Win­ter feels like sum­mer in An­da­lu­cia

La Montagne (Creuse) - - Creuse L'actualité -

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. ■

PHO­TO BRI­GITTE AZZOPARD

HI­BIS­CUS. Bird of Pa­ra­dise plants are flo­we­ring.

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