Most Spanish cities are supplied with both a castle and a cathedral, and Málaga is no exception. While I realize that cathedrals are frequently the most outstanding architectural feature of the region where they stand, I have a hard time enjoying them. For some reason, I don’t have the same problem with castles even though a lot of the same objections (corrupt use of power, downtrodden peons, ostentatious display of ill-gotten wealth) apply to them.
Maybe that is because many castles started off life as a place of refuge for all the citizens in the area when the raiders came calling as well as serving as a residence for the local warlord.
At any rate, Málaga is blessed with a cathedral, which we did not set foot in, and TWO castles, which we spent an entire day visiting. The two castles occupy the main ridge overlooking the city. The upper one is older, and was the older Moorish castle, Castilla de Gibralfaro. For some reason, when the Spanish ran the Moors out of Málaga, they didn’t co-opt the Moorish castle for their own use, nor did they tear it down to build the new royal residence.
Instead, they built another castle, the Alcazaba, lower down on the ridge, and connected the two complexes with a walled in “escape path” called the Coracha. The idea was that if the bad guys over-ran the lower castle, all the people could escape in safety to the upper castle.
This is a rather wonderful model of the castles, which we found in the Interpretive Center in the Gibralfaro.
In the second shot, if you look closely, outside the walls of the castles and the Coracha, you can see the walkway that climbs the hill. On the other side, there are streets, along which the bus tours of Málaga tote the tourists. We chose to climb the path, which gave us lots of great exercise along with fabulous views of Málaga, the Mediterranean, and the port.
We decided to visit Castillo de Gibralfaro first, and then walk down the Alcazaba. This decision was made because numerous guidebooks informed us that one could walk down through the Coracha, and so we felt the logical thing would be to transit from high to low, and from old to new. The guidebooks were misinformed, you could not walk on the Coracha. So we got all the way up to the Castillo, walked down through it and explored all its nooks and crannies, then walked back UP to the top of it where the entrance/exit was, walked down the path to the bottom where the entrance to the Alcazaba was, and then walked UP through it exploring all it’s nooks and crannies.
While rather exhausting, it was fascinating and well worth the very sore quadriceps that we experienced the next day. The only way to prepare for such a tour would be to spend a couple of hours on the Stairmaster every day for a few weeks. We did not do this. But no matter.
The interpretive center was rather dark, and so it was difficult to get good pictures, but one display cooperated. This is a historical document of the school of seafaring that existed in Málaga. What you are seeing here is a teaching tool, a small scale model of a sea-going vessel, which the midshipmen could use to learn to identify all the parts and rigging of the same. The figure on the left is a life sized mannequin wearing a Naval officer’s uniform.
We were entranced by the completeness of the model, including the removable masts and rigging, spars, etc.
Th castle walls were beautiful, and you could walk all around the whole complex on top of them.
That exercise provided us with a lot of amusement. There were many great views, but even more fun was seeing how the birds plant seeds in Spain the same way they do here in America, and then the trees grow in just as convenient locations.
This is one of the views from the walls. What we are looking at includes the Plaza de la Merced, where Pablo Picasso was born.
I was impressed by the beauty of the gardens in both castles. Here in one courtyard there was a weeping fig tree, which I had to shoot a picture of because it indicates so clearly why it is that when you have one as a house plant it tends to want to take over the whole house.
Nearby was one of the guard houses, which provided shelter for the sentries during inclement weather. There were little shelters like this everywhere in the castle.
I find it interesting that the people living in the castle felt that they needed so many guards looking inward…
This is the Plaza de Armes, where drill and practice took place
Nearby is the original gate.
This little entryway was open to the sky above, facilitating the dropping of rocks and pouring of boiling oil onto the enemy if they succeeded in storming the gate. Imagine fighting your way up through the passageway below after you finally made it through the gate and managed to escape the rocks and boiling oil. Observe how the defenders can line the walls and shoot down at you like shooting fish in a barrel.
Not a lot of space for amassing your forces, and it was a steep uphill grade out of there.
This is a view of the castle walls taken through an arrow slit.
Just above the original gate, on the tower, there was a splendid view down the Coracha to the Alcazaba.
After all that upping and downing, we felt in need of some refreshment, and hied ourselves off to the little cafe that was situated outside the interpretive center.
Yes, that little kiosk was the entire kitchen, washing up area and bar for the cafe. We were quite amazed by the menu offered. So amazed that we were compelled to photograph it.
One wouldn’t really expect such a small establishment to offer such a comprehensive and varied selection.
We were not the only customers with expectations.
Having been refreshed by a nice copa de rioja, we descended to the Alcazaba, pictures of which I will save for the next post.