Do not make the mistake of overlooking magical Malaga. Get off the plane and stay a night or two. The ancient city of Malaga is underrated not just by travellers passing through but also by we residents for whom it is a bureaucratic centre and an airport. But it is so much more – a vibrant modern city full of life and zing, cultural activities and endless restaurants and tapas bars. This blog will describe a recent quick trip John and I made to magical Malaga in the hope that you might follow in our footsteps before heading up to explore the quiet mountains and Andalucia´s glorious rural interior.
There are naturally hundreds of hotels to choose from and we were attracted to Madeinterranea Suites – to begin with because of the strange name! We stayed three nights and were very happy. It is not a hostal and not a hotel but something in between. Clean, comfortable, warm and right in the middle of the action of the historic city. Also very reasonably priced. A major plus for us was that they did not insist upon changing the linen every day. It was romantically located in one of the narrowest alleyways in the old city and it was a bit of an adventure in itself finding it!
We had several wonderful meals at different places in the city but the one that stood out was at vegetarian El Calafate which was next to the hotel. The food was wonderful, the service fantastic, the place cosy (bearing in mind this trip was around the end of the year) Not into vegetarian food? Every ethnicity is represented in this multicultural city that has been welcoming strangers for millenia – it was a Phoenician foundation, then Roman, probably Visigoth, definitely Arab all culminating in its modern 21st century reflecting all the elements of the past and embracing modern times to the full.
Any guidebook or website will describe the main tourist sites of museums, castles and galleries. But we homed in some intriguing curiousities that we found fascinating.
One of the three highpoints of our trip was the Museo de Malaga. I was on a quest to find the Venus de la Pileta. I´m gathering information for my next blog which will explain all but briefly La Pileta is a paleolithic cave complex close to us. Shortly after it was discovered a Venus figurine was found in it and was lodged in Malaga museum. The museum combines the fine art and archaeological museums in one beautiful building that was the customs house built in the late 18th century to deal with the massive increase in trade. It is a magnificent building and houses a fantastic archaeological collection, witness to the many cultures that have settled in Malaga over the ages. As we left the museum we came upon a team of gardeners stripping the decorative orange trees of their fruit. Heaps and heaps of bitter marmalade oranges lying on the ground. I asked what was going to happen to them and they said they would be thrown away. Why remove them? So the sweet orange blossom will come for Semana Santa. You should make mermelada, said I. That’s only for the Brits
The English Cemetary is a curiosity of this rich magical city. Before it existed, Protestant bodies were a problem to the Catholic community and they were usually “buried at night, on the beach and in an upright position, and left at the mercy of the waves and of prowling dogs”. The British Consul decided in 1824 to do something about this and he ultimately created a most beautiful place, a sanctuary, resting place for many a famous bone. Such as the hispanist writer Gerald Brenan, author of South from Granada and The Spanish Labyrinth. The story goes that poor Gerald, having lived in Spain for many years, was shipped off to an uncertain fate in the UK when he became ill. The mayor of his village in the Alpujarras went to rescue him from less than wonderful care and looked after him till he died. The story also tells that his body was donated to the University of Malaga who for a whole year couldn´t bring themselves to cut into the beloved writer.
We came across this statue in one of many beautiful green spaces of the city and for some reason it caught my attention. I had to look up the word biznaguero as I didn’t have a clue what it meant. He is the man who sells the biznagas in the summertime in Malaga. They are known as the flor de Malaga and are painstakingly make from a dried thistle head with early morning unopened jasmine flowers poked into each opening. The scent is marvellous. Watch this lovely video showing a biznaguero assembling a biznaga!
JUST ONE WORD OF WARNING!
We aren’t alone in loving Malaga! It has become in recent years a place for cruise ships to visit and disgorge their thousands of passengers. Check this site to avoid the bad days when the city is swamped