Walking and culture! What more could make a perfect holiday for an intrepid hill walker wanting scenery and sightseeing. I decided a cultural experience with gentle walking in the great outdoors of Andalusia would be just the thing for a Spring holiday. To most people, Andalusia means the Costa Del Sol in Southern Spain but there is more to Andalusia than beaches.
Andalusia is a centre for Moorish Culture with the great cities of Granada where a visit to the Alhambra with it's Moorish Palaces is a must, time in Cordoba to explore the Mezquita which is an ancient Mosque with a Cathedral built inside, Ubende with it's Renaissance architecture and Seville with it[base ']s grand cathedral. All these cities are full of wonderful sights with richly patterned tiles to see, glorious patios filled with cooling fountains and brightly coloured flowers and a rich tapestry of history from the Moors to present day.
Being Spain, the food is varied and excellent and dining is an important part of the present day culture. We had memorable meals especially in the smaller mountain towns including such dishes as marinated wild boar and tripe stew. In Cordoba it was the Festival of the Patios where private residences open their doors for the public to enjoy visiting their Patios. As part of the festivities, there was an open air Flamenco Show with traditional lively dancing and singing accompanied by guitars.
As part of the trip we visited the mountain towns of Cazorla and Grazalema which are both set in Natural Parks and we were lucky to see two Ibex and several red fallow deer at Cazorla. Also, eagles at close range. In Grazalema, there were herds of mountain goats. The weather decided to be unseasonal and we had snow in Cazorla at the higher reaches of 1,600 metres in the Natural Park which was unexpected in May! .
The drive to Cazorla was through olive groves - Andalusia produces 10% of Spain's olive oil. Red poppies were blooming at the side of the road.. The walk in the Cazorla Natural Park started at the Laguna de Valdeazores framed by higher peaks which were unfortunately swathed in mist. We walked through a tunnel in the mountain which was a channel for a water course and peered out to the valley below through specially cut out 'windows' from the tunnel. The descent from the mountain was through a lovely gorge following the Senda de Elias passing a succession of waterfalls to the valley. Cazorla Natural Park is the second largest in Europe and was set up in 1958 by General Franco primarily for hunting with the introduction of roe deer. .
At Grazalema, we walked in the Natural Park through a forest of Holm Oak. There were interesting limestone rock formations. This area has previously been bandit country but we could not see any evidence of it! The walk took us through a lovely glade filled with pink paeonies and we basked in hot sunshine for our picnic lunch. The walk was from Grazalema to a village some distance away where we found a convenient cafe before taking the bus back. This kind of walking needs to be slow to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and soak up the atmosphere. .
I came home from Spain feeling heady with the mix of the beautiful natural scenery, the sheer enjoyment of the relaxed eating and drinking and the wealth of culture. Try it sometime! .
On Tuesday 16 October 2001 at 7.30pm , I will be doing a slide show and talk at Woodside Halls in Clarendon Street, Glasgow for the Glasgow HF Walking Club. The presentation is on Andalusia and non-members of the club are welcome. .
Coming Attractions Weekend weather in Ratagan, walking in Yosemite and the Canyons of SW states of USA and walking in the Swiss Alps.