A City Break By Bus

Last week we had three nights staying at a hotel in Málaga to celebrate the latest in a long line of wedding anniversaries (but not a ‘special’ one). As pensioners in possession of “65+” cards we are entitled to half fare on intercity buses, so of course that was how we travelled. Apart from cost, this has the advantage that you don’t have to scour the city centre looking for a parking place. We had a broad plan in mind. In the past couple of years the innermost basin of Málaga Port has been completely revamped as a leisure area - gardens, bars, restaurants and shops on the wharves, leisure craft in the basin, and so we wanted to explore it. Also a couple of years ago, Baroness Carmen Von Thyssen consigned a huge part of her art collection to a new museum in Málaga, which also sounded worth a visit. Then, shortly we before we set the dates, friends told us of two more museums that we really had to see (though I have to admit that I wasn’t convinced), oh and I wanted to visit the Church of the Sacred Heart, home to the city’s Jesuit priests. A full itinerary as you can see, which is why we decided that three nights was the solution. The port area (Muelle Uno and Muelle Dos, if you ever want to find it) was a bit ‘curate’s egg’ - good in parts, though one part, a restaurant by the name of Kaleido was impressive enough to register much more than ‘good’. The Carmen Thyssen Museum was very interesting. The part of her collection which she has loaned long-term to Málaga is devoted to Spanish artists of the 18th and 19th century, and shows a very different style to the rest of Europe. But the two highlights were the museums that I had felt lukewarm about. The Málaga Automobile Museum is housed in the former, historic tobacco factory, a splendid building in itself. Several hundred cars are on display, arranged by era - Belle Epoque, Roaring Twenties, Art Deco, Swiniging Sixities, up to experimental vehicles of the 21st century. In each era the cars are accompanied by mannequins dressed in the styles of that era, and in addition there is a hall of hats and another of original, haute couture fashions of the whole period covered. The cars themselves have been restored to a superb standard, and to top things off, there are exhibits of what I suppose you would want to call ‘automotive art’. The Museum of Glass and Crystal must be nigh on unique. Hidden away in a small square in the historic quarter of Málaga, it is housed in an 18th century. middle class house built on three floors around a large internal patio. The house is the home of the museum’s owner who has sought out and bought every piece on display, not just glassware and crystal, but furniture contemporary with the various exhibits, and an extensive collection of stained glass windows, beautifully mounted in heavy wooden frames, and back-lit; many have been rescued from redundant churches,due for demolition in Britain. The museum would be fascinating just to walk round, but you are greeted by the owner and conducted on a guided visit where the history and appeal of the collection is fully explained. At times this can be a little demanding as he explains everything in English, spoken with a pronounced French accent, delivered at Spanish speed. There are many family portraits decorating the walls, as well as many family pieces of furniture. I got the impression that this gentleman of obvious wealth - one large display cabinet is full of Lalique, for instance - is indeed a gentleman at least, and seems to have links to several important European families. I am delighted not to have missed it.


A Journey Into A complex Past

Carnaval is over. Holy Week and Easter are still some weeks away. This, in the Christian church is the season of Lent ( or La Cuaresma, as it is known in Spanish), the season that commemorates the forty days which by tradition, Jesus spent in the desert following his baptism in the Jordan. But preparations to mark Holy Week continue, and so on Friday evening we went to thepregón, the revealing of the image which will be used on all the printed material - posters, programmes, arm bands, and the like. It was also the occasion for the recently restored masks representing the twelve disciples, and which are worn during the Holy Week processions. I must admit that that was my main reason for attending. These papier-mâché masks date all the way back to the 17th century, and we are fortunate not only that they have survived in such good shape over the past four hundred years, but they survived at all chaos and church sackings that accompanied the early months of the Civil War; they are a rare survival and the village is rightly proud to have and to use them. I have always found them impressive despite the accumulation of grime down the years and the yellowing of the varnish. I was apprehensive as to what restoration would have made of them. It has been a long, painstaking labour of love by a highly-regarded specialist restorer. Apparently, when first shown the maskshe was horrified, not by the external aspects, but by the inner surfaces. “How”, he apparently asked, “could people put their faces inside these masks!” Down the centuries it was not only the varnish which had aged and yellowed; the inner surface of each mask had become ever more heavily ingrained with the sweat and oils of the wearers. They were absolutely filthy, which I suppose says much about the devotion of those chosen to wear them each year. The work is complete and it is a revelation. All the human detritus has been cleaned from inside, the old varnish and dirt of the outer surfaces removed, and miraculously given their construction material, they now look once again as they would have done when first crafted in the seventeenth century. It was well worth taking the trouble to be there for their unveiling. We were also treated to a saeta by a young woman of the village who is noted for her ability to sing cante hondo or deep song. The word ‘deep’ here refers to the depths of faith and feeling that infuse the saeta. In every day parlance a saeta is an arrow, and here it represents a song of deep sorrow and grief, aimed like an arrow at Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a message of empathy in her sufferings. The dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy ( the Spanish equivalent of the Oxford Dictionary) tells us that the word ‘flamenco’ refers to the region of Flanders and indicates a musical form which has migrated from there to Spain. Rubbish. Cante hondo is totally and utterly from the southern shores of the Mediterranean, and the countries of the Maghreb, North Africa. In it you can hear Jewish and Arabic roots with not a hint of European; I detect a touch of politics in the official etymology. The photograph is of this year's "cartel" for Holy Week.


The Sun Shone On Carnaval

Saturday the village was alive to the throbbing of the samba band leading the procession - or pasacalles, as it is called - through the streets of Frigiliana. The official start was scheduled for five o'clock, but such times are always aspirations rather than actual targets, and so it was just before six when the drumming started. I didn't have such a good vantage point as I managed to grab last year, but was still able to take one or two good shots.



"Littlies Day" at Carnaval!

Tomorrow is for adults, but no one gets left out, so today the children from the guardería (nursery) get their parade through the village. Acknowledgements to Kevin Wright for the photo.


A Little Ingenuity

One of the defining characteristics of a village situated on the side of a mountain is that in order to go from A to B or back again, you have to contend with steep gradients. Level stretches of road are few and far between. Even the main street through the old part of the village rises steadily until almost at the town hall, and then descends equally steadily until it emerges from the far end of the village. This, of course, is something that we are used to and which we take in our stride, if you will excuse the expression. However, I have been affected by long-acting hormone injections which I must now have every six months, and which have the effect of reducing muscle mass, so that my ability to play the mountain goat has been adversely affected. For the last six months I have been telling myself that I need to compensate by taking more exercise and walking further. Saying it, but not doing it. In September it was sitll too hot, then in October we had some rain, in November I was in England for three weeks, and in December we had gale force winds for most of the month. This year, I have been discouraged by cold, by wet, and by the fresh bout of gales rolling through this region. And all the time, I slip a bit further back, and a bit further. Something had to be done, but what. Well this weekend I found a solution. Our house stands on top of another one. Logically, you would say that it is a top floor apartment (un piso or un ático), but I am assured that this cannot be because picos and áticos all share a common entrance with other units in the block, whereas we have a separate and private entrance from the street. So even though we sit neatly atop Dolores’s two storey casa, we too live in a house (una casa). From our separate entrance we then have to climb twenty eight steps to reach the door to our living room. Suddenly it dawned upon me that being an internal staircase it is wind, rain, and cold proof. It has a 20 cm riser, giving over 5 metres of climb in total. To require some proper exertion though I need to climb the steps, then head straight back downstairs and climb straight back up again, by which point I am breathing heavily. Five “doubles” spread over the course of a day adds up to an impressive 56 metres of climb every day, not a marathon but it will do for now!