Un Chien Andalou
“But now the stars, concealing landscapes,
reveal the perfect schema of their courses. ”
Federico García Lorca
The night sky in the autonomous community of Andalusia is among the most vivid in Europe; with the milky way stretching languidly, high above and between the brighter constellations. Thanks to its relative isolation and subsequent lack of light pollution it is common to see shooting stars arc across this mountainous region; thrilling to watch the Hunter and the Archer battle for supremacy within the all consuming darkness.
In his Ode to Salvador Dali, the co-creator of Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog), Lorca gives us the briefest glimpse into the landscapes and fiercely independent cultures that inspired both his poetry, Dali’s painting and the passionate relationship that the two shared. At times, imbued with a surrealism worthy of the modern master; where the sliver, white, red and yellow soils daub the mountains of Almeria: and at others, a sense of the solitude and isolation found within the Tabernas Desert and Lorca’s body of work are almost palpable.
Andalusia Home of the Ancients
Spanning the southern coast of Spain from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and sharing a border with Portugal with a southern extreme that reaches across the straights of Gibraltar to North Africa, it is perhaps unsurprising that Andalusia has a rich and vibrant history that gives its major cities a certain modern mythology. Seville, Granada and Cordoba; Malaga, Jerez and Cadiz are all documented within ancient manuscripts and scrolls, spoken within the hushed walls of monasteries and mosques; in Greek, Latin, Arabic and the countless dialects that populate the region.
Ancient harbours that once saw invading Greeks, Phonecians, Romans, Carthaginians and countless other civilisations have now given way to fishing, and then tourism, with each stretch of coast providing something for travellers of any predilection. The brash, high-rise-party-life of Malaga and Marbella give way to the much quieter resorts north of Almeria; a favourite among Spanish tourists and locals. Here, seafood straight off the boat is still found at reasonable prices in many of the seafront restaurants.
Independent and Diverse
“….the whole of the southern lands is too vast and varied to be embraced as a single unit. In reality there are not two, but three Andalusias: the Sierra Morena, the Valley [of the Guadalquivir] and the [Cordillera] Penibética ”
Antonio Domínguez Ortiz
The region is split into eight provinces, each as culturally distinct as the next, however, the essence of Andulausia is dictated as much by its geography as it is by its people. Climb some 1332 meters above sea level to the north and you will reach the peak of the legendary Sierra Morena mountain range; a mass of granite and quartzite that tells tales of banditos and the child raised by wolves. Further south lies the Guadalquivir valley with Spain’s longest river snaking its way through the marshy lowlands to the mediterranean. Futher south still and the Cordillera dominates, with the imposign peak of Mulhaven stretching 3478 metres above the Sierra Nevada.
From the frozen peaks through the burning desert to the breezy coast, the flora and fauna of Andalusia is also surprisingly diverse despite its seemingly barren exterior. For travellers with a penchant for the natural world, and with a soft enough step, Andalusia is home to the Iberian Lynx and Wildcat, the Iberian Wolf alongside countless wild foxes and dogs. Eagles soar high above the peaks and wild boar are in abundance, sharing the peaks and valleys with Ibex, otters, badgers and mongoose that skitter through the cacti, almond and olive trees, citrus plantations and wild thyme.
Fabulous Fiestas and Fantastic Food
During summer, when temperatures across the length and breadth of Andalusia often rise above 40 degrees, the pueblos and provinces explode with colour and light, music, flamenco and food washed down with delicious Andalusian wine. In fact, with more than three thousand fiestas celebrated throughout the year, travellers looking for an authentic slice of Andalusian culture can simply hop from one party to the next. Among the largest fiestas to be held during the summer are the Granada Music Festival, The Moors & Christians Festival, the Cherry Festival and the Jerez Horse Festival although perhaps the most important fiestas for locals are the Grape Harvest and the Bull Fighting Season.
Outside of Spain, the barbarous art of bullfighting has fallen out of favour in recent times, however, a resurgence in the popularity of the beef that remains means at least nothing is left to waste. Formerly, the meat was handed out during fiesta, providing poor villagers with a rare opportunity to eat beef, however, with the advent of intensive farming it was often discarded or cremated. Now, thanks to shifting ecological perspectives and opinion leaning towards traceable meat, this beef has been making its way into gourmet restaurants as an eco-friendly alternative to farmed beef.
Bullfighting, like many “Spanish” customs, actually began in Andalusia and has remained an important and controversial part of life in the community. Much like the wild boar hunt, one reason why the species remains so abundant in the region, has continually provided excellent food for local consumption. The deep red, spicy chorizo is another staple alongside giant paella made to feed entire villages at a time whilst the Jamón de Huelva is protected as a Denominación de Origen, meaning a unique taste and supreme quality is always assured.
Whether you are looking for a beach holiday overflowing with sun-drenched night-owls or the tranquillity of the stars in rural Andalusia, it is a rewarding choice for those who can spend more than a short break. Perhaps if you are short of cash then this company, that provides short term loans, may help you strike out into the rolling hills and gorgeous valleys. Indulge in local custom and taste everything the community has to offer as you travel through its disparate provinces and enjoy the year round sunshine. Finally, don’t forget the wealth of historic sites on offer in and around the many towns and villages as you explore the home of some of the earliest Europeans.