Sunday, June 30, 2013

We Visited Rock of Gibraltar and Seville – 25 Apr 2013

The thin population of Spain is very evident throughout the country, but it becomes even more evident as one drives along the coast. The roads from Malaga to La Linea look deserted except for a few trucks and cars. It is really strange, especially to an Indian to see highways devoid of traffic, people and animals.  Spain has one of the lowest populations for a western European country of its geographical size. Iy also has one of the slowest population growth rates in Europe. Latest population growth figures for Spain shows that for every woman in Spain 1.24 children are being born. This is approximately half the population growth rate of other western European countries.

The vast majority of the population of Spain is indigenous Spanish people. Only recently has immigration risen in Spain helping to boost population figures in Spain Today nearly 3 million of the total population of Spain is recent immigrants to Spain coming mainly from Africa and the former Spanish colonies. There is one significant segment of the population of Spain who, while being ethnically distinct from the rest of the population, has long established roots in Spain. The Gypsies of Spain make up approximately 1% of the population of Spain and live mainly in Andalusia. This segment of the population of Spain is originally from India and migrated to Spain in the 15th century. The Gypsies of Spain are known to the outside world primarily for the Flamenco muisic which is so popular both in Spain and abroad.

As we approach La Linea the Rock of Gibraltar gradually becomes visible and the geographical significance of the location starts to sink in. A great view of two continents, two countries, two oceans and one British colony captures your total attention. Spain, Morocco, Mediterranean, Atlantic, Gibraltar, Africa and Europe are the part of the jig saw.

I had seen the Rock of Gibraltar while entering the Mediterranean on a Missile Corvette INS Hosdurg in March 1978. I was quite excited to return to see the spectacle from a different angle this time around.

The name Gibraltar is the Spanish derivation of the Arabic name Jabal Tāriq, meaning "mountain of Tariq. In 1704 Spain lost Gibraltar to Britain. Gibraltar's territory covers 6.843 square kilometers and shares a 1.2-kilometre land border with La Linea Spain.

Franco entered into an understanding with Germany to recover Gibraltar, if the latter won WWII.

La Linea - The town derives its name firstly from the Línea or boundary line separating Spain from Gibraltar and secondly from the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Its people are called in Spanish Linenses. La Línea is a major supplier of fruit and vegetables to Gibraltar; other industries include the manufacture of cork, liquor, and fish paste. It also had an important military garrison with substantial fortifications and a port.

Figure 1 – The first impression

Figure 2 – The extent of Rock of Gibraltar

Figure 3 – My Rock

Figure 4 – View from La Linea

Figure 5 – An interesting statue

Figure 6 – Modern art at the city museum


Thereafter we drove to Seville which is situated on the plains of the River Guadalquivir. Seville is approximately 2,200 years old. The passage of the various civilizations instrumental in its growth has left the city with a distinct personality, and a large and well-preserved historical centre. Although it has a strong medieval  renaissance and baroque heritage, the city was greatly influenced by Arabic culture. Following the 1492 Christopher Columbous expedition to The new world - a 'golden age of development' commenced in Seville, due to its being the only port awarded the royal monopoly for trade with the growing Spanish colonies in the Americas and the influx of riches from them.

Seville hosted the 1992 World Expo. The city celebrates a number of festivals – two important ones being – ‘The Holy Week’ and the “April Fair’ a Flamenco festival. The festivals attract a very large crowd who come to enjoy the dancing and drinking.

We checked into ‘Gran Hotel Lar Seville’ which is centrally located and close to the city centre. The city itself is extremely pretty, dotted with a number of parks, statues, roundabouts and very imposing monuments. The city brings out the best of the old and the new age architecture. Once again the effort to retain the past comes out loud and clear.
In the earlier days the traffic lights at the pedestrian crossing in Seville had a stationary man on it – indicating walk or not. When a woman took over as the mayor she changed them to walking little men and women.

Figure 7 – A very interesting monument

Figure 8 – Many old buildings dot the city

Figure 9 – City full of parks and flowers

Figure 10 – A very pretty sight

Figure 11 – Some more monuments

Figure 12 – A fascinating roundabout

The evening was well spent attending a Flamenco dancing in a theatre ‘El Patio Sevillano’. Flamenco is a form of Spanish folk music and dance from the region of Andalusia in southern Spain. It includes cante, toque, baile and palmas. First mentioned in literature in 1774, the genre grew out of Andalusian and Romani music and dance styles.

Figure 13 – The Flamenco theatre ‘El Patio Sevillano’

Figure 14 – Artists performing

Figure 15 – A scene from the performance

Figure 16 – Each artist does a bit

Seville 26th April 2013

The next morning we visited ‘Plaza de España’. In 1929, Seville hosted the Ibero-American Exposition World's Fair, located in the celebrated Maria Luisa park. The Plaza de España, designed by Anibal Gonzalez, was a principal building built on the Maria Luisa Park's edge to showcase Spain's industry and technology exhibits. Today the Plaza de España mainly consists of Government buildings.

The tour was conducted by an extremely witty guide – Auroa, who kept us in splits of laughter.

Figure 17The Plaza de España

Figure 18The Plaza de España

Figure 19The Plaza de España

Figure 20 – Aurora enthralling the crowd

Figure 21The Plaza de España

Figure 22 – Jai admiring the beauty of the place

Figure 23 – Inlay work. Depicting a lady who led the battle with her breast uncovered – the enemy soldiers were so busy getting distracted, she won the battle.

Figure 24 – The gang on the bridge

Figure 25 – Corridors of power

Figure 26 - Palace of Saint Telmo - Historical heritage monument, Sevilla, Spain.

Figure 27 – Full of parks and fountains

Figure 28 - The cathedral and General Archive of Indies

Figure 29 - The cathedral and General Archive of Indies

Figure 30 – Kats and Navin enjoying the city tour

Figure 31 – The gang in an exhilarated mood

Figure 32 – City centre near Plaza de Triunfo

Figure 33 – Rest and lunch

Figure 34 – A fascinating balancing act

Figure 35 – Seville cathedral

Figure 36 – Infant Jesus

Figure 37 – View from top

Figure 38 – View of the city

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

We Visited Alhambra Palace and Costa Del Sol – 24 Apr 2013


The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada. It was originally constructed as a fortress in 889 and later converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, sultan of Granada. The Alhambra is a UNESCO World  Heritage Site, and the inspiration for many songs and stories.Moorish poets described it as "a pearl set in emeralds," in allusion to the colour of its buildings and the woods around them. The decorations within the palaces typified the remains of Moorish dominion within Spain.

Alhambra means “The Red” in Arabic , and its complete name was "al Qal'at al-hamra" (Red fort). The origins of its name are unknown. Some Historians say it was named that because of the colour of the stones, others say the name is due to the fact that it was built at night, and the red colour gave it the appearance of fire emanating from torches. It could also be due to the person who ordered its construction, the founder of the Nasrid dynasty, Mohammed ben Nasar, named Al-Hamar el rojo - because he had a red beard.
Nasar built a super exclusive complex to contain a palace inside a fortress with walls to resemble paradise .The palace has a number of gardens, trees and fountains – a right place for kings and queens.

The palace has fascinating carvings, beautiful tile work, and plaster in lays etc. The stucco is made up of marble powder and plaster of Paris and white of eggs. The ceiling is either stucco or wood. Blue is used to represent the sky, green for trees, yellow the sun and red for the king. The only place where white is used is in the center of the dome to signify Allah as the white light. It represents the peak of Islamic art in Spain and one of the most symbolic monuments of this type of art in the whole world
It is reported that, once the king saw the queen speaking to a male member of the royal household. Out of jealousy and unable to recognize who it was, he ordered the beheading of 12 males of the family. Story goes to say that the blood stains are still visible in the king’s chambers.
The gardens have been maintained for 600 years. The fountains are very pretty and the water comes from the nearby mountains through an aqua duct.The entire place is cool. The entire area is known as ‘Generlife’.

Figure 1 – The entrance to the palace

Figure 2 – A lovely avenue

Figure 3 – Planning the next move

Figure 4 – All ears and enjoying the light banter by the guide

Figure 5 – Photo op

Figure 6 – A lovely gravity fed fountain

Figure 7 – Walk way

Figure 8 – Oranges all through

Figure 9 – Lovely flowers

Figure 10 – Garden being looked after

Figure 11 – Old Roman period foundation

Figure 12 – The palace wall

Figure 13 – On of the buildings

Figure 14 – One view of the palace

Figure 15 – Inside view

Figure 16 – Inside of the palace living quarters – high ceiling and lo9ts of light. The intricate designs, arches and windows

Figure 17 – A very intricate dome

Figure 18 – Tile work

Figure 19 – A beautiful pond overlooking the palace

Figure 20 – The minars – built to withstand d earthquake

Figure 21 – Jai is engrossed

Figure 22 – A rare photo op

Figure 23 – Once again intricate art work

Figure 24 – A garden inside the courtyard

Figure 25 – A lovely painting on glass

Figure 26 – New addition of a church

Costa Del Sol - Malaga

After a pleasant drive we reached Costa Del Sol. We checked into a very nice hotel overlooking a Mediterranean beach ‘Tryp Guadalmar’. The Costa del Sol "Sunny Coast" or more literally, "Coast of the Sun" is a region in the south of Spain, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, comprising the coastal towns and communities along the coastline of the Province of malaga. The most important business sector in Málaga is tourism – exceptionally beautiful town.

Figure 27 – View from the hotel room

Figure 28 – Road opposite the hotel

Figure 29 – View of the sea

Figure 30 – One of the roads in the town

Figure 31 – A hilly town with winding roads


Later on in the evening we drove down to Mijas. Nestled in the luscious Costa del Sol, Mijas Pueblo is one of the most famous traditional white-washed villages in Spain. Sometimes called ‘The White City’, Mijas is one of the jewels of the south coast, renowned for its boisterous festivals, Easter processions and donkey taxis. The ‘Jet Set’ of Spain have exclusive villas in this place – ‘Marabella’. They are rumored to take flights from here to attend parties in Monaco, Tangiers etc. Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Sophia Loren, Alphonso Maximillian are some of the stars who visit this place often. It was once a very quiet fishing village.Ricardo Soliano bought lot of real estate and built houses in Marbella for the super rich.

It is compulsory to whitewash the hoses and have red tiled roofs. The total picture is very captivating. Normally the houses have black metallic fences.
It is common to rent villas to spend your vacation instead of staying in hotels.David told us that one can rent a two bed room villa for 3000 Euros for a month. Very attractive indeed.

Figure 32 – A village from a fairy tale

Figure 33 – A shopper’s paradise

Figure 34 - Beautifully laid out roads

Figure 35 - The gang

Figure 36 – The sky line

Figure 37 – Satisfied tourists

Figure 38 – The village is lined with eateries

Figure 39 – A wonderful sight

Figure 40 – Entrance into a house

Figure 41 – Jai wondering – which one is the donkey?

Figure 42 – It cannot get any better

Figure 43 – White and brown all around