Andalusia the vibrant Spain’s province

The result is 13:2! For a handball match that ends with that result, there is only one term: a disaster for the defeated. 

If, however, we declare that this result ended a virtual, imaginary match between two Mediterranean tourist superpowers, two angry rivals, and in this story, Spain and Croatia. A competition in who has more well-known world brands that, by the way, attract hundreds of thousands of tourists (and millions of euros) a year, some of our great patriots might be offended. Unfortunately, this time they have no right.

To simplify, what Croatia is generally known for in the world are Dubrovnik and Davor Šuker (the latter primarily male population, except for North America, because they have rarely heard of football there). It is that number 2 in the above handball score. We are looking for the third one, Luka Modrić if, he continues to evolve at Real. 

And now it’s the turn of Spanish brands. Thirteen! Take a deep breath and move on to a large number of goals scored: flamenco, bullfighting, Sangria, tortilla, Don Quixote, Don Juan, Figaro, Carmen, Alhambra, Granada, Picasso, Dalí, Lorca. There might be some more, like Domingo, Carreras, Monserrat Caballe, Andres Segovia, Paco de Lucia, Manitas de Plate, Velasquez, Real, Barca, Antonio Banderas, the genius architect Gaudí, the legendary toreador el Cordobes, tapas – delicious and various snacks, Rioja wine, fabulously expensive Pata Negra, prosciutto, or the famous Pueblos Blancos – White Villages.

But this is already an impressive number. And who is to blame for the fact that the world does not know at least some of the beauties and delicacies that we Croats enjoy: Slavonian Kulen, cheese from Pag, prosciutto from Drniš, Istrian olive oil, Dingač wine, Krleža, Meštrović, Tesla, Diocletian’s Palace, Kornati islands, Plitvice Lakes, Kopački Rit Nature Park. Some greats on the Iberian Peninsula have long had a vision, a strategy, a concept.

Brands do not happen by chance but, be careful that our government, which has been dormant for decades, if not centuries, finds out. These God-given rulers might wake up and start doing something. That would finish us off! He says on one occasion, beforementioned Don Quixote to his faithful Sancho: “Remember, he who is worth more must do more!”. And we add to that, “he who is not worth, better let him continue to sleep.” 

But we write about Andalusia, so why all these all-Spanish brands? Well, because a large part of them like flamenco, Picasso, Paco de Lucia, Lorca, Banderas, Segovia, El Cordobes, Figaro, Don Juan, or a number of these beautiful cities, for example, belong to this probably most picturesque Spanish province. It may not be an exaggeration to say the most Spanish. Here, and this primarily refers to Seville, somehow formed a Spanish national identity. In Andalusia, sublimate the passion of the flamenco dancer, the scents of the flourishing lobbies in Seville, the narrow Moorish streets of the White Villages, the ethereal beauty of the Alhambra gardens, or the deep meditativeness of the distinctive Mesquita.

Also, the mosque in Cordoba, which, like many other sacral buildings in this Spanish region, remained as a reminder of the seven-century-old Arab rule, their culture, and art. We landed at the airport in Seville after a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Venice. A small four-wheel-drive diesel, turbo, reserved in advance on the Internet (what a blessing!), was waiting for us. And we chose a small hotel located not far from the airport. And we leave in seven days of Andalusia.

What pleasures await us! Seville is, especially for short visits to this province, as a base or starting point, an ideal location. It lies in the center of an imaginary, somewhat irregular circle on the perimeter of which at a distance of 150 to 200 kilometers is most of a dozen must-visit Andalusian cities: Córdoba, Jerez de la Frontera, Arcos de la Frontera, Cádiz, Málaga, Torremolinos, Marbella, Ronda, and Pueblos Blancos also are nearby. It means that if you avoid the city crowds, you will reach each of these cities from Seville in an hour and a half to two. Jaén, Almería, Granada, and its associated Alhambra are a bit further away, so if you have to opt for just one city due to lack of time, we recommend that of these three listed be Granada. 

We, tourist adventurers, often forget that there are also group trips. Traveling by bus accompanied by a top guide, you will be unmistakably transported to all the most significant destinations while learning a lot of information about them. We, who have dug up some of this information on the Internet, or carry with us Lonely Planet in which in the evening in a hotel bed, we quickly read something about the places we will visit tomorrow. We wanderers, nomads, romantics may not see every museum, a church, or a Roman excavation marked must-visit. But in return on our turbodiesel wanderings, we will experience a handful of unpredictable situations, encounters, and gaze at uncommon views and panoramas. 

Still, we started the tour in the very center of Seville, in the magnificent cathedral, the third-largest in the world with the world’s largest altar in which over two tons of gold are embedded! After the tour, on the way out, we were surrounded by a chirping flock of gypsy prophetesses of destiny. According to them, a rose-colored life awaits us, so we will almost turn into Kitty. Here’s how a man for a couple of euros of a tip can brighten up an already beautiful, clear Seville morning. The problems started when wandering through the flourishing, narrow streets of Seville’s “medina” we smelled delicacies, tortillas, fish, shrimps, tapas. Their serving for lunch has just started on the terraces of small, picturesque restaurants and taverns, where the famous prosciutto was hanging from the ceiling, and wine, Sangria, and mojito were poured out.

We are aware that if we sit down for a few minutes and order some of these delicacies, and a guitar appears along the way, the night might find us there. And there is so much more to be seen. We were lucky with flamenco in Seville. They directed us to a small, newly opened restaurant el Flamenquito not far from the Cathedral of Seville, where you can, for free, or with a glass of wine or light dinner to enjoy the top performance. Fiery Maria danced passionately, just a few feet away from us. We later found out that she is even a flamenco teacher. Chamber flamenco! What a diverse contrast to the usual Flamenco show offered in a dilapidated theater full of Japanese tourists. 

We have to admit that the biggest surprise on our turbodiesel Andalusian trip was the city, which is mostly located a little outside those busiest tourist routes. Cádiz. It is not this beautiful fortress city on the Atlantic coast to blame for such relative neglect. The competition is just too big, and most visitors to this province still do not have enough time to visit all the attractive destinations. What makes Cádiz special? The old town surrounded by fortresses and the ruins of ancient walls lies on a peninsula lapped by ocean waves and winds.

Because of the promenade that stretches around the entire old town and at the same time irresistibly reminds us of the legendary sung Havana Malecón, we gave this city the nickname European Havana. Cádiz, the former Phoenician Gadir, is one of the oldest cities in Europe. At a time when Spain, after Columbus, became a world power alongside England and Portugal, Cádiz, or rather its deep bay, became the home port of the world’s most powerful navy. It hosts one of the world’s most famous carnivals. Also, the greats of Spanish music, Manuel de Falla and Paco de Lucía were born in it. 

If you assumed that instead of the acclaimed tourist destinations of Andalusia, we would describe to you slightly more hidden, though not less beautiful gems, you were right. The town of Ronda is specific because it is divided into two parts by a gap more than a hundred meters deep, the El Tajo canyon, bridged by three bridges filled with crowds of tourists throughout the day. We had to wait in line to photograph the abyss below us from the vantage point, the view from which you get a shiver. 

Bullfights started in Ronda. There is the oldest Plaza de Torros in Spain and the most famous bullfighter at the time was undoubtedly Pedro Romero, who killed or defeated more than 5,600 bulls during his career! The most famous longtime visitors and fans of the split city were Ernest Hemingway, Orson Wells, and the great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, whose room at the Reina Victoria Hotel has remained intact to this day since his last departure. The urn with the ashes of Orson Wells was, at his request, even buried near Ronda, on the country estate of his friend Antonio Ordoñez, one of the greatest Spanish bullfighters of all time. 

The letter c in the word Andalucia is pronounced by pronouncing the letter s holding the tip of the tongue on the upper teeth, being careful not to bite it. So is also pronounced the letter z in the word Cádiz. Spanish Castellano, after Mandarin, is the second most widely spoken language in the world (over 400 million people speak it as a mother tongue) and is the official language in twenty-one countries of the world. Andalusian cuisine is rich in fish, and the province is also known for its olive oil and Jerez wine, a name that the English, admirers, and loyal consumers of this drink, changed to sherry. 

Here, cruising is the only way to reach your destination. Better to say to destinations. And the targets are the White Villages (Pueblos Blancos), dozens of beautiful larger and smaller towns immersed in the endless Andalusian hilly wastelands. You can find them in the province of Cádiz and the hinterland of Málaga. And each of them is specific and particular in some way. To name just a few of the most beautiful – Olvera, Alcalá del Valle, Puerto Serrano, Villaluenga del Rosario, Mijas. Unfortunately, the relentless approach of the moment of a take-off of our Airbus severely limited our stay in the zones of these jewels of Spanish rural architecture. However, if we ever return to Andalusia, and we warmly hope that we will, we will dedicate at least two or three days to the Pueblos, including all our senses to the maximum.

The odometer approached 2,000 kilometers. Our faithful turbodiesel roared a lot. In those short seven days, we also drove through the Sierra Nevada National Park, the second-largest in Europe, inhaled the scents of the Alhambra gardens, then in Granada, drank two or three drinks in one of the bars in Calle de Elvira, and ate tapas for free, visited the Costa del Sol, which, if it weren’t for our Dalmatia, we might even be able to say is beautiful, we ate the fabulously expensive Pata Negra prosciutto, supposedly the best in the world. We weren’t at the bullfight. Abolished. Thank God!

TEXT & PHOTO – Voljen Grbac