Christina Chang travels to Southern Spain. Although these days it’s commonly associated with golf, fast food, concrete and spoiled beaches, it is one of the most beautiful and diverse regions in all of Europe.
Christina heads inland to the ancient town of Ronda, situated on a rocky outcrop in the Serranía de Ronda mountains. She learns about the gruesome history of the town, when in 1936 the entire country was split between the Communists and the Fascists. Villagers fought ferociously against each other and in the first month of the war 512 people were murdered in Ronda. She also comes across a travelling exhibition of witch paraphernalia. During the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century, 85 percent of the women accused of witchcraft were condemned and subjected to the most horrible tortures.
Christina rents a car and drives down the coast to Tarifa, the windiest place in Spain. She takes a few windsurfing lessons, then continues her journey to the small village of La Rabida, where Christopher Columbus embarked upon his voyages of discovery. At the local museum there are life-size replicas of Columbus’ fleet.
Next, Christina takes a boat trip up the Guadalquivir river to one of Southern Spain’s most historic cities, Seville. Her voyage takes her through the Donana National Park. The marshy delta is home to hundreds of different species of birds and during the summer months it’s a favourite nesting ground for flamingos. Christina finally arrives in Seville, the capital of Andalucía, in time for Easter week, one of Spain’s oldest and holiest festivals, Easter week. The tradition dates back to the 17th century, and all the members of all the churches in the city process to the cathedral to ask forgiveness for their sins in the past year.
From Seville Christina travels by train to the province of Jaén where she goes horse trekking in the Cazorla National Park. It’s a stunning mountainous region which is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Christina and her guide stop off at a jamón factory where they sample cured serrano ham, then continue their trek to the summit of El Yelmo. Christina plucks up her courage and paraglides off the top of the mountain, takes in the astounding views of the Sierras de Cazorla.
Christina travels to the famous town of Granada, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The city was the seat of power of the Moorish people who occupied Southern Spain for over 700 years from the 8th century. She visits the famous Alhambra, a fine example of Moorish architecture which was originally built as a fortress in the 11th century. Later, she goes to a Flamenco School to learn a little about the traditional dance form in preparation for Cristo de los Gitanos, a Gipsy festival the Sacramonte district of Granada. Fires are lit all around the winding streets, and the gypsy people burn bushes of rosemary gathered from the surrounding hills, filling the air with scented smoke.
The Sierra Nevada mountain range is home to Europe’s most southerly ski resort. Christina rents some gear and heads for the slopes to learn how to snowboard – but, as she discovers, it’s not as easy as it looks.
Christina hitches a lift to Tabernas, in the province of Almería. Just outside town she visits Mini Hollywood, where countless spaghetti westerns were filmed. This area has more than a striking resemblance to the Arizona badlands, and many of the film sets have remained here ever since.
From Tabernas, Christina travels to Cabo de Gata National Park, a dramatic desert-like landscape of arid valleys and mountains with the Mediterranean lapping at its edges. She takes a boat to San Pedro beach, one of the few unspoiled stretches of coastline remaining in Southern Spain.
Christina ends her journey in Alcoy, in the region of Valencia. She’s lucky enough to witness a festival commemorating a famous battle between the Christian ruler and the Moorish captain Al Athrak which took place in the city in 1276. As the story goes, the Christians were on the point of losing the city to the Moors, when St. George appeared on a white charger and turned their luck around. It’s a fascinating three day event, and a perfect end to Christina’s active and cultural journey in Southern Spain.
Places Mentioned - Southern Spain, SpainShare the series
Seville and Granada
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