Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Malaga, Spain

View of Malaga Heading Up to the Castillo
Malaga is one of the oldest known cities in the world, with records dating back to 770 BC. Naturally, a city with such a long and diverse history will have some very interesting buildings. Add to that Malaga's location along the coast and their love of food and wine-- you have yourself a perfect city to explore and indulge in. Vamanos-- a Malaga!

Edificios y mas (Buildings & more)

There are two things which strike you when walking around Malaga. One is its amazing waterfront. The puerto (port) is newly developed to be more pedestrian friendly and now boasts many stores and restaurants along the eastern side. There are also many places where one can simply sit and enjoy the sun and views. Bring a book and soak it in!

The beach (playa Malagueta) is along the eastern side of the port and stretches as far as the eye can see. Dotted along the beach are ice cream stands and little playgrounds for the ninos (children). Runners are a common theme here, as regardless of temperature the azure water makes a stunning companion. However, what really adds to the backdrop are the mountains. One of the best features about Malaga is you could go from slopes to sea in a matter of hours. Malaga is truly a city of environmental diversity.

Walking into the city you notice the Castillo de Gibralfaro and Alcazaba looming above you. These were built in the Moorish style in the 10-11th centuries. Those willing to huff and puff up to the Castillo will be rewarded with sweeping views of the city and to the other side the mountains beyond. For the more relaxed traveler the Alcazaba is much easier to reach, with an entrance at street level. Alcazaba  literally means "citadel" and is a great place to lose yourself in its beautiful gardens and marveling at the Moorish architecture.

However, the Alcazaba is not the oldest thing around, the Teatro Romano was actually covered up during the construction of the Alcazaba, resulting in it being lost for centuries. It was recently discovered and excavated-- now everyone can wander thru the stands or even stand on the stage of this amazing structure dating back to 2nd Century BC.

La Manquita
Another dominating feature of Malaga is its Cathedral, lovingly called 'La Manquita' by its citizens. Upon closer inspection you realize why it is called so... one of the towers is incomplete! Some say it was because Spain ran out of money as they were fighting a war at the time of building. When talks arose to complete the structure, everyone asked "Why? We like it how it is... it has always
been this way!"

I would be remiss if I did not mention that Malaga is also the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, the world famous artist. You can actually see his birth place near the Plaza de la Merced, and the church (Iglesia de Santiago) where he was basptised. I highly recommend peaking inside the church, it has lovely statues and the woman at the door is wonderful answering questions about the church and Malaga in general.


Spanish tapas and wine... perfect!
Tapas. Vino. These are the common things one visualizes when Spain is mentioned. A trip to Malaga does not disappoint. There are all sorts of amazing dishes to try, and of course being on the coast the seafood is especially delicious. Cod, hake, and shrimp are all easily obtainable. Of course there is also manchego (cheese made from sheep's milk) and chorizo (pork sausages). Most tapas are served with a type of cracker which is local to Malaga, its shape reminding me of spaetzle, just much thicker. The wine in Spain is world renowned, but little known that Malaga itself produces a special wine. Malaga wine is a sweet wine, not like Riojas which Spain is famous for. It is a wonderful  after dinner wine to sip and enjoy while your food digests. My strangest food combination? I had a toastada (toasted bread) with fresh cod and orange at El Pimpi. It seemed a bit strange, but it was love at first bite! Watch out when eating downtown outside, as you will be accosted by people asking for money or wanting you to buy lottery tickets-- simply say 'No gracias' and they will move away. At El Trillo (great place if you want a meal rather than tapas) the owner kept chasing a man playing the accordion away, I never saw a man playing the accordion run so fast!

Another wonderful Spanish classic is the churro. Each area in Spain makes their churros a certain way, with Malaga's looking almost like long tubes. Light, hot, and dipped in warm chocolate-- these little guys are a wonderful breakfast to have before starting out your adventures for the day. Recommend Casa Aranda and having them with Cafe Con Leche (coffee with milk). Saboroso!

So Much More...

Unfortunately my time in Malaga was quite short, and there were so many things I did not have time to do. There was a Museum which talked all about wine, another for Pablo Picasso, as well as one about Flamenco, which of began in the Andulsia region, which Malaga was not in shortage of any. One place that looked especially nice was the Teatro Cervantes, which has performances almost nightly. I suppose there is always next time... 

So if you want to soak up some sun, take in some culture, and explore history up close-- Malaga is a great option. It is also pretty reasonably priced, with tickets to the Castillo and Alcazaba being less that 6 EUR total. The food is also quite reasonable, with tapas as cheap as 2 EUR. And don't be afraid to order house wine,  in Spain it is generally always delicious!

Malaga-- TravelinMoose Approved!