Winter feels like summer in Andalucia
The villages here in Andalucia are white, not covered in snow, like in the Creuse, but in white lime-wash paint – los pueblos blancos – are treasures of this area of Spain, examples of Andalucian architecture.
The Moors who ruled AlAndalus (Andalucia) for 800 years from the 8th to the late 15th century, have left their cultural legacy here. These people from North Africa not only invaded the mighty cities of Seville, Córdoba, Granada and Cadiz making them centres of learning, art and architecture – the Alhambra being a wonderful example of their culture. But also in the countryside they left their systems of irrigation, agriculture and the white, hillside villages. Distances between the cities were large so many towns and villages were built along the trade routes. They acted as stop over places and wealthy families built castles, fortresses and citadels in these villages, some of which can still be seen today.
I sampled two of these pueblos blancos recently, a very circuitous road leads you up into the mountains. The village houses are clustered together in their white splendour, with terracotta tiled rooves and beautifully painted tiles decorating the outside of the houses and the steps leading up to them. Pots of plants are everywhere. The streets are steep and narrow, sometimes too narrow for cars; the church and fortress are usually situated at the highest point. An ‘old’ Spanish lady passed me on the way up to the church – she is obviously very used to the gradients here!
Each village very often has its fountain, washing place still intact situated in the village square, leftovers from the Moors who created a complex system of channels and wells not only for irrigation and private use but also for hammans and public baths.
These villages, situated on mountain and hillsides or in gorges often made them frontier villages, explaining the profusion of castles, used during the struggles between the Moors and the Christians. Eight centuries of Spanish history which came to an end in the late 15th century when the Christians conquered the Muslims in the last Muslim territory of Granada, many fleeing over the sea to Morocco, others the ‘moriscos’ converted to Christianism and stayed on in Spain which became a totally Catholic country. However, the Muslim influence remains to be seen and is an integral part of Spanish culture and history.
The vegetation here never ceases to amaze me, orange and lemon trees full of fruit, almond trees flowering; plants that should be inside are happily growing outside. Bird of Paradise plants are flowering as are Datura, Hibiscus and Bougainvillea, the most amazing thing is that there is an avocado tree in the garden from which I have picked an avocado and eaten it – that is a first for me, normally the avocado in the shops are imported from Peru, you don’t find them on your doorstep!
Winter in Andalucia is certainly a good experience, however I can’t imagine the summers here where the temperatures can reach 45° and everywhere is crowded. ■
HIBISCUS. Bird of Paradise plants are flowering.