Granada to Torremolinos

On The Road Travel Essays

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Granada to Torremolinos

Santa Fe  Population: 10,000. This town began as a campsite built by Ferdinand and Isabella during their final campaign against the Moorish Kingdom of Granada. It is said that the camp was built in 80 days. Here also the city surrendered to the Catholic Monarchs in November 1491. In April 1492, Queen Isabella finalized arrangements here with Columbus for his voyage of discovery — she was still residing at the camp.

The "Hells of Loga"  (A few miles before Loja, the road and River Genil start to zigzag.) As you can see, we've been following the River Genil, which has carved out wild gorges at this point. Local people call this stretch of the river the "Hells of Loja" where the river breaks into rapids and waterfalls, making navigation impossible.

Loja  Population: 30,000. This town sits at one end of a long river valley, which extends east back to Granada. This geographical position has made it an important stronghold from the beginning. The Moors built a large castle, which was finally taken by Ferdinand and Isabella (1488) after furious fighting. During this battle the Spanish were aided by a unit of English bowmen led by Sir Edward Woodville.

The road winds its way down the mountain, the scenery becoming ever more Mediterranean. Soon we'll be on the Costa del Sol.

Costa del Sol The "Sun Coast" is one of Spain's most glamorous resort areas. winters are mild because the high mountains (as we've seen) cut off harsh winds sweeping down from the north. Subtropical plants grow in river basins along the coast. The development of resort hotels and marinas has brought many jobs to the local population, creating a "boom town" atmosphere. The high-rise hotels and apartments we'll see are a far cry from the poor, rural hamlets we've just been through.

(COURIER: Give a quick general introduction to Malaga (see Appendix to this section), and then to Torremolinos.

Torremolinos  Population: 3,000 and growing rapidly. This is the center of international tourism on the Costa del Sol — its access to historic Malaga adds to the appeal. Only a few years ago, this was a sleepy village; but it had a 5-mile long beach, one of the finest in the Mediterranean. With the coming of package tours, Torremolinos changed overnight: hotel-building skyrocketed; handsome young men and women charged in, looking for mates and/or paying playmates; English-speaking evangelists booked the halls, hoping to reform everyone in sight; retired Globus Reiseleiters hunkered down with rich American widows, sipping Tequilas and enjoying the screenplay unfolding around them. First, the mainstream tourists were British, living in small villas or cabins. Then came high-rises, and this made Torremolinos by far the leading foreign colony in Spain, catering to British, French, and Americans. The boutiques, bookshops, art shops, bars, and restaurants quickly became international, and urban in character. Because of the large French colony, you can find bouillabaisse (famous soup from the French Riviera) and le supermarket if you look hard enough. Many young visitors now give the resort a "Bohemian," or "Greenwich Village" aspect, with much guitar playing, frequent rock festivals, motorcycle racing, flashy sports cars, and odd-smelling cigarettes.

Appendix: Environs of Torremolinos, Malaga  Population: 400,000 (sixth largest city in Spain). The capital of the "Spanish Riviera," and popular especially as a winter resort; its winter climate has more days of sunshine than any other european city (save one in southern Sicily). The temperature rarely goes below 44 degrees F. in winter, or above 80 degrees in summer. Malaga is also famous for its wines, from grapes grown on local hillsides, which are also used for making raisins (exported widely). It is also a busy port.

Historical sketch: Malaga goes all the way back to the Phoenicians, who called it Malaca. Then it became a Carthaginian port, a Roman one, and in Moorish times it was the main port of the Kingdom of Granada. Moorish eyewitness accounts speak of the city as an earthly paradise, with many gardens, palaces, and squares. Doom fell upon it in 1487 when Ferdinand (husband of Isabella) besieged it, confiscating property and burning many Moors at the stake after it surrendered. The city declined, rising again only in the 19th century as a shipping center.

Features of Malaga: Alcazaba. If you like fortresses — and like to climb along their walls — this is the place to see. The name comes from the arabic al-Kasba (citadel). The Phoenicians started it, the Romans enlarged it, and the Moors built over 100 towers. Next to the front entrance are remains of a Roman amphitheater; archaeologists haven't been able to discover anything about it. Inside the fortress, you walk up staircases, past "hanging gardens" full of bougainvillea, jasmine, and honeysuckle, to the towers, which you can climb up into. There are Roman temples and statues, and even an old Roman bathtub made of stone. From the top, there's a sweeping view of the city and the harbor.

Gibralfaro. Connected to the Alcazaba; you walk along the walls to get to it. This is another castle, built on the hill to be a lighthouse. The name comes from Jebel (mountain) and Faro (lighthouse). It had a beacon in ancient times to alert sailors that this was the harbor. 425 feet above the city. The view from the top of this castle is even more spectacular than from the Alcazaba.

Markets of Malaga. You'll find goods of every description, brought in from ports of call all over the Mediterranean. The markets are all over the downtown section, but begin with the narrow streets just north of the Plaza de Queipo de Llano.


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