extends 400 km from west to east and an average of 225 km from north to south and with altitudes varying from sea level to 3482 m in the Sierra Nevada, it is hardly surprising that there are wide variations in climate. In fact, Andalucía is home to both the wettest place in Spain, the Sierra de Grazalema, and the driest place, the Cabo de Gata area of Almería province.Andalucía has, in general, what is known as a Mediterranean climate: hot dry summers and mild wet winters, with high sunshine totals. The south of Spain is its sunniest part and is also one of Europe’s sunniest regions. Winter temperatures on the coast are very forgiving and the summers are hot but not overly so. Inland Andalucía, however, is a furnace in the summer months, with frequent temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s. On the coast, summer temperatures hover around 30°C, while winter temperatures are typically about 15°C during the day. Inland, however, it gets chillier, as places such as Ronda and Granada often drop below zero.
Andalucía’s 87,000 sq km makes it somewhat larger than Scotland and about the size of Indiana or Maine. It comprises just under a fifth of Spain’s total land area. Its 700 km of coastline encompass both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Administratively, Andalucía is a semi-autonomous community with the regional government in Sevilla. It is divided into eight provinces, named after their capital cities. Geographically, Andalucía can be more or less split into four zones. It is divided from the rest of Spain by the Sierra Morena range, a low chain of rugged hills wooded with holm oak and cork trees rarely rising above 1000 m in height. It stretches across the northern parts of Huelva, Sevilla, Córdoba and Jaén provinces and forms a natural barrier across which the Despeñaperros Pass, north of Jaén, has traditionally been the principal crossing. There are some mining areas, particularly in Córdoba province and in Huelva, where the massive Rio Tinto copper mines have created a moonscape over the millennia. The area also produces some of the world’s finest ham from the black-footed porkers that feed on acorns.
The valley of the Guadalquivir river has historically been the agricultural and demographic centre of Andalucía. The river is Spain’s fifth longest, rising in the Sierra de Cazorla in Jaén province and flowing for 657 km via the cities of Córdoba and Sevilla to its destiny with the Atlantic, where it creates the fabulous wetlands of the Coto Doñana. In Roman times the river was known as the Betis (giving its name to one of Sevilla’s football teams), but the Moors imaginatively renamed it al wadi al kibir (the big river) which has stuck. The valley is rich in alluvial soils; this combined with ready water for irrigation made this part of Andalucía the major settlement zone for Iberians, Romans, Moors and Christians. The river has silted up over the centuries: it was once navigable as far as Córdoba, but these days you could just about stroll across it in the city of the caliphs.
The Cordillera Bética is one of Spain’s principal ranges and runs close to the coast eastwards from the west of Málaga province across Granada province and into Jaén and beyond to Murcia. The sierra can be divided into the Sistema Subbético in the northeast of Andalucía and the Sistema Penibética in the south. The former is situtated in the east of the region and rises to its highest point of 3398 m in the Cazorla natural park in Jaén province. The Sistema Cordillera Penibética includes the Sierra Nevada, which boasts the nation’s highest peak, Mulhacén, which stands at 3482 m. The Sierra Nevada houses Europe’s most southerly ski resort and is fairly reliably snowbound from December through to April. The slopes of the ranges in Jaén and Córdoba provinces are studded with olive groves and there are several parques naturales (protected natural parks) covering the upland areas.The coastal plain has the highest population density of the region, due mainly to the tourist industry. The Mediterranean coastline is heavily built up, particularly betweeen Gibraltar and Málaga. West of Gibraltar, the Atlantic coast is known as the Costa de la Luz and is less developed, partly on account of the strong levante and poniente winds that make it such a sought-after windsurfing destination. In Almería, where the coastal plain is wider, there are huge numbers of plastic greenhouses for the production of fruit and vegetables for export. Huelva province also produces strawberries in this manner, mainly around the towns of Lepe and Mazagón. There is substantial variation within these four zones. The eastern stretch of coast in Almería province is very arid, with desert-like badlands stretching inland, while at the junction of Cádiz and Huelva provinces, the freshwater marshes of the Coto Doñana are a wetland haven for animals and birds. Andalucía is characterized by its large number of lakes – over 300, as well as several embalses (reservoirs). These projects have deprived the rivers of their former majesty and have been socially and environmentally extremely controversial in some cases. Natural habitats, towns and villages have been flooded by the embalses; enforced eviction and laughable compensation for property was a feature of these projects, particularly in Franco’s later years. Nevertheless, the water is much needed. Apart from the Guadalquivir, Andalucía’s major watercourses are the Guadiana, in the extreme west and forming part of the border with Portugal, the Tinto and Odiel which meet at Huelva and the shorter central and eastern rivers such as the Guadalhorce, near Málaga and the Almanzora, east of Almería.
Wildlife and vegetation
While Andalucía is attractive for many forms of wildlife, it is the wide selection of birds that is a magnet for naturalists. There are over 400 birds on the systematic list and nearly half of these breed. It is the only place in Europe where you will find, for example, white-headed ducks, marbled ducks, black-shouldered kites, Spanish imperial eagles, purple gallinules, black-bellied sand grouses, red-necked nightjars, Dupont’s larks, black wheatears, azure- winged magpies, spotless starlings and trumpeter finches. This is enough to whet the appetite of all keen birdwatchers, let alone the most fanatical twitchers.
Winter visitors include a range of wildfowl and gulls, plus passerines, such as meadow pipits, white wagtails, blackcaps and chiffchaffs. Summer visitors include such spectacular species as little bitterns, purple herons, black storks, white storks, short-toed eagles, booted eagles, collared pratincoles, bee eaters, rollers and golden orioles. Other birds simply pass through Andalucía on their way north and south; these are called passage migrants and include a whole range of warblers, terns, waders and raptors.
It is the wetlands that attract most birds and birdwatchers. The incomparable Parque Nacional Coto Doñana at the mouth of the Río Guadalquivir is arguably Europe’s best wetland reserve. Apart from over 300,000 wintering wildfowl, its breeding species include cattle and little egrets, grey, night and purple herons, spoonbills and white storks. Raptors include black and red kites, short-toed eagles and marsh harriers, while there are some 15 pairs of the rare Spanish imperial eagle within the park boundary. Among other coastal wetlands are the Odiel and Isla Cristina marshes west of Huelva city and the Cabo de Gata-Níjar in Almería province. There are also a number of inland wetlands, such as the group of freshwater lakes south of Córdoba and the Laguna de Medina east of Cádiz. The salt lake of Fuente de Piedra in Málaga province can have as many as 40,000 breeding flamingoes when conditions are right.
The mountain areas have their own bird communities, which include raptors such as golden eagles, griffon vultures and Bonelli’s eagles. Blue rock thrushes and black wheatears are typical of rocky slopes, while at the highest levels ravens, choughs, Alpine accenters and rock buntings are the specialities.There are many roads in Andalucía with telephone wires and these make excellent vantage points and song posts for corn buntings, stonechats, rollers, bee eaters and shrikes, while in the adjacent farmland with its extensive methods of production are great and little bustards, red-legged partridges and Montagu’s harriers. The forests, olive groves and maquis are also rich in birdlife. The soaring birds, such as raptors and storks, which migrate to Africa for their winter quarters, face the problem of crossing the Mediterranean Sea. They are obliged to head for the narrowest point, which is the Straits of Gibraltar. Here they gain height in thermals over the land and then attempt to glide over the water (where thermals are usually lacking) to the other side. Observing this movement when conditions are right and numbers are high can be an unforgettable sight.
One of Spain’s most pressing environmental issues is the significant and growing level of desertification, a problem that is most evident in Andalucía. Parts of the region, particularly around Almería, are officially classified as arid, and the worry is that these are rapidly increasing and expanding. Though climate change and reduced precipitation is playing a part in this, a major factor has been, and continues to be, farming practices in the region. Andalucía’s Mediterranean climate has been a bountiful provider for farmers over the millennia, but aggressive agricultural methods haven’t repaid it with kindness. In ancient times, the Romans began to change the landscape, replacing the indigenous Mediterranean forest with intensive zones of olive cultivation, a practice that has continued over the years. Now, numerous parallel lines of olive trees stretch to the horizon all over the interior, and the bare earth between each tree is easily borne away by rainfall, wind, and over-irrigation. Erosion and overuse have led to massive degradation of the soil, which is now basically dirt with no organic content. This means that farmers rely increasingly on fertilization. These chemicals eventually find their way into the water supply, and in many areas the aquifers are worryingly compromised, placing a further strain on water resources. The vast fields of plasticultura hothouses use irresponsible amounts of water for such a dry zone, and use it in an inefficient, outdated manner. Similarly, the ever-increasing number of golf courses demanded by tourism would be better located in Spain’s north, where rainfall, not sputtering hoses, could keep the greens green.
The golf courses are just one aspect of a general, serious overdevelopment of the coast that is especially worrying. Described by writer and environmental activist Chris Stewart as a “collar of concrete”, it continues largely unabated by the financial crisis and slowdown of construction and housing prices in the rest of the nation. The growing demand for residential tourism, as retirees from northern Europe seek to live in the glorious Andalucían sunshine, means the market remains strong. Developers are kings, with local authorities frequently in their pockets. The política del ladrillo (the law of the brick) inevitably takes precedence over environmental concerns, with numerous housing developments, and resorts being built in areas that should be protected, or lack the natural resources – especially water – to support them.As are other parts of the world, Andalucía is also looking nervously at the climate change issue. Apart from the decreasing precipitation, a rise in sea levels would mean trouble for coastal cities like Cádiz and severely affect regions like the Coto Doñana wetlands. Higher temperatures would imply a loss of biodiversity in highland regions like the Sierra Nevada, and environmental scientists fear that changed conditions in southern Spain could provide a bridge to Europe for various potentially devastating plant and animal diseases endemic in Africa but hitherto not present in the peninsula.
Plants and trees
The Andalucían government has made a strong commitment to protecting the environment by creating 150 protected areas, including two parques nacionales (national parks), 24 parques naturales (natural parks), mostly in upland regions, and numerous smaller areas, even down to protected coastal features and individual trees. Collectively, these make up nearly 20% of the region’s surface area and, although protection for the species within these areas in some cases isn’t absolute, it is significant and crucial in many cases for survival. The two national parks, situated in the contrasting zones of the Coto Doñana wetlands and the Sierra Nevada mountains, are administered by the national government and have very high levels of protection. Most of the parks have good systems of information centres, access routes, nature trails and helpful wardens. Hiking is very popular in Spain and the majority of the parks have marked trails and a variety of maps and route suggestions. Two of the best parks for walking are the Sierra de Grazalema in eastern Cádiz province and the Sierra de Cazorla in Jaén province. Most of the parks have a good range of accommodation available in the vicinity, including casas rurales (rural cottages) and sometimes refugios (simple hostels for climbers and walkers).
Reservas de caza are protected areas that also have significant coverage but for less noble reasons: so that there’ll be plenty of animals to shoot when the hunting season comes around.The company Egmasa (http://www.egmasa.es) work with the environmental department of the Andalucían government and their worthwhile website has an interactive map of all the protected areas of the region, with maps of walking routes, opening hours for visitors centres, etc.
Reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and other insects
With over 130 species of butterfly, including more than 30 types of blue alone, Andalucía is a lepidopterist’s nirvana. Many of the butterflies seen in northern Europe have bred in Andalucía, such as clouded yellows, while others migrate to the area from north Africa, like painted ladies. There are also a small number of endemics, including Nevada blues and Nevada graylings. Among the more spectacular and common butterflies are two varieties of swallowtail, Spanish festoons, Cleopatras, the ubiquitous speckled wood and the Moroccan orange tip. Most striking of all is the huge two-tailed pasha, which you could easily mistake for a small bird when it is in flight. On occasions, large numbers of American vagrants turn up, including the monarch. There are also a number of day-flying moths, of which great peacock moths and hummingbird moths are most likely to be noticed.
Among the insects the most fascinating is the praying mantis, which may be brown or green. Noisy cicadas, crickets and grasshoppers are heard everywhere during the summer. Dung beetles make fascinating watching. The plethora of ants and flies are less welcome.
There are some 17 species of amphibian, including a variety of frogs, toads and newts. Of these, the noisy marsh frog and the delightful little green tree frog are notable, while salamanders can often be seen.
Reptiles are widespread, particularly lizards, which vary from the iguana-like ocellated lizard, which can grow up to 1 m in length, down to common wall lizards and geckoes. In the southern coastal fringes of Andalucía, the highly protected chameleon may still be seen in a few places if you’re lucky.Of the eight species of snake, only one, the latastes viper, is venomous, while the largest is the Montpellier snake, which can grow up to 2 m. Most common are the familiar grass snake and the southern smooth snake.
In 1996, the rightist PP (Partido Popular) formed a government under the young former tax inspector José María Aznar López, and was re-elected in 2000. Economically conservative, Aznar strengthened Spain’s ties with Europe and set a platform for strong financial performance. He then used the prevailing international climate to take strong action against ETA. This seemed to have paid off, but his heavy-handed and undemocratic methods appalled international observers and stirred the ghosts of Francoism in Spain. Aznar then took the country to war in Iraq against the wishes of a massive majority of the population. On 11 March 2004, three days before the general election, a series of 10 bombs exploded in four commuter trains approaching Madrid’s Atocha station; nearly 200 people were killed. The government was quick to blame ETA for the attack despite that group’s denial and substantial evidence for involvement by Islamic extremists. The electorate was outraged at what was perceived as a vote-minded cover-up and punished Aznar’s hand-picked successor, Mariano Rajoy, at the election. Far adrift in the polling only a few days before, the PSOE were elected to government and the new prime minister, 43 year-old José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, immediately pledged to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq and re-align the country with ‘old Europe’.Zapatero’s government pursued a decidedly liberal course. Spain’s religious right were outraged by the legalization of same-sex marriage, and when Zapatero agreed to pass a statute granting the Catalan government more autonomy (approved in a local referendum in Catalunya) the PP, who maintain the ideal that Spain is indissoluble, were furious. Zapatero has also pursued peaceful solutions to the Gibraltar question and initially favoured dialogue with ETA, despite the right’s condemnation of “dealing with terrorists”. ETA declared a ceasefire in March 2006, but broke it, and stepped up their bombings and assassinations in 2008 in response to a major government crackdown that saw several of their leaders arrested. Zapatero was, however, re-elected in 2008, and faces the difficult task of negotiating ‘la crisis’, the economic downturn that, at time of publication, was already beginning to severely affect Spain, and Andalucía, with the key industries of construction and tourism suffering significant downturns.
The history of Spain and the history of the Spanish Catholic church are barely separable but, in 1978, Article 16 of the new constitution declared that Spain was now a nation without an official religion, less than a decade after Franco’s right hand man, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, had declared that “Spain is Catholic or she is nothing”.
From the sixth-century writings of San Isidoro onwards, the destiny of Spain was a specifically Catholic one. The Reconquista was a territorial war inspired by holy zeal, Jews and Moors were expelled in the quest for pure Catholic blood, the Inquisition demonstrated the young nation’s religious insecurities and paranoias and Felipe II bled Spain dry pursuing futile wars in a vain attempt to protect his beloved Church from the spread of Protestantism. Much of the strife of the 1800s was caused by groups attempting to end or defend the power of the church, while in the 20th century the fall of the Second Republic and the Civil War was engendered to a large extent by the provocatively anticlerical actions of the leftists.Faced with a census form, a massive 94% of Spaniards claim to be Catholics, but less than a third of them cut regular figures in the parish church. Although regular churchgoing is increasingly confined to an aged (mostly female) segment of society and seminaries struggle to produce enough priests to stock churches, it’s not the whole picture. Romerías (religious processions to rural chapels and sites) and religious fiestas are well attended – the most famous being the boisterous Whitsun journey to El Rocío and places of pilgrimage, usually chapels housing venerated statues of the Virgin, are flooded with Spanish visitors during the summer months. Very few weddings are conducted away from the church’s bosom and, come Easter, a big percentage of the male population of some towns participates in solemn processions of religious cofradías (brotherhoods), most famously in Sevilla. Nevertheless, the church plays an increasingly minor role in most Spaniards’ lives, especially those of those born after the return to democracy.
In good Catholic fashion, wine is the blood of Spain. It’s the standard accompaniment to most meals, but also features prominently in bars, where a glass of cheap tinto or blanco can cost as little as €0.60, although it’s normally more. A bottle of house wine in a cheap restaurant is often no more than €4. Tinto is red (if you just order vino it’s assumed that’s what you want), blanco is white and rosé is either clarete or rosado.
A well-regulated system of denominaciones de origen (DO), similar to the French appelation controlée, has lifted the quality and reputation of Spanish wines high above the party plonk status they once enjoyed. While the daddy in terms of production and popularity is still Rioja, regions such as the Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Bierzo, Jumilla, Priorat and Valdepeñas have achieved worldwide recognition. The words crianza, reserva and gran reserva refer to the length of the ageing process; a red crianza, for example, must be at least two years old, at least six months of which have been spent in oak barrels (12 in the case of Rioja).
One of the joys of Spain, though, is the rest of the wine. Order a menú del día at a cheap restaurant and you’ll be unceremoniously served a cheap bottle of local red (sometimes without even asking for it). Wine snobbery can leave by the back door at this point: it may be cold, but you’ll find it refreshing; it may be acidic, but once the olive-oil laden food arrives, you’ll be glad of it. It’s not there to be judged, it’s a staple like bread, and, like bread, it’s occasionally excellent, it’s occasionally bad, but mostly it fulfils its purpose perfectly. Wine’s not a luxury item in Spain (yet), so people add water to it if they feel like it, or gaseosa (lemonade) or cola (for the party drink calimocho).
Andalucía produces several table wines of this sort. The whites of the Condado region in eastern Huelva province and those from nearby Cádiz are simple seafood companions, while in the Alpujarra region the nut-brown costa, somewhere between a conventional red and a rosé, accompanies the likeably simple local fare. In the same area, Laujar de Andarax produces some tasty cheapish reds. Jaén province also has red grapes tucked between its seas of olive trees, mainly around Torreperogil near Ubeda. Bartenders throughout Andalucía tend to assume that tourists only want Rioja, so be sure to specify vino corriente (or vino de la zona) if you want to try the local stuff. As a general rule, only bars that serve food serve wine; most pubs and discotecas won’t have it. Cheaper red wine is often served cold, a refreshing alternative in summer. Variations on the theme are tinto de verano (a summery mix of red wine and lemonade, often with fruit added) or the stronger sangría, which adds healthy measures of sherry and sometimes spirits to the mix.
The real vinous fame of the region comes, of course, from its fortified wines. Sherry runs from the dry tangy finos and manzanillas through nutty amontillados to rich olorosos, some of which are sweetened. In Córdoba province, montilla is a wine similar to dry sherry in taste, although it actually is often unfortified. Málaga produces its own dry and sweet fortified wines too. Bear in mind that these wines are not only drunk as aperitifs or with desserts; Andalucíans will often have a bottle of manzanilla with a meal, or match the appropriate sherry with the food on a tapas crawl.
Beer is mostly lager, usually reasonably strong, fairly gassy, cold and good. Sweetish Cruzcampo from Sevilla is found throughout the region and is one of Spain’s best lagers; other local brews include San Miguel, named after the archangel and brewed in Málaga, and Alhambra from Granada. A caña or tubo is a glass of draught beer, while just specifying cerveza may get you a bottle, otherwise known as a botellín. Many people order their beer con gas, topped up with mineral water, or order a clara, which is a shandy. A jarra is a shared jug. In some pubs, particularly those specializing in different beers, you can order pintas (pints).
Vermut (vermouth) is a popular pre-lunch aperitif. Many bars make their own vermouth by adding various herbs and fruits and letting it sit in barrels: this can be excellent, particularly if it’s from a solera .
After dinner it’s time for a copa. People relax over a whisky or a brandy, or hit the cubatas (mixed drinks): gin tonic is obvious, as is vodka con cola. Spirits are free-poured and large; don’t be surprised at a 80-100 ml measure. Whisky is popular and most bars have a good range. Most brandy is made in Jerez by the sherry producers; those used to French styles might find it oaky and a little harsh, although its warm vanilla aromas and spicy flavours may soon seduce you. It’s also popular at breakfast time with a coffee. Gin is also made in Málaga province by the Larios company, but their rip-off of the old Gordon’s label is about as close as it gets to the better British stuff. There are numerous varieties of rum and flavoured liqueurs.When ordering a spirit, you’ll be expected to choose which brand you want; the local varieties (eg Larios gin, DYC whisky) are marginally cheaper than their imported brethren but lower in quality. Chupitos are short drinks often served in shot-glasses; restaurants will often throw in a free digestive one (usually a herb liqueur) at the end of a meal.
Café (coffee) is usually excellent and strong. Solo is black, mostly served espresso style. Order americano if you want a long black, cortado if you want a dash of milk, or con leche for about half milk. A carajillo is a coffee with brandy. Té (tea) is served without milk unless you ask (but specify leche fría – cold milk – otherwise it may well come with hot milk); infusiones (herbal teas) can be found in many places, especially in teterías. Chocolate is a reasonably popular drink at breakfast time or as a merienda (afternoon tea), served with churros, fried doughsticks.Zumo (fruit juice) is normally bottled and expensive; mosto (grape juice, really pre- fermented wine) is a cheaper and popular soft drink in bars. There’s the usual range of fizzy drinks (gaseosas) available. Horchata is a summer drink, a sort of milkshake made from tiger nuts. Agua (water) comes con (with) or sin (without) gas. The tap water is totally safe to drink, but if you’re in the hills, look out for fuentes (public springs), where people fill bottles with fresh mountain water.
Eating hours are the first point of difference. Spaniards often don’t have much more than a coffee and maybe a tostada for breakfast. With pangs of hunger developing and office chat drying up, people tend to sidle out from work at 1130 or so for a coffee and a pincho of tortilla. Then, when they get out at 1400, a pre-lunch drink and tapa often precedes the main event. Lunch is normally eaten around 1430-1530, often later at weekends. Most folk head home for the meal during the working week and get back to work about 1700; some people have a nap (the famous siesta), some don’t.
Many people take to the streets from about 1930 for a paseo, a stroll around the town often rounded off with a coffee or a drink and a tapa. Tapas bars are usually busiest from 2100-2300. If people are going to eat cena (dinner), they’ll do it from about 2200, although it’s not unusual to sit down to a meal as late as midnight, especially in summer. After eating, la marcha (the march) heads to bares de copas (non-food bars) and then discotecas (nightclubs; a club is a brothel). Many nightclubs only open at weekends and are usually busiest from 0300 onwards; some don’t even bother opening until 0400.Eating and drinking hours vary across the region. Week nights are always quieter but particularly so in inland towns, where many restaurants close their kitchens at 2200.
Andalucían cooking is characterized by an abundance of fresh ingredients, generally consecrated with the chef’s holy trinity of garlic, peppers and, of course, local olive oil. The result is a filling, strongly flavoured cuisine in which the influence of the colonization of the Americas is evident. Andalucían food makes abundant use of the fruits of the sea, and focuses less on large haunches of meat than in other parts of the country.
Spaniards eat little for breakfast and, apart from in touristy places, you’re unlikely to find anything beyond a tostada (large piece of toasted bread spread with olive oil, tomato and garlic, paté or jam) or a pastry to go with your coffee. Many cafés do freshly squeezed orange juice, and often offer a breakfast deal. If you fancy more in the morning, wait until 1100 or 1200, when things like tortilla (Spanish potato omelette) and ensaladilla rusa (mayonnaise with diced potatoes, peas and carrots) start appearing on the bar. Another common breakfast or afternoon snack are churros, long fried doughnuts that will either delight or disgust, and are typically dipped in cups of hot chocolate.
Lunch is most people’s main meal of the day and is nearly always a filling affair with three courses. If you opt for a set menu in a restaurant, you’ll typically be offered starters such as gazpacho (a cold summer tomato soup flavoured with garlic, olive oil and peppers; salmorejo is a thicker version from Córdoba), ensalada mixta (delicious mixed salad based on lettuce, tomatoes, tuna and more), sopa castellana (a broth with cubed ham and an egg in it), habas con jamón (broad beans stewed with cured ham), macarrones (macaroni), or a serving of the famous paella.
Main courses will usually be either meat or fish and are almost never served with any accompaniment beyond chips or marinated peppers. Beef is common throughout; cheaper cuts predominate, but better steaks such as solomillo or entrecot are usually superbly tender. Spaniards tend to eat them rare (poco hecho; ask for al punto for medium rare or bien hecho for well done). Pork is also widespread; solomillo de cerdo, secreto, pluma and lomo are all tasty cuts, particularly in Huelva province. Lamb is less common; choto (roast kid) is a speciality of the mountains near Granada and Jaén. Pollo (chicken) is usually unremarkable; game birds such as codorniz (quail) and perdiz (partridge) are also common. Animal innards are popular: callos (tripe), mollejas (sweetbreads) and morcilla (black pudding) are excellent, if acquired, tastes. Game lovers will be keen to try jabalí (wild boar), often in mountain areas, along with other victims of the hunt, such as conejo (rabbit) and delicious venado (vension).
Seafood is the pride of Andalucía. The region is famous for its pescaíto frito (fried fish) which typically consists of small fry such as whitebait in batter. Shellfish include mejillones (mussels), gambas (prawns) and coquillas (cockles). Calamares (calamari), sepia or choco (cuttlefish) and chipirones (small squid) are common, and you’ll sometimes see pulpo (octopus). Among the vertebrates, sardinas (sardines), dorada (gilthead bream), rape (monkfish) and pez espada (swordfish) are all usually excellent. In the Alpujarra and other hilly areas you can enjoy freshwater trucha (trout).
The proximity of Morocco means that North African food is common; a related cuisine is cocina mozárabe or andalusi, a somewhat fanciful revival of Moorish cooking, at its best in dishes such as cordero al miel, roast lamb with a rich honey sauce.
Tapas are a genre of their own, although they frequently rely on the above ingredients. Signature dishes vary from bar to bar and from province to province, and part of the delight of Andalucía comes trying regional specialities. Ubiquitous are jamón (cured ham; the best, ibérico, comes from black-footed acorn-eating porkers that roam the woods of Huelva province and Extremadura) and queso (usually the hard salty manchego from Castilla-la Mancha). Gambas (prawns) are usually on the tapas list; the best and priciest are from Huelva. Espinacas con garbanzos is a Sevilla favourite, a spicy stew of chickpeas and spinach, while an aliñó is a cold salad that can have any of potatoes, tuna or egg, in an oil, vinegar and capsicum base. Montaditos are small toasted rolls filled with such things as pringá, a tasty paste of stewed meats and a traditional final tapa. Adobo is marinated fried nuggets usually of dogfish or other white-fleshed fish, while pavía is rapidly fried strips of marinated and breaded hake or cod. Calderetas are hearty stews cooked with sherry, while riñones (kidneys) often come in a sauce made from the same wine.Desserts focus on the sweet and milky. Flan (a sort of crème caramel) is ubiquitous; great when casero (homemade), but often out of a plastic tub. Natillas are a similar but more liquid version, while Moorish-style pastries are also specialities of some areas.
One of the great pleasures of travelling in Andalucía is eating out, but it’s no fun sitting alone in a restaurant so try and adapt to the local hours; it may feel strange leaving dinner until after 2200, but you’ll miss out on a lot of atmosphere if you don’t.
Standard distinctions of bar, café and restaurant don’t apply in Spain. Many places combine all three functions, and it’s not always evident; the comedor (dining room) is often tucked away behind the bar or upstairs. Restaurantes are restaurants and will usually have a dedicated dining area with set menus and à la carte options. Bars and cafés will often display food on the counter, or have a list of tapas and raciones; bars tend to be known for particular dishes they do well. Many are closed on Sunday nights and one other night a week, most commonly Monday or Tuesday.
Most places open for lunch at about 1300, and stop serving food at 1500 or 1530, although at weekends this can extend. Lunchtime is the cheapest time to eat if you opt for the ubiquitous menú del día. Just about all restaurants offer the menú del día, which is usually a set three-course meal that includes wine or soft drink. In unglamorous workers’ locals this is often as little as €7 or €8; paying anything more than €12 indicates the restaurant takes itself quite seriously. There’s often a choice of several starters and mains. To make the most of the meal, a handy tip is to order another starter in place of a main; most places are quite happy to do it, and the starters are usually more interesting (and sometimes larger) than the mains, which tend to be slabs of mediocre meat. The quality of à la carte is usually higher and quantities are large, but your bill could easily quadruple.
Most restaurants open for dinner at 2030 or 2100; any earlier and it’s probably a tourist trap. In quiet areas, places stop serving at 2200 on week nights, but in cities and at weekends people tend to sit down for dinner at 2230 or later. Although some places do offer a cheap set menú at night it’s not common so you’ll usually have to order à la carte. In fancier establishments, look out for the more expensive menú de degustación, a French- style table d’hôte that consists of several gourmet courses.
The great joy of eating out in Andalucía is, of course, going for tapas. This word refers to bar food, which is served in saucer-sized tapa portions typically costing €1.50-3. Tapas customs vary slightly from province to province. In Granada, Almería and Jaén, you’ll receive a free tapa with your drink, while in Sevilla it is traditional to tot up your bill on the bartop with chalk. Tapas are available at lunchtime, but the classic time to eat them is in the evening. To do tapas the Andalucían way don’t order more than a couple at each place, taste each others’ dishes, and stay put at the bar, where your bill will sometimes still be totted up in chalk. Locals know what the specialities of each bar are; it’s worth asking, and if there’s a daily special, order that. Also available are raciones, substantial meal-sized plates of the same fare, which also come in halves, media raciones. Both varieties are good for sharing. Considering these, the distinction between restaurants and tapas bars more or less disappears, as in the latter you can usually sit down at a table to order your raciones, effectively turning the experience into a meal.
A cheap option at any time of day is a plato combinado, most commonly done in cafés. They’re usually a truckstop-style combination of eggs, steak, bacon and chips, or similar, and are filling but rarely inspiring.
Other types of eateries include the chiringuito, a beach bar open in summer and serving drinks and fresh seafood. A freiduría is a takeaway specializing in fried fish, while a marisquería is a classier type of seafood restaurant. In rural areas, look out for ventas, roadside eateries that often have a long history of feeding the passing muleteers with generous, hearty and cheap portions. The more cars and trucks outside, the better it will be. In cities, North African-style teahouses, teterías, are popular. These are great places with a range of teas and coffees, and a romantic, intimate atmosphere.Vegetarians in Andalucía won’t be spoiled for choice, but at least what there is tends to be good. Though vegetarianism is these days something that people have at least heard of, there are few dedicated vegetarian restaurants and most restaurants won’t have a vegetarian main course on offer, although the existence of tapas, raciones and salads makes this less of a burden than it might be. Ensalada mixta nearly always has tuna in it, but it’s usually made fresh, so places will happily leave the fish out. Ensaladilla rusa is normally a good option, but ask about the tuna too, just in case. Tortilla is another simple but nearly ubiquitous option. Gazpacho is a tasty meatless soup, and pisto is a ratatouille- like melange of veggies. Cheese platters are available in many bars and restaurants, and classic Andalucían tapas like garbanzos con espinacas (chickpeas with spinach) are meat- free, as are some aliñós. Simple potato or pepper dishes are tasty options (although beware peppers stuffed with meat), and many revueltos (scrambled egg dishes) are just mixed with asparagus. Annoyingly, most vegetable menestras are seeded with ham before cooking, and bean dishes usually have at least some meat or animal fat. You’ll have to specify soy vegetariano/a (I am a vegetarian), but ask what dishes contain, as ham, fish and even chicken are often considered suitable vegetarian fare. Vegans will have a tougher time. What doesn’t have meat nearly always has cheese or egg and waiters are unlikely to know the ingredients down to the basics. Better restaurants, particularly in cities, will be happy to prepare something specially, but otherwise better stick to very simple dishes. You’ll come into your own in mushroom season, when the complex taste of setas (wild mushrooms) overcomes the Spanish desire for flesh.
Bars and clubs
Andalucía’s nightlife is excellent, especially in summer when beachside chiringuitos and discotecas cater for the crowds that flock to the coast. All the cities have fine year-round action, particularly Sevilla, Granada, Málaga and Cádiz. Late-night bars are known as bares de copas or pubs; and la marcha (the action) doesn’t usually hit them until after midnight, when people have stopped eating. Many of these discotecas (bars and clubs) are only open Thursday to Saturday nights, although you’ll always find a busy bar somewhere during the week.Discotecas are often away from the centre of town to avoid council restrictions on closing hours; these tend to fill up from 0300 onwards, and many are open until well after dawn. You won’t find cutting-edge dance music in these places; the standard mix is a blend of Spanish pop (particularly from Operación Triunfo, the successful pop star creation TV show), international hits and bacalao (happy techno). Other places will perhaps have a more latino slant, with salsa and merengue music.
Cinema and theatre
There are theatres in almost every medium-sized town upwards. They tend to serve multiple functions and host changing programmes of drama, dance, music and cinema. There are often only one or two performances of a given show. Tickets are very cheap by European standards.Nearly all foreign films shown at cinemas in Spain are dubbed into Spanish; a general change to subtitling is strongly resisted by the acting profession, many of whom have lucrative ongoing careers as dubbers for a particular Hollywood star. Entrance to cinemas is typically about €5-6; there’s often a día del espectador cheap day, usually a Tuesday or Wednesday but it’s sometimes cheaper from Monday right through to Thursday. When a film is subtitled, the term is versión original (vo); you’ll only usually have this possibility in the region’s biggest cities.
Accident and emergency
Kids are kings in Spain and it’s one of the easiest places to take them along on holiday. Children socialize with their parents from an early age and you’ll see them eating in restaurants and out in bars well after midnight. Outdoor summer life and pedestrianized areas of cities make for a stress-free time for both you and the kids.
Spaniards are friendly and accommodating towards children and you’ll undoubtedly get treated better with them than without them, except perhaps in the most expensive restaurants and hotels. Few places, however, are equipped with highchairs or baby-changing facilities. Children are basically expected to eat the same sort of things as their parents, although you’ll sometimes see a menú infantil at a restaurant, which typically has simpler dishes and smaller portions than the norm. As for attractions, beaches are an obvious highlight, but many of the newer museums are hands-on. Spanish campsites are well set up; the larger ones often with child-minding facilities.
The cut-off age for children paying half or being free on public transport and in tourist attractions varies widely. RENFE trains let under-4s on free and offer discounts of around 50% for 4-12 year-olds. Most car-rental companies have child seats available, but it’s wise to book these in advance, particularly in summer.Bear in mind that Andalucía can get unbearably hot in the summer for some children, and babies especially, particularly in certain hotspots like Sevilla.
Customs and duty free
Spain isn’t the best equipped of countries in terms of disabled travel, but things are improving rapidly. By law, all new public buildings have to have full disabled access and facilities, but disabled toilets are rare elsewhere. Facilities generally are significantly better in Andalucía than in the rest of the country.
Most trains and stations are wheelchair friendly to some degree, as are many urban buses, but intercity buses are largely not accessible. Hertz in Málaga and Sevilla have a small range of cars set up for disabled drivers, but be sure to book them well in advance. Nearly all underground and municipal car parks have lifts and disabled spaces, as do many museums, castles, etc.
An invaluable resource for finding a bed are the regional accommodation lists, available from tourist offices. Most of these include a disabled-access criterion. Many pensiones are in buildings with ramps and lifts, but there are many that are not, and the lifts can be very small. Nearly all paradores and chain hotels are fully accessible by wheelchair, as is any accommodation built since 1995, but it’s best to phone. Be sure to check details as many hotels’ claims are well intentioned but not fully thought through.While major cities are relatively straightforward, smaller towns and villages frequently have uneven footpaths, steep streets (often cobbled) and little, if any, disabled infrastructure.
Confederación Nacional de Sordos de España (CNSE), http://www.cnse.es, has links to local associations for the deaf.
Federación ECOM, T34-934 515 550, http://www.ecom.es, is a helpful Barcelona-based organization for the disabled that can assist in providing information on disabled-friendly tourist facilities throughout Spain.
Global Access, http://www.globalaccessnews.com, has regular reports from disabled travellers as well as links to other sites.
Mobility Abroad, T01375-377246 (UK) or T34-952 447 764 (Spain), http://www.mobilityabroad.com, is a Málaga- based organization that provides support and hire of wheelchairs and disabled vehicles throughout the Costa del Sol area.
ONCE, http://www.once.es. The blind are well catered for as a result of the efforts of ONCE, the national organization for the blind, which runs a lucrative daily lottery. It can provide information and contacts for blind travellers.RADAR, T020-7250 3222, http://www.radar.org.uk, is a British network for the disabled that can help members get information and contacts for disabled travel around Europe.
Smoking porros (joints) is widespread. Possession of a small amount of marijuana or hashish for personal use is legal, although buying or selling it is not. Police aren’t too concerned about personal use, but don’t be foolish. Use of cocaine, speed and ecstasy is widespread, especially in discotecas but means serious trouble if caught.The maximum permissible blood alcohol level for driving a car is 0.5 grams per litre of blood. The police have stepped up on-the-spot breathalysing checks.
Embassies and consulates
Australia, 15 Arkana St, Yarralumla,
Canberra ACT 2600 T02-6273 3555, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Austria, Argentinierstr.34. A 1040 Wien, T505 5788, email@example.com.
Belgium, 19, rue de la Science, 1040 Bruxelles, T32-2-230 0340, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canada, 74 Stanley Av, Ottawa, T1-613-747 2252, email@example.com.
Denmark, Kristianiagade 21, 2100 Copenhagen, T45-3542 4700, firstname.lastname@example.org.
France, 22 Av Marceau, 75008 Paris, Cédex 08, T33-1-4443 1800, email@example.com.
Germany, Lichtensteinallee 1, D-10787, Berlin, T49-30-254 0070, http://www.spanischebotschaft.de.
Ireland, 17A Merlyn Park, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, T01-269 1640, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Italy, Palacio Borghese, Largo Fontanella di Borghese 19, 00186 Rome, T39-06-684 0401, email@example.com.
Japan, 1-3-29 Roppongi Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032, T81-3-3583 8531, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Netherlands, Lange Voorhout 50, 2514, The Hague, T31-70-302 4999, email@example.com.
New Zealand, 50 Manners St, Wellington 6142, T64-4-802 5665, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Norway, Oscarsgate, 35, 0258 Oslo 2, T47-2292 6690, email@example.com.
South Africa, 337 Brooklyn Road Menlo Park Pretoria 0181, T27-12-460 0123, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sweden, Djurgårdsvägen 21, 11521 Stockholm, T46-8-667 9430, email@example.com
UK, 39 Chesham Place, London SW1X 8SB, T020 -235 5555, firstname.lastname@example.org.USA, 2375 Pennsylvania Av, Washington DC 20037, T1-202-452 0100, email@example.com.
Gay and lesbian travellers
Cogailes, http://www.cogailes.org, T34-900-601601 (freephone hotline 1800-2200 daily), is a gay and lesbian organization with a handy information service.
Colega Andaluza, Plaza Encarnación 23, Sevilla, T34-954-501377, http://www.colegaweb.org. Seville branch of a nationwide gay and lesbian association.
Girasol , T34-958-200602. An Andalucía- wide lesbian and gay association based in Granada.
Shanguide, http://www.shangay.com A useful magazine and website with reviews, events, contacts, information and city-by-city listings for the whole country.SOMOS, Plaza Giraldillo 1, Sevilla, T34-954 531399. A gay and lesbian support organization in Sevilla.
http://www.colegaweb.net The website of a national gay and lesbian association.
http://www.damron.com Subscription listings and travel info.
http://www.es.gay.com National portal of principal use for contacts and chat.
http://www.gayinspain.com Wide-ranging listings of bars, clubs, zones, etc.http://www.guiagay.com, http://www.gay.com, http://www.gaywired.com (English), are other websites with listings and information about various Spanish cities.
Medical facilities in Andalucía are good, and the worst the majority of travellers experience is an upset stomach. However, EU citizens should make sure they have the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to prove reciprocal rights to medical care. These are available free of charge in the UK from the Department of Health (http://www.dh.gov.uk) or post offices.
Non-EU citizens should consider travel insurance to cover emergency and routine medical needs; be sure that it covers any sports or activities you may do.
Water is safe to drink, but isn’t always pleasant, so many travellers (and locals) stick to bottled water. The sun in southern Spain can be harsh, so take precautions to avoid heat exhaustion and sunburn.Many medications that require a prescription in other countries are available over the counter at pharmacies in Spain. Pharmacists are highly trained and usually speak some English. In medium-sized towns and cities, at least one pharmacy is open 24 hrs; this is performed on a rota system (posted in the window of all pharmacies and listed in local newspapers).
Health insurance and vaccinations
Everyone in Andalucía speaks Spanish, known either as castellano or español, and it’s a huge help to know some. The local accent, andaluz, is characterized by dropping consonants left, right and centre, thus dos tapas tends to be pronounced dotapa. Unlike in the rest of Spain, the letters ‘c’ and ‘z’ in words such as cerveza aren’t pronounced ‘th’ (although in Cádiz province, perversely, they tend to pronounce ‘s’ with that sound).
Most young people know some English, and standards are rising, but don’t assume that people aged 40 or over know any at all. Spaniards are often shy to attempt to speak English. On the coast, high numbers of expats and tourists mean that bartenders and shopkeepers know some English and to a lesser extent German and French. While many visitor attractions have some sort of information available in English (and to a lesser extent French and German), many don’t, or have English tours only in times of high demand. Most tourist office staff will speak at least some English and there’s a good range of translated information available in most places.While efforts to speak the language are appreciated, it’s more or less expected, to the same degree as English is expected in Britain or the USA. Nobody will be rude if you don’t speak any Spanish, but nobody will think to slow their rapid-fire stream of the language for your benefit either, or pat you on the back for producing a few phrases in their tongue.
Language schools are also listed within the main travel text in the Directory sections of the region’s major cities.
Amerispan, PO Box 58129, 117 South 17th St, 14th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA, T1-800-879 6640, http://www.amerispan.com. Immersion programmes throughout Spain.
Languages Abroad, T01872-225 300, T1-800-219 9924 (USA/Can), http://www.languagesabroad.com. Immersion courses in Andalucían cities.Spanish Abroad, 5112 N 40th St, Suite 103, Phoenix AZ 85018, T1-602-778 6791, http://www.spanishabroad.com. 2-week immersion language courses in several Andalucían locations including Granada, Málaga, Sevilla, Marbella and Vejer de la Frontera.
Local customs and laws
Spaniards are every inch modern Europeans and are generally very courteous towards foreigners. Be aware of cultural differences; use of please and thank you is minimal, but this doesn’t equate to rudeness. It’s usual to greet and bid farewell to shopkeepers and bartenders, and if you’re sitting in a restaurant, people arriving or leaving may well say que aproveche (bon appetit) to you. The concept of personal space in Spain is very different to that in northern Europe or the USA; in fact the idea doesn’t really exist. People speak loudly as a matter of course; it doesn’t mean they are shouting.
Most people go home for the long lunch break and may or may not have a siesta or snooze. Nearly all shops and sights are shut at this time (apart from large supermarkets), so you might as well tuck in to a big meal yourself. Every evening multitudes take to the streets for the paseo, a slow stroll up and down town that might include a coffee or pre-dinner drink. It’s a great time to observe Spanish society at work; the ritual is an integral part of Spanish culture. In summer, the whole evening is spent outdoors; friends meet by design or chance.Spanish time isn’t as elastic as it used to be, but if you’re told something will happen enseguida (straight away) it may take 10 mins, if you’re told cinco minutos (5 mins), grab a seat and a book. Transport, however, usually leaves dead on time.
Newspapers and magazines
The Spanish press is generally of a high journalistic standard. The national dailies, El País (still a qualitative leap ahead), El Mundo and the rightist ABC, are read throughout the country, but local papers are widely read in Andalucía. Overall circulation is low, partly because many people read newspapers provided in cafés and bars. Each major city has its own newspaper; in Sevilla, El Correo is one of the best. Large cities will also have ‘what’s on’ magazines, often distributed in tourist offices or bars.The terribly Real Madrid-biased sports dailies Marca and As, dedicated mostly to football, have a large readership that rivals any of the broadsheets. There’s no tabloid press as such; the closest equivalent is the prensa de corazón and the gossip magazines such as ¡Hola!, forerunner of Britain’s Hello! English-language newspapers are widely available in kiosks in larger towns and tourist resorts. Most English dailies now have European editions available on the day of publication; the same goes for major European dailies. There are a number of free English-language newspapers, which are usually vehicles only for details on local events, real estate listings and idle gossip. An exception is the English edition of Málaga’s newspaper Sur, http://www.surinenglish.com.
ATMs and banks
The best way to get money in Spain is by plastic. ATMs are plentiful and just about all of them accept all the major international debit and credit cards. The Spanish bank won’t charge for the transaction, though they will charge a mark-up on the exchange rate, but beware of your own bank hitting you for a hefty fee: check with them before leaving home. Even if they do, it’s likely to be a better deal than changing cash over a counter.Banks are usually open Mon-Fri (and Sat in winter) 0830-1400 and many change foreign money (sometimes only the central branch in a town will do it). Commission rates vary widely; it’s usually best to change large amounts, as there’s often a minimum commission of €6 or so. Nevertheless, banks nearly always give better rates than casas de cambio (change offices), which are fewer by the day. If you’re stuck outside banking hours, some large department stores such as the Corte Inglés change money at knavish rates. Traveller’s cheques will be accepted in many shops, although they are becoming less and less frequent since the single currency was introduced.
Cost of living
Cost of travelling
Spain is a reasonably cheap place to travel still if you’re prepared to forgo a few luxuries. If you’re travelling as a pair, staying in cheap pensiones, eating a set meal at lunchtime, travelling short distances by bus or train daily, and snacking on tapas in the evenings, €50 per person per day is reasonable. If you camp and grab picnic lunches from shops, you could reduce this considerably. In a good pensión or hostal, €150 a day and you’ll not be counting pennies; €250 per day and you’ll be very comfy indeed unless you’re staying in 4- or 5-star accommodation.
Accommodation is usually more expensive in summer than winter, particularly on the coast, where hotels and hostales in seaside towns are overpriced. Sevilla is noticeably pricier than elsewhere in Andalucía. Accommodation over the major fiesta periods is very expensive; prices at Semana Santa can be double the norm. The news isn’t great for the solo traveller; single rooms tend not to be particularly good value and they are in short supply. Prices range from 60% to 80% of the double/twin price; some establishments even charge the full rate. If you’re going to be staying in 3- to 5-star hotels, booking them ahead on internet discount sites can save you money.Public transport is generally cheap; intercity bus services are quick and low-priced, though the new fast trains cost rather more. If you’re hiring a car, Málaga is the cheapest place in Andalucía. Petrol is fairly cheap: standard unleaded petrol is around 90 cents per litre and diesel around 80 cents. In some places, particularly in tourist areas, you may be charged up to 20% more to sit outside a restaurant. It’s also worth checking if the 7% IVA (sales tax) is included in menu prices, especially in the more expensive restaurants; it should say on the menu.
Currency and exchange
Andalucía is a very safe place to travel. There’s been a crackdown on tourist crime in recent years and even large cities like Sevilla and Málaga feel much safer than their equivalents in, say, England.
What tourist crime there is tends to be of the opportunistic kind. Robberies from parked cars (particularly those with foreign plates) or snatch-and-run thefts from vehicles stopped at traffic lights are not unknown, and the occasional mugger operates in the cities of Sevilla, Málaga and Granada. Keep car doors locked when driving in those big cities. If parking in a city or a popular hiking zone, make it clear there’s nothing worth robbing in a car by opening the glove compartment.
If you are unfortunate enough to be robbed, you should report the theft immediately at the nearest police station, as insurance companies will require a copy of the denuncia (police statement).There are 3 types of police. Guardia Civil, a national force dressed in green, are responsible for the roads, borders and law enforcement away from towns. They are not a bunch to get the wrong side of but are polite to tourists and have thankfully lost the bizarre winged hats they used to sport. Policía Nacional are responsible for fighting most urban crime; these are the ones to go to if you need to report anything stolen, etc. Policía Local/ Municipal, present in large towns and cities, are responsible for some urban crime, as well as traffic control.
There’s a public telephone in many bars, but it may be too noisy to hear and rates are slightly higher than on the street. Phone booths on the street are mostly operated by Telefónica, and all have international direct dialling. There are fewer than there once were; they accept coins from €0.05 upwards and phone cards, which can be bought from estancos (newspaper kiosks). For international reverse-charge calls, dial 900 99 00 followed by 44 (UK), 15 (USA and Canada), 61 (Australia) or 64 (New Zealand).
For directory enquiries, dial 11818 for national numbers or 11825 for international numbers. The local operator is available on 1009 and the international one on 1008.
Domestic landlines have 9-digit numbers beginning with 9. Although the first 3 digits indicate the province, you have to dial the full number from wherever you are calling, including abroad. Mobile numbers start with 6.Móviles (mobiles) are big in Spain and coverage is good. Most foreign mobiles will work in Spain (although older North American ones won’t); check with your service provider about what the call costs will be like. Many mobile networks require you to call before leaving your home country to activate overseas service. Spanish recharge cards for multinational companies such as Vodafone will work on foreign mobiles. If you’re staying a while, it may be cheaper to buy a Spanish mobile or SIM card, as there are always numerous offers and discounts.
The tourist information infrastructure in Andalucía is organized by the Junta (the regional government) and is generally excellent, with a wide range of information, often in English, German and French as well as Spanish. Oficinas de turismo (local government tourist offices) are in all the major towns, providing more specific local information. In addition, many towns run a municipal turismo, offering locally produced material. The tourist offices are generally open during normal office hours, but will usually be closed at fiesta and holiday times. The offices in the main holiday areas normally have enthusiastic, multilingual staff, but the same service can often be found lacking in the more remote areas. The tourist offices can provide local maps and town plans and a full list of registered accommodation. Staff are not allowed to make recommendations. If you’re in a car, it’s especially worth asking for a listing of casas rurales (rural accommodation). In villages with no turismo you could try asking for local information on accommodation and sights in the Ayuntamiento (town hall). Some city tourist offices offer information that can be downloaded to a Bluetooth- capable mobile phone.
Opening hours are longer in major cities; many rural offices are only open in summer. Average opening hours will be Mon-Sat 1000-1400, 1600-1800 (1700-1900 in summer), Sun 1000-1400. Offices are often closed on Sun. Staff often speak English and other European languages.
There is a substantial amount of tourist information on the internet. Apart from the websites listed , many towns and villages have their own site with information on sights, hotels and restaurants, although this may be in Spanish.The Spanish Tourist Board (http://www.spain.info) produces a mass of information that you can obtain before you leave from their offices located in many countries abroad.
Spanish tourist offices
Belgium Rue Royale 97, 5º, 1000 Bruxelles, T32-2-280 1926.
Canada 2 Bloor St West 34th Floor, Toronto, Ont M4W 3€2, T1-416-961 3131.
Denmark, Frederiksgade 11, 2, 1265 København, T45-33-186 638.
France 43 rue Décamps, 75784 Paris Cedex 16 France, T33-1-4503 8257.
Germany 180 Kurfürstendamm, 10707 Berlin, T49-3088 26543.
Italy Via del Mortaro, 19 - interno 5, Roma 00187, T39-06-678 3106.
Japan Daini Toranomon Denki Bldg. 6F, 3-1-10 Toranomon. Minato-Ku, Tokio 105, T81-3-3432 6141/2.
Netherlands Laan Van Meerdervoort, 8-8ª, 2517 Aj Den Haag, T31-70-346 5900.
Norway Kronprinsensgate 3, 0251 Oslo, T47-2283 7676.
Sweden, Stureplan 6,114-35 Stockholm, T46-8611 4136.
Switzerland Seefeldstrasse, 19, CH 8008 Zürich, T41-1525 7930.
United Kingdom 2nd floor, 79 New Cavendish St, London W1W 6XB, T020-7317 2010. 24-hr brochure request: T09063 640 630.USA Water Tower Place, Suite 915 East 845, North Michigan Av, Chicago, ILL 60611, T1- 312-642 1992; 8383 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 960, Beverley Hills, Los Angeles, CAL 90211, T1-323-658 7195; 1395 Brickell Av, Miami, Florida 33131, T1-305-358 1992; 666 Fifth Av, New York NY 10103, T1-212-265 8822.
maps.google.es Street maps of most Spanish towns and cities.
http://www.alsa.es One of the country’s main bus companies with online booking.
http://www.altur.com A useful tourist board website on Andalucía.
http://www.andalucia.com Excellent site with comprehensive practical and background information on Andalucía, covering everything from accommodation to zoos.
http://www.andalucia.org The official tourist- board site, with details of even the smallest villages, accommodation and tourist offices.
http://www.cetursa.es and www.sierranevada ski.com 2 sites covering the Sierra Nevada ski resort, including ski run details, summer activities, accommodation and transport.
http://www.cyberspain.com Good background on culture and fiestas.
http://www.dgt.es The transport department website has up-to-date information in Spanish on road conditions throughout the country.
http://www.elpais.es Online edition of Spain’s biggest-selling daily paper. Also in English.
http://www.guiarepsol.com Online route planner for Spanish roads, also available in English.
http://www.idealspain.com A good source of practical information about the country designed for people relocating there.
http://www.inm.es Site of the national metereological institute, with the day’s weather and next-day forecasts.
http://www.inturjoven.com Details of youth hostel locations, facilities and prices.
http://www.movelia.es Online timetables and ticketing for Andalucían bus companies.
http://www.paginasamarillas.es Yellow Pages.
http://www.paginasblancas.es White Pages.
http://www.parador.es Parador information, including locations, prices and photos.
http://www.raar.es Andalucían rural accommodation network with details of mainly self-catering accommodation to rent, including cottages and farmhouses.
http://www.red2000.com A good introduction to Spanish geography and culture, with listings.
http://www.renfe.es Online timetables and
tickets for RENFE train network.
http://www.spaindata.com Interesting selection of Spain-related subjects, from an online version of the Spanish constitution and Don Quijote (in Spanish), to a property index and links to online newspapers.
http://www.spain.info The official website of the Spanish tourist board.
http://www.soccer-spain.com A website in English dedicated to Spanish football.
http://www.surinenglish.com The weekly English edition of the Málaga Sur paper.
http://www.ticktackticket.com Spain’s biggest ticketing agency for concerts and more, with online purchase.
http://www.toprural.com and www.todoturismo rural.com Excellent sites for casas rurales.
http://www.tourspain.es A useful website run by the Spanish tourist board.http://www.typicallyspanish.com News and links on all things Spanish.
Explore Holidays, Level 9, 234 Sussex St, Sydney NSW 2000, www.exploreholidays. com.au. Organizes several Andalucían trips.
Ibertours, 1st Floor, 84 William St, Melbourne VIC 3000, T61-3-9867 8833, www.ibertours. com.au. Spanish specialist and booking agent for Parador and Rusticae hotels.
Outdoor Travel, PO Box 286, Bright VIC 3741, T61-3-5750 1441, www.outdoortravel. com.au. Affiliated with several Spanish outdoor tourism operators.Timeless Tours & Travel, 2/197 Military Rd, Neutral Bay, NSW 2089, T61-2 9904 1239, http://www.timeless.com.au. Specializes in tailored itineraries for Spain.
Abercrombie and Kent, 1520 Kensington Rd, Oak Brook, IL 60521, T1-800-554 7016, http://www.abercrombiekent.com. High-class packages and tailor-made trips.
Cycling Through The Centuries, PO Box 529, Manitou Springs, CO 80829, USA, T1-970-672 0116, http://www.cycling-centuries.com. Runs guided cycling tours of Andalucía.
Epiculinary Tours, T1-847-295 5363, http://www.epiculinary.com. Tours to delight foodies, with lessons on making tapas and other Andalucían food interspersed with plenty of tastings and cultural visits.
Heritage Tours, 121 West 27 St, Suite 1201, New York, NY 10001, T1-800-378 4555, http://www.heritagetoursonline.com. Interesting, classy itineraries around the south of Spain.
Magical Spain, C Almirantazgo 2, Sevilla, Spain, T34-954-534 409, http://www.magicalspain.com. American-run tour agency based in Sevilla, who runs a variety of tours. San Francisco office also.
Maupin Tours, http://www.maupintour.com. Runs an expensive 10-day excursion for Sevilla’s Semana Santa and includes accommodation in the city’s Alfonso XIII hotel. This can be booked through most travel agencies.
Sarah Tours, 1803 Bellview Blvd, No A-1, Alexandria, VA22307, T1-800-267 0036, http://www.sarahtours.com. City and study trips, activity breaks, culinary courses.
Spain Adventures, 1031 Royal Palm Blvd, Vero Beach, FL 32960, T1-772-564 0330, http://www.spainadventures.com. Organizes a range of hiking and biking tours, including the Sierra de Grazalema, Ronda and the Sierra de Aracena.Sun Holidays, 1650 Avenue Rd, Toronto, ON M5M 3YI, T1-800-387 0571, www.sun holidays.ca. Popular Canadian operator with parador tours and city packages.
Rest of Europe
Alpujarra Tours, T34-958-760352, http://www.alpujarra-tours.com. Based in Mairena in the Alpujarra region, organize packages including sweet village accommodation and self-guided hikes as well as other activities.
Arbuthnott Holidays, T34-952-152148, http://www.arbuthnottholidays.com. Painting trip to Andalucía that includes a trip to Morocco. Also do photography and birdwatching stays.
Bootlace Walking Holidays, T34-958-068012, http://www.bootlace.com. Down-to-earth Alpujarran walking trips with vegetarian food.
Bravo Bike Travel, C Alvarez Mendizabal 19, Madrid, T/F34-917-582945, www.bravobike. com. Runs 10-day bike tours of Andalucía.
Euroadventures, C Velásquez Moreno 9, Vigo, Spain T34-986-221399, http://www.euroadventures.net. Runs a range of interesting tours, many focusing on food and wine, including the bodegas of Jerez or the cuisine of Granada.
Faro del Sur, T34-959-344 490, http://www.farodelsur.com. Based in Isla Cristina, Huelva province, organizes all sorts of activity holidays, as well as cultural visits.
Finca El Moro, Fuenteheridos 21292, Huelva, T/F34-959-501079, http://www.fincaelmoro.com. Recommended walking and riding holidays in the Sierra de Aracena with accommodation and food on the farm.
Los Alamos Equestrian Holidays, Apdo 56, Barbate, Cádiz, T34-956-437416 (Spain), T01684 567 266 (UK), www.losalamos riding.co.uk. 5-day horse-riding trips around the beaches and forests of the Costa de la Luz.
Olé Spain Tours, Paseo Infanta Isabel 21, 5ºC, Madrid 28014, Spain, T34-915-515 294, http://www.olespaintours.com. Organizes and customizes all types of tours in Spain.
Rancho Ferrer, Rubite, Granada, T34-958-349116, http://www.ranchoferrer.com. Based in the Alpujarra and offers English- speaking riding holidays in the region.
Rustic Blue, Barrio La Ermita, 18412 Bubión, Granada, T34-958-763 381, http://www.rusticblue.com. Walking in the Sierra Nevada and Alpujarras and accommodation in Andalucía.Spain Birds, T34-687-837719, www.spain birds.com. Birdwatching tours and trips.
UK and Ireland
Plantagenet Tours, 85 The Grove, Moordown, Bournemouth BH9 2TY, T01202- 521895, http://www.plantagenettours.com. Excellent cultural programmes in Andalucía.
Abercrombie and Kent, Sloane Square House, Holbein Place, London SW1W 8NS, T0845-618 2200, http://www.abercrombiekent.co.uk. Upmarket operator offering tailor-made itineraries in Andalucía as well as the rest of Spain.
ACE Study Tours, Babraham, Cambs, UK, T01223-835055, http://www.acestudytours.co.uk. Trips focusing on Moorish culture, as well one around Jaén province.
Andalucian Adventures, Washpool, Horsley, Gloucester GL6 0PP, T01453-834137, http://www.andalucian-adventures.co.uk. Well- established operator. Walking, singing and painting holidays in the south of Spain.
Andante Travels, T01722-713 800, http://www.andantetravels.co.uk. Popular operator running a variety of different cultural and active holidays in Andalucía. They focus on archaeology and the Roman presence.
Arblaster & Clarke, T01730-893 344, http://www.winetours.co.uk. Experienced operator of wine tours, including a sherry-tasting extravaganza in Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. The 6-day trip costs £1295, including flights from the UK.
Exodus, 9 Weir Rd, London SW12 0LT, T020- 8675 5550, http://www.exodus.co.uk. Walking and adventure tours to suit all pockets.
Holts Tours, Aviation House, Crossoak Lane, Redhill, Surrey RH1 5EX, T01293-455300, http://www.holts.co.uk. Runs regular tours of the Napoleonic battlefields of northern and southern Spain.
In the Saddle, T01299-272997, http://www.inthesaddle.co.uk. Runs riding trips in the Costa de la Luz and the Alpujarra regions.
Irish Cycling Safaris, Belfield House, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland, T353-1-260 0749, http://www.cyclingsafaris.com. Well-priced tours to Andalucía.
Martin Randall Travel, 10 Barley Mow Passage, London W4 4PH, T020-8742 3355, http://www.martinrandall.com. Excellent cultural itineraries accompanied by lectures. Covers all the main cities, and also has an off-beat tour visiting some out-of-the-way spots.
Mundi Color, T020-7828 6021, http://www.mundicolor.co.uk. An offshoot of Iberia, specializing in Spanish fly-drive packages.
Naturetrek, Cheriton Mill, Cheriton, Hants SO24 0NG, T01962-733 051, http://www.naturetrek.co.uk. Birdwatching and botanical tours in Andalucía, including the Coto Doñana national park.
Ornitholidays, 1/3 Victoria Drive, Bognor Regis, Sussex PO21 2PW, T01243-821240, http://www.ornitholidays.co.uk. Well-established set-up for birding trips to the Coto Doñana.
Secret Destinations, T0845-612 9000, http://www.secretdestinations.com. Offer various self-catering accommodation holidays throughout Andalucía.
Spirit of Adventure, Powdermills, Princetown, Devon PL20 6SP, T01822-880 277, http://www.spirit-of-adventure.com. All kinds of activities, from caving to kayaking, mountain biking to windsurfing.Step in Time Tours, www.stepintime tours.com, T0870-199 8788. Tours that focus on Moorish culture and the cities of Córdoba, Granada, and Ronda. Inclusive ethos.
Visas and immigration
EU citizens and those from countries within the Schengen agreement can enter Spain freely. UK and Irish citizens will need to carry a passport, while an identity card suffices for other EU/Schengen nationals. Citizens of Australia, the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Israel can enter without a visa for up to 90 days. Other citizens will require a visa, obtainable from Spanish consulates or embassies. These are usually issued quickly and are valid for all Schengen countries. The basic visa is valid for 90 days, and you’ll need 2 passport photos, proof of funds covering your stay, and possibly evidence of medical cover (ie insurance).For extensions of visas, apply to an oficina de extranjeros in a major city (usually in the comisaría, main police station).
Weights and measures
Working in Andalucía
The most obvious paid work for English speakers is through teaching the language. Even the smallest towns usually have an English college or two; it’s taken off in a big way here. Rates of pay aren’t great except in the large cities, but you can live quite comfortably. The best way of finding work is by trawling around the schools, but there are dozens of useful internet sites; check http://www.eslcafe.com or http://www.eslusa.org for links and listings. There’s also a more casual scene of private teaching; notice- boards in universities and student cafés are the best way to find work of this sort, or to advertise your own services. Standard rates for 1-to-1 classes are €10-20/hr.
Bar work is also relatively easy to find, particularly in summer on the coast. Irish theme bars in the larger cities are another obvious choice. Live-in English-speaking au pairs and childminders are also popular with wealthier city families. The International Au Pair Association (http://www.iapa.org), lists reliable agencies that arrange placements.
EU citizens are at an advantage when it comes to working in Spain; they can work without a permit. Non-EU citizens need a working visa, obtainable from Spanish embassies or consulates, but you’ll need to have a firm offer of work to obtain it. Most English schools can organize this for you but make sure you arrange it before arriving in the country.Another popular line of work for travellers is crewing on yachts; the best places to pick up work of this sort are Marbella/Puerto Banús, Ayamonte and Gibraltar.
Festivals and events
These are an excellent experience. There are many throughout the year: ask the local tourist office for details of any flamenco festivals being held. The following are the biggest and most popular:
Feb/Mar Festival de Flamenco , in Jerez. Check dates at http://www.festivaldejerez.es.
Jun/Jul International Festival of Music and Dance , in Granada. One of Andalucía’s biggest cultural events held in the Alhambra’s Carlos V Palace, with classical music and ballet shows as well as flamenco. Check dates at http://www.granadafestival.org.
Late Aug Festival de Flamenco, Almería.
Sep/Oct Bienal de Flamenco , Sevilla, held every even-numbered year. The most respected names in flamenco perform here, with more than 600 artists taking part. Check dates at http://www.bienal-flamenco.org.Dec Encuentros Flamencos , Granada. The biggest names in flamenco, with a different theme each year.
1 Jan Año Nuevo, New Year’s Day.
6 Jan Reyes Magos/Epifanía, Epiphany, when Christmas presents are given.
28 Feb Andalucía day.
Easter Jueves Santo, Viernes Santo, Día de Pascua (Maundy Thu, Good Fri, Easter Sun).
(9-12 Apr 2009; 1-4 Apr 2010; 21-24 Apr 2011).
1 May Fiesta del Trabajo (Labour Day).
24 Jun Fiesta de San Juan (Feast of St John and name-day of the king Juan Carlos I).
25 Jul Día del Apostol Santiago, Feast of St James.
15 Aug Asunción, Feast of the Assumption.
12 Oct Día de la Hispanidad, Spanish National Day (Columbus Day, Feast of the Virgin of the Pillar).
1 Nov Todos los Santos, All Saints’ Day.
6 Dec El Día de la Constitución Española, Constitution Day.
8 Dec Inmaculada Concepción, Feast of the Immaculate Conception.25 Dec Navidad, Christmas Day.
Andalucía has several airports that are serviced regularly from Barcelona and Madrid, but there are no flights between the cities themselves, so once you’re in the region, you’re better off staying on the ground rather than backtracking through Madrid. Full-fare domestic flights are expensive, but with a bit of planning, internet research and flexibility you can find cheaper rates; a return from Madrid to Sevilla, for example, can be as little as €70. Also worth checking out are Vueling (http://www.vueling.com) and Air Europa (http://www.aireuropa.com) for budget routes between Málaga or Sevilla and Madrid/Barcelona. Spanair also run some routes. If you’re flying into Spain from overseas, a domestic leg can often be added at comparatively little cost.If you’re flying into Spain from outside Europe on a OneWorld affiliate airline, you may want to consider the OneWorld airpass, which offers set-rate flights with Iberia that cost €55 for up to 318 km, or €80 up to 638 km. Spanair have a Spanair Pass, but you have to buy 10 vouchers and it’s not very good value.
The Michelin Andalucía road map is reliable for general navigation, although if you’re getting off the beaten track you’ll often find a local map handy. Tourist offices provide these, which vary in quality from province to province. The best topographical maps are published by the Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN) or the army. These are not necessarily more accurate than those obtainable in Britain or North America. A useful website for route planning is http://www.guiarepsol.com. Car-hire companies have navigation systems available, though they cost a hefty supplement.Stanfords (12-14 Long Acre, Covent Garden, London WC2€ 9LP, T020-7836 1321, http://www.stanfords.co.uk) with over 80 well-travelled staff and 40,000 titles in stock, is the world’s largest map and travel bookshop. It also has a branch at 29 Corn Street, Bristol.
The Spanish national rail network, RENFE (T902-240202 (English-speaking operators), http://www.renfe.es for timetables and tickets) is, thanks to its growing network of high-speed trains, becoming a more useful option. AVE trains run from Madrid to Córdoba, Sevilla and Málaga and, though expensive, cover these large distances impressively quickly and reliably. Elsewhere in Andalucía though, you’ll find the bus is often quicker and cheaper.
Prices vary significantly according to the type of service you are using. The standard high-speed intercity service is called Talgo, while other intercity services are labelled Altaria, Intercity, Diurno and Estrella (overnight). Slower local trains are called regionales.
It’s always worth buying a ticket in advance for long-distance travel, as trains are often full. The best option is to buy them via the website, which sometimes offers advance purchase discounts. You can also book by phone, but only Spanish cards are accepted. In either case, you get a reservation code, then print off your ticket at the terminals at the station. If buying your ticket at the station, allow plenty of time for queuing. Ticket windows are labelled venta anticipada (in advance) and venta inmediata (six hours or less before the journey). A better option can be to use a travel agent; the ones in town that sell tickets will display a RENFE sign, but you’ll have to buy them a day in advance. Commission is minimal.
All Spanish trains are non-smoking. The faster trains will have a first-class (preferente) and second-class sections as well as a cafetería. First class costs about 30% more than standard and can be a worthwhile deal on a crowded long journey. Other pricing is bewilderingly complex. Night trains are more expensive, even if you don’t take a sleeping berth, and there’s a system of peak/off-peak days that makes little difference in practice. Buying a return ticket is 10% to 20% cheaper than two singles, but you qualify for this discount even if you buy the return leg later (but not on every service). A useful tip: if the train is ‘full’ for your particular destination, try to buy a ticket halfway (or even one stop), get on, and then ask the ticket inspector whether it’s possible to go further. You may have to shuffle seats a couple of times, but most are fairly helpful – you can pay the excess fare on board.An ISIC student card or under-26 card grants a discount of 20% to 25% on train services. If you’re using a European railpass, be aware that you’ll still have to make a reservation on Spanish trains and pay the small reservation fee (which covers your insurance). If you have turned 60, it’s worth paying €5 for a Tarjeta Dorada, a seniors’ card that gets you a discount of 40% on trains from Monday to Thursday, and 25% at other times.
Buses are the staple of Spanish public transport. Services between major cities are fast, frequent, reliable and fairly cheap; the six-hour trip from Madrid to Sevilla, for example, costs €19. When buying a ticket, always check how long the journey will take, as the odd bus will be an ‘all stations to’ job, calling in at villages that seem surprised to even see it.
While some cities have several departure points for buses, most have a single terminal, the estación de autobuses, which is where all short- and long-haul services leave from. Buy your tickets at the relevant window; if there isn’t one, buy it from the driver. Many companies don’t allow baggage in the cabin of the bus, but security is pretty good. Most tickets will have an asiento (seat number) on them; ask when buying the ticket if you prefer a ventana (window) or pasillo (aisle) seat. Some of the companies allow booking online; the website http://www.movelia.es is the most useful. The platform that the bus leaves from is called a dársena or andén. If you’re travelling at busy times (particularly a fiesta or national holiday) always book the bus ticket in advance. If the bus station is out of town, there are usually travel agents in the centre who can do this for you at no extra charge.
Rural bus services are slower, less frequent and more difficult to coordinate. They typically run early in the morning and late in the evening; they’re designed for villagers who visit the big city once a week or so to shop. If you’re trying to catch a bus from a small stop, you’ll often need to almost jump out under the wheels to get the driver to pull up. The same goes when trying to get off a bus; even if you’ve asked the driver to let you know when your stop comes up, keep an eye out as they tend to forget.All bus services are reduced on Sundays and, to a lesser extent, on Saturdays; some services don’t run at all on weekends. Many local newspapers publish a comprehensive list of departures; expect few during siesta hours.
The roads in Andalucía are good, excellent in many parts. While driving isn’t as sedate as in parts of northern Europe, it’s generally pretty good and you’ll have few problems. The roads near the coast, dense with partygoers and sunseekers, can be dangerous in summer, particularly the stretch along the Costa del Sol.
To drive in Spain, you’ll need a full driving licence from your home country. This applies to virtually all foreign nationals but, in practice, if you’re from an ‘unusual’ country, consider an International Driving Licence or official translation of your licence into Spanish.
There are two types of motorway in Spain, autovías and autopistas; for drivers, they are little different. They are signposted in blue and may have tolls payable, in which case there’ll be a red warning circle on the blue sign when you’re entering the motorway. Tolls are generally reasonable; the quality of motorway is generally excellent. The speed limit on motorways is 120 kph.
Rutas Nacionales form the backbone of the country’s road network. Centrally administered, they vary wildly in quality. Typically, they are choked with traffic backed up behind trucks, and there are few stretches of dual carriageway. Driving at siesta time is a good idea if you’re going to be on a busy stretch. Rutas Nacionales are marked with a red N followed by a number. The speed limit is 100 kph outside built-up areas, as it is for secondary roads, which are usually marked with an A (Andalucía), or C (comarcal, or local) prefix. When turning left from a main road, look out for a loop to the right marked cambio de sentido as turning directly left is often illegal.
In urban areas, the speed limit is 50 kph. Many towns and villages have sensors that will turn traffic lights red if you’re over the limit on approach. City driving can be confusing, with signposting generally poor and traffic heavy; it’s worth printing off the directions that your hotel may send you with a reservation. In some towns and cities, many of the hotels are officially signposted, making things easier. Police are increasingly enforcing speed limits in Spain, and foreign drivers are liable to a large on-the-spot fine. Drivers can also be punished for not carrying two red warning triangles to place on the road in case of breakdown, a bulb-replacement kit and a fluorescent green waistcoat to wear if you break down by the side of the road. Drink driving is being cracked down on; the limit is 0.5 g/l of blood, slightly less than the equivalent in the UK, for example.
Parking is a problem in nearly every town and city in Andalucía. Red or yellow lines on the side of the street mean no parking. Blue or white lines mean that some restrictions are in place; a sign will indicate what these are (typically it means that the parking is metered). Parking meters can usually only be dosed up for a maximum of two hours, but they take a siesta at lunchtime too. Print the ticket off and display it in the car. If you overstay and get fined, you can pay it off for the minimal cost at the machine if you do it within an hour of the fine being issued. Parking fines are never pursued for foreign vehicles, but if it’s a hire car you’ll possibly be liable for it. Underground car parks are common, but pricey; €15-20 a day is normal.
Liability insurance is required for every car driven in Spain and you must carry proof of it. If bringing your own car, check carefully with your insurers that you’re covered and get a certificate (green card). If your insurer doesn’t cover you for breakdowns, consider joining RACE (http://www.race.es, T902-120 441) Spain’s automobile association, which provides good breakdown cover.Hiring a car in Andalucía is easy and also, compared to the UK and the rest of Spain, relatively cheap. The major multinationals have offices at all large towns and airports; the Spanish company ATESA (now owned by National) has offices in every city. Prices start at around €150 per week for a small car with unlimited mileage. You’ll need a credit card and most agencies will either not accept under-25s or demand a surcharge. By far the cheapest place to hire a car is Málaga, where even at the airport there are competitive rates. With the bigger companies, it’s always cheaper to book over the internet. The best way to look for a deal is using a price-comparison website like http://www.kelkoo.com or http://www.kayak.com.
Cycling and motorcycling
Motorcycling is a good way to enjoy Andalucía and there are few difficulties to trouble the biker; bike shops and mechanics are relatively common. There are comparatively few outlets for motorcycle hire. The Real Federación Motociclista Española (www.rf me.com) can help with links and advice.Cycling presents a curious contrast; Spaniards are mad for the competitive sport, but essentially disinterested in cycling as a means of transport, though local governments are trying to encourage it with new bike lanes and free borrowable bikes in places like Sevilla. Thus there are plenty of cycling shops but few cycle-friendly features on the roads. Taking your own bike to Andalucía is well worth the effort as most airlines are happy to accept them, providing they come within your baggage allowance. Bikes can be taken on the train, but have to travel in the guard’s van and must be registered. Contact the Real Federación de Ciclismo en España (http://www.rfec.com) for more links and assistance.
Taxi and bus
The growth of the budget sector means that there are now numerous options for reaching Andalucía. Six airports in the region (Sevilla, Málaga, Almería, Granada and Jerez de la Frontera, as well as Gibraltar) are served regularly by flights from a wide variety of European cities; add in all the standard and charter flights, and it’s one of Europe’s easiest destinations to reach.
Prices are much higher in summer and at Christmas and Easter holidays than at other times of the year. Booking well in advance is advisable at these times or you’ll get stuck with a ludicrously expensive full-fare ticket.
While budget carriers often offer excellent value (especially when booked well ahead), they offer very little flexibility. It’s hard to get close to the much-advertised ultra-low rates, and be aware that if you’re only booking a week or so in advance, it may be cheaper with other airlines such as British Airways or Iberia.
The cheapest fares on standard airlines tend to involve a return flight and a Saturday- night stay; maximum duration is often a month. Cheap fares will usually carry a heavy financial penalty for changing dates or cancellation; check the small print before buying. Some airlines don’t like one-way tickets; it’s (ridiculously) often cheaper to buy a return.
Charter flights are cheaper and are run by package-holiday firms. You can find bargains through the so-called bucket shops, which in the UK advertise in Sunday newspapers and magazines such as Time Out. The drawback of these flights is that they usually have a fixed return flight, often no more than four weeks, and they frequently depart at antisocial hours. An upside is that charter flights operate from many (especially British and German) regional airports.Before booking, it’s worth doing a bit of online research. Two of the best search engines for flight comparisons are http://www.kelkoo.com and http://www.kayak.com, which compare prices from a range of agencies. To keep yourself up to date with the ever- changing routes of the bewildering number of budget airlines, http://www.whichbudget.com is recommended. Flightchecker (http://www.flightchecker.moneysavingexpert.com) is handy for checking multiple dates for budget airline deals.
Flights from Australia and New Zealand
Flights from North America and Canada
Flights from the rest of Europe
There are numerous budget airlines operating from European cities to Málaga. The website http://www.whichbudget.com is an essential tool to keep track of these services, as by no means all of them are listed here and the market changes frequently.
From Dublin, both Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly non-stop to Málaga; Ryanair also flies to Sevilla and Almería. Ryanair goes to Málaga from Shannon, while Aer Lingus does the same from Cork and Aer Arann from Galway and Waterford.
German airline Air Berlin has indirect connections to Málaga, Jerez de la Frontera, Sevilla and Almería from numerous German, Austrian, Swiss and other Northern European cities via their hub in Mallorca. Many of these services are seasonal only. Thomas Cook flies to Almería and Málaga from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
Transavia flies from Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Jetair from Brussels and Liège. Vueling fly between Málaga and Rome, Paris and Amsterdam.
Ryanair connect Granada, Sevilla and Málaga with destinations in Italy and Málaga with Brussels, Marseille, Frankfurt and Bremen. Easyjet flies from Málaga to Geneva, Milan, Berlin and Mulhouse. Norwegian flies direct to Málaga from various Norwegian cities and other Northern European destinations.
Numerous charter flights operate to Málaga and some to Almería from Germany, Scandinavia, France, the Netherlands and Belgium.There are non-stop flights to Málaga with non-budget airlines from many major European cities, including Frankfurt, Paris, Zurich, Rome, Vienna and Amsterdam. There are daily non-stop flights to Sevilla from Paris and Brussels Flying from these or other western European cities via Madrid or Barcelona usually costs about the same.
Flights from the UK
There are numerous budget connections from the UK to Málaga. Easyjet flies to Málaga from 10 British airports (Belfast, Bristol, East Midlands, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, London Gatwick, Stansted and Luton). Ryanair serves the city from Birmingham, Bournemouth, Edinburgh, Prestwick, Nottingham/East Midlands, Liverpool and London Stansted, Flybe operates from Exeter and Southampton, while BMI Baby operates out of Cardiff, Birmingham, Nottingham/East Midlands and Manchester. Jet2 connects Málaga with Belfast, Blackpool, Leeds Bradford, Manchester and Newcastle, while FlyGlobespan flies from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Durham/Teeside. Monarch serves Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester, and Aer Lingus goes from Gatwick and Belfast.
Sevilla is served by Ryanair from London Stansted and Liverpool, and by Clickair from London Gatwick. Ryanair also flies to Jerez de la Frontera from Stansted, and to Granada from Stansted, Liverpool and Nottingham/East Midlands. Monarch flies to Gibraltar from London Luton and Manchester, while Easyjet flies there from Gatwick.
Almería has flights from London operated by Easyjet, Ryanair and Monarch; the latter also fly here from Manchester and Birmingham. Jet2 make the trip to Almería from Leeds Bradford and BMI Baby from Nottingham/East Midlands.Fares for all these flights can fall as low as £40-50 return off season or with advance booking, but can rise to £160 or more.
Air Canada, http://www.aircanada.ca, T1-888-247 2262.
Air Berlin, http://www.airberlin.com, T49-30-4102 10 03 (Germany).
Aer Lingus, http://www.aerlingus.com, T0818-365000 (Ireland).
Air Transat, http://www.airtransat.com, T1-866 847 1112 (Canada).
American Airlines, http://www.aa.com, T1-800-433 7300 (USA).
BMI, http://www.flybmi.com, T0870-607 0555 (UK).
BMI Baby, http://www.bmibaby.com, T0871-224 0224 (UK).
British Airways, http://www.ba.com, T0844-4493 0787(UK), T1-800-247 9297 (USA).
Delta, http://www.delta.com, T1-800 221 1212 (USA).
Easyjet, http://www.easyjet.com, T0905-821 0905 (UK).
Flybe, http://www.flybe.com, T0871-700 2000 (UK).
Fly Globespan, http://www.flyglobespan.com, T0871-271 9000 (UK).
Iberia, http://www.iberia.com, T0870-609 0500 (UK), T0818-462 000 (Ireland), T1-800 772 4642 (USA).
KLM, http://www.klmuk.com, T0871-222 7474 (UK).
Lufthansa, http://www.lufthansa.co.uk, T0871-945 9747 (UK).
Monarch, http://www.flymonarch.com, T0870-040 5040 (UK).
Ryanair, http://www.ryanair.com, T0871- 246 0000 (UK), T01-609 7800 (Ireland).
Spanair, http://www.spanair.es, T34-902- 131 415 (Spain).
Transavia, http://www.transavia.com, T31-0900 0737 (Netherlands).
US Airways, http://www.usairways.com, T1-800 428 4322 (USA).Vueling, T34-902 333 933 (Spain), http://www.vueling.com.
Budget flight agents
Flight Centre, http://www.flightcentre.us, T1-866 967 5351 (US); www.flight centre.ca, T1-877 967 5302 (Can); http://www.flightcentre.com.au, T133 133 (Aus); http://www.flightcentre.co.nz, T0800-243 544 (NZ). Budget flight shop with many branches throughout the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
STA Travel, Specialists in student and budget travel. Branches all over the UK, http://www.statravel.co.uk, T0871-230 0040; USA and Canada, http://www.statravel.com, T1-800-781 4040; Australia, http://www.statravel.com.au, T134 782; and New Zealand, http://www.statravel.co.nz, T0800-474 400.http://www.travelcuts.com, T1-866-246 9762. A good Canadian budget travel agent with offices located throughout the country plus a few in the USA.
By far the greatest number of visitors to Andalucía land at Málaga Airport. On arrival, be prepared for a long walk from the plane to the baggage reclaim area, despite a few moving walkways. Those with mobility problems should use the buggies provided. There are usually plenty of luggage trolleys available. Note that there are no hotels or other accommodation in the immediate vicinity of the airport. The nearest are in Torremolinos, just five minutes away by car or taxi.Córdoba’s airport has internal flights only.
Unless you’ve got a railpass or you aren’t too keen on planes, forget about getting to Andalucía by train from anywhere further than France; you’ll save no money over the plane fare and use up days of time better spent in tapas bars. You’ll have to connect via either Barcelona or Madrid. Getting to Madrid/Barcelona from London takes about a day using Eurostar (http://www.eurostar.com, T0870-186186, £75-200 return to Paris, and another) €130 or more return to reach Madrid/Barcelona from there. Using the ferry across the Channel adds eight or more hours and saves up to £100.For students, the InterRail pass is an attractive and cheap possibility, which can be obtained from travel agents, but note that the pass is not valid on the high-speed AVE or EuroMed trains. If you are planning the train journey, Rail Europe (T0844-484064, http://www.raileurope.co.uk) is a useful company. RENFE, Spain’s rail network, has online time- tables at http://www.renfe.es. Also see the extremely useful http://www.seat61.com.
Car and ferry
It’s a long haul to Andalucía by road if you’re not already in the peninsula. From the UK, you have two options if you want to take the car: take a ferry to northern Spain, or cross the Channel to France and then drive down. The former option is much more expensive; it would usually work out far cheaper to fly to Andalucía and hire a car once you get there. For competitive fares by sea to France and Spain, check with Ferrysavers (T0844-576 8835, http://www.ferrysavers.com) .
P&O (T0871-664 5645, http://www.poferries.com) operates a ferry service between Portsmouth and Bilbao but in reality it’s more of a booze cruise than a transport connection, and it doesn’t come cheap at £400-500 return with a car. It’s a two-night trip on the way out, one night on the way back and cabin accommodation is mandatory. Boats depart from Portsmouth at 2115 twice a week most of the year, with fewer crossings in winter. The return ferry leaves Bilbao at 1315. The ferry port is at Santurtzi, 13 km from the city centre.
A cheaper and faster option is the service run by Brittany Ferries (T0871-244 0744, http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk) from Plymouth and Portsmouth to Santander. There’s one weekly sailing on each route, taking around 24 hours from Portsmouth and 20 hours from Plymouth. Prices are variable but can usually be found for about £70-90 each way in a reclining seat. A car adds about £150 each way, and cabins start from about £80. The service runs from mid-March to mid-November.Andalucía is about 2000 km from London by road; a dedicated drive will get you there in 20-24 driving hours. By far the fastest route is to head down the west coast of France, to Madrid via Bilbao then south towards Jaén and Córdoba. Cars must be insured for third party and practically any driving licence is acceptable (but if you’re from a country that a Guardia Civil would struggle to locate on a map, take an International Driving Licence). Tolls on motorways in France will add significantly to your costs; unleaded petrol costs €0.95-1.05 per litre in Spain. Driving conditions in Spain are generally very good, the motorways are mostly free, in excellent condition and less busy than those in the UK.
Andalucía is famous for its handicrafts, many of which developed in Moorish times. Pottery, leather goods, marquetry, textiles and wickerwork are all relatively cheap and widely available in craft shops and markets. The best places to buy artesanía is where it is produced, such as handmade classical guitars in Granada. Local fiestas usually have one or more handicrafts markets attached to them; these can be excellent places to shop, as artisans from all around the region bring their wares to sell in town.
Huelva province is a good place to buy traditionally crafted furniture, particularly in Valverde del Camino, Galaroza and Zalamea. Brightly hand-painted Sevillian chairs with a rush-woven seat, made in Galaroza, are sold throughout the Sierra de Aracena. Another good place to buy woodwork is Grazalema, Málaga. In Granada, you can get marquetry boxes, trays and chess sets. Lucena in Córdoba province is renowned for furniture, but modern showrooms have replaced many traditional workshops. Córdoba is by far the most important centre for finely made gold and silver ware, producing two-thirds of Spain’s jewellery.Leather goods are available throughout Andalucía, but one of the best-known places for traditional leatherwork is Ubrique in Cádiz. Workshops making saddles can be found in Ronda, but the province of Huelva has the most, also producing bridles and riding boots. Good-quality leather footwear are made in Valverde del Camino, while Aroche, Huelva and Zalamea produce excellent saddles. Handmade shoes are produced in Antequera, Málaga province; Montoro, Córdoba; and the provinces of Almería and Huelva.
Food, wine, spirits and tobacco
Ham keeps well and is much cheaper than anything you can get of similar quality elsewhere. Many ham shops will arrange international deliveries; for smaller quantities, many vendors will vacuum pack slices for you. Chorizo is a portable alternative. The addictive aceitunas con anchoa (anchovy stuffed olives) are a packable choice, as is the range of quality canned and marinated seafood. Markets are the best place to buy hams and cheese; ask if you can try them first.
Spanish wine is another good purchase. Buy wine that you can’t get in your home country, as the price differential isn’t so huge as to make it worth lugging back cases of stuff. Vinotecas (wine shops) are common in wine-producing areas, but elsewhere you’ll find the best selection in department stores such as the Corte Inglés. Spirits are significantly cheaper than in most of Europe; a bottle of gin distilled in London, for example, can cost in Andalucía as little as 30% of the price you could buy it for next door to the distillery.
Smokers will be in heaven in Spain. Puros (cigars) can be as little as a tenth of UK prices, and there’s a large range in many estancos (tobacconists). Cigarettes, meanwhile, are seriously cheap too; about €2.65 a packet for most international brands. Drinks and smokes are even cheaper in Gibraltar, but bear in mind that they are duty free; you can only cross back into Spain with a small amount.Bargaining is not usual except at markets although it’s worth asking for a descuento (discount) if you’re buying in bulk, particularly if you offer to pay cash. Non-EU residents can reclaim VAT (IVA) on purchases over €90 .
Types of accommodation
The standard of accommodation in Andalucía is very high; even the most modest of pensiones is usually very clean and respectable. Alojamientos (places to stay), are divided into two main categories; the distinctions between them are in an arcane series of regulations devised by the government. Hoteles (marked H or HR) are graded from one to five stars and occupy their own building, which distinguishes them from many hostales (Hs or HsR), which go from one to two stars. The hostal category includes pensiones, the standard budget option, typically family-run and occupying a floor of an apartment building. The standard for the price paid is normally excellent, and they’re nearly all spotless. Spanish traditions of hospitality are alive and well; even the simplest of pensiones will generally provide a towel and soap, and check-out time is almost uniformly a very civilized midday.
A great number of Spanish hotels are well equipped but characterless chain business places (big players include NH, http://www.nh-hoteles.es; Husa, http://www.husa.es; AC, www.ac- hotels.com; Tryp/SolMelia, http://www.solmelia.com and Hesperia, http://www.hoteles-hesperia.es), and are often situated outside the old town. This guide has expressly minimized these in the listings, preferring to concentrate on more atmospheric options. If you’re booking accommodation not listed in this guide, always be sure to check the location if that’s important to you – it’s easy to find yourself a 15-minute cab ride from the town you think you’re going to be in.
An excellent option if you’ve got your own transport are the networks of rural houses, called casas rurales. Although these are under a different classification system, the standard is often as high as any country hotel. The best of them are traditional farmhouses or characterful village cottages. Some are available only to rent out whole (often for a minimum of three days), while others offer rooms on a nightly basis. Rates tend to be excellent compared to hotels. While many are listed in the text, there are huge numbers of them. Local tourist offices will have details of nearby casas rurales; there’s also a complete listing for Andalucía available, although it’s often out of stock. You can buy the useful Guía de Alojamiento Rural, published by El País/Aguilar, from most bookshops. Another excellent resource for finding and booking rural accommodation is the website http://www.toprural.com, though the star ratings given by users tend to be overinflated.
There’s a network of albergues (youth hostels), which are listed at http://www.inturjoven.com. These are all open year round and are very comfortable, though institutional and not especially cheap. Accommodation is nearly always in beds rather than bunks, and often in shared twin rooms with en suite bathroom. Rates are much more reasonable for those aged under 26. There are also independent albergues around, particularly in mountain areas; these are usually cheap.
Refugios are mountain bunkhouses, which range from unstaffed sheds to cheerful hostels with a bar and restaurant.
Most campsites are set up as well-equipped holiday villages for families; some are open only in summer. While the facilities are good, they get extremely busy in peak season; the social scene is lively, but sleep can be tough. Many have cabins or bungalows available, ranging from simple huts to houses with fully equipped kitchens and bathrooms. In other areas, camping, unless specifically prohibited, is a matter of common sense.
All registered accommodations charge a 7% value added tax; this is often included in the price at cheaper places and may be waived if you pay cash (tut tut). If you have any problems, a last resort is to ask for the libro de reclamaciones (complaints book), an official document that, like stepping on cracks in the pavement, means uncertain but definitely horrible consequences for the hotel if anything is written in it. If resorting to this, be aware that you must also report it to the local police station for the complaint to be registered.
Price codes refer to a standard double or twin room, inclusive of the 7% VAT. The rates are generally for high season (June-August on the coast, March-May in cities such as Sevilla or Granada). Occasionally, an area or town will have a short period when prices are hugely exaggerated; this is usually due to a festival such as Sevilla’s Semana Santa. Low-season accommodation can be significantly cheaper; up to half in some coastal areas.
Many mid- to top-range city hotels cater for business travellers during the week and keep prices accordingly high. The flipside is that they usually have special weekend rates that can be exceptionally good value. Typically, these involve staying on the Friday and Saturday night and prebooking. Breakfast will often be thrown in gratis and the whole deal can save you more than 50% on the quoted prices. It’s always worth investigating these and other offers by phoning ahead or checking the website.
Two useful websites for saving on hotel rates include http://www.laterooms.com, and the Bancotel scheme, http://www.bancotel.com, which offers online reservations and books of vouchers valid for double rooms in a wide number of Spanish hotels.Normally only the more expensive hotels have parking, and they always charge for it, normally around €10-18 per day. Breakfast is often included in the price at small intimate hotels, but rarely at the grander places, who tend to charge a fortune for what is nothing more than bog-standard morning fare. Similarly, chain hotels tend to charge exorbitant rates for things like Wi-Fi, which are often free at humbler places.