Andalucia : Easter 2012
02.04.2012 - 12.04.2012
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Andalucia has long been familiar territory for us but for this trip it was important to make it different – to make it feel new. So, the plan was to see some snow in Sierra Nevada, get some sun (the easy bit), attend the Semana Santa celebrations in Malaga and also go to a La Liga football match for the first time.
It was a ten day visit and we flew into Malaga airport just a few days before Good Friday. This gave us a few days to do local things before heading into the city on the Friday. So, after lazing around for 24 hours we had a quick wander around Nerja and also Frigiliana before, on the Thursday, taking the drive towards Granada and up to Sierra Nevada.
Early April is very much the end of the season as far as Winter sports are concerned but it was worth a try and there were still a few ‘runs’ open with skiing and boarding enthusiasts making the most of the last of the snow. For our part, after taking a few photographs it was time to find somewhere for churros and chocolate – our only excuse being that it was cold!!
From Sierra Nevada we drove on up to the peak at Veleta but as we neared the top it became obvious that the clouds were going to win on this particular day as visibility became suddenly limited. It broke occasionally but really wasn’t worth getting out of the car on this occasion so we free-wheeled back down the mountain and took the road back to Vinuela via the coast at Salobrena. This makes a nice change from the sometimes difficult and windy country road between Vinuela and Granada via Alhama de Granada. The Granada to Motril (Salobrena) road is fairly new and offers great views over the newly contructed and very impressive dam and reservoir on route. And there are some other lovely landscapes as you skirt the western side of the Sierra Nevada range with the Alpujarras on the other side as you drive.
Good Friday soon arrived and the plan was to get to El Palo in late afternoon before heading into Malaga city for the Easter processions. This gave us enough time to pay a quick visit to Comares in the morning where a walk and a drink at the small bar in the square kills time in the nicest possible way. Comares has undergone some improvements and general tidying up over the last few years and the ceramic footprints lead you in a circular route around the village and past a row of houses where you need to be lucky (or unlucky depending on your point of view) to avoid the elderly ladies who insist on hijacking your stroll and inviting you into their homes where they will show off their home-grown or home-made produce in the hope of a sale of olives, almonds, sherry and similar.
It’s an easy drive to El Palo, just on the eastern edge of Malaga, where we would be staying over on Good Friday after the Semana Santa processions. Just half an hour drive, door-to-door, and we were soon getting organised for taking the bus into the city – parking the car would not be a sensible option!! In the centre of Malaga, temporary seating was being arranged along the prescribed routes with extra-comfort being provided for various dignitaries and officials at various key points of the procession. The weather was a little unpredictable and had been this way since we landed on Monday but the general consensus seemed to be that the weather was never great in Malaga for Semana Santa – but nobody seemed bothered by the threat of the very heavy and fast moving clouds above and the already damp looking streets; evidence presumably of an earlier shower.
Having arrived in Malaga, and not being worthy of a pre-booked seat, we joined the ever-growing throngs of people that were simply wandering the streets, occasionally stopping at cafes or bars in couples, groups of friends or family gatherings. And eventually, the seemingly aimless dawdling paid off as the sounds of trumpet and drum became audible in the distance. But from which direction??
We didn’t have to wait long to catch a glimpse of our first Semana Santa procession as it made its way through an unlikely part of the city on its journey to the cathedral. The procession itself was a very stop-start affair as members of the brotherhood took responsibility for keeping the various role-players the correct distance apart and at the same time moving at a slow but steady pace in time to the rather gloomy music being poured out by the accompanying band.
At first sight the conical, face-covering hoods of the brotherhoods present a fairly sinister image and immediately conjure up thoughts of the KKK as the wearers of the costumes peer spookily through the eyeholes of either the black or white material.
From the very young to the very old, each procession (and we eventually saw five) involved an impressive number of people. Brotherhood members, band members, the numerous carriers of the extremely heavy-looking religious floats, incense carriers, candle bearers etc, etc. And the young among the watching general public had their own way of participating as it soon became apparent that children, rushing forward to greet those in the procession carrying the huge lit candles, were in fact approaching with a small ball of tin foil which they then proceeded to collect the dripping candle wax on, thus slowly accumulating an ever-growing wax ball as their souvenir of Semana Santa 2012.
As the sun and light disappeared for the day we interrupted our procession hunting for a while with firstly a visit to Bar El Pimpi to share a bottle of Malaga Dulce and then a little later we found another bar where we enjoyed beer and tapas. It can be a tough life at times!!
Our final procession of the day (although not THE final procession which started around 10:45 pm and finished around 4 am!!) required us to follow the crowd and get as close as possible to the cathedral which we did and from here we were able to see the entire procession file past and somehow, with what seemed like millimetres to spare either side, squeeze the processional float through the main doors of the cathedral and inside.
With this done, and the photos taken, we made our way back through the crowds and to the nearest taxi which could take us quickly back to El Palo. It had been a really good evening and very different to anything we had seen before.
Twelve hours later and we were back on the bus into the centre of Malaga. Not for anything specific, just a mooch around the shops and the occasional coffee stop before having lunch in the newly opened port area where shops, stalls, bars and restaurants now sit alongside modern walkways and gardens overlooking the sea and the expensive looking private yachts (and on this occasion the new and massive Aviva super-yacht).
From here, we said goodbye to Malaga and returned to our base at Vinuela where Sunday would Easter Sunday be reserved for doing very little ahead of our return to Malaga on Monday for the La Liga match between Malaga CF and Racing Santander.
With kick-off not being until 9 p.m. on Easter Monday we had plenty of time to do stuff during the day. We needed to park in the centre in good time before the match so after spending time locally around Vinuela in the morning we headed back along the Mediterraneo and found the El Agujero Dam and Reservoir to the North of the city after stopping for lunch at a nearby Pantano (El Tunel). The Botanical Gardens were unfortunately closed (Monday) but it was probably a good move to head straight into the city to La Rosaleda and park in readiness for the match.
The area started getting busy around 7 p.m. and we were in a short queue to get into the stadium about fifteen minutes before the gates opened at 8 p.m. The stadium, recently improved and updated with significant money having been spent, is impressive and by kick-off time was full with the Malagunenos hoping to see their side push on with a victory that would bring Champions League football next season a little bit closer to reality.
Within two minutes, Malaga are awarded a penalty and nearly relegated Racing Santander are reduced to ten men. Moments later and the penalty has been saved and the home side have to wait another twenty minutes to break the deadlock and give them a half-time 1-0 lead. The second half saw further pressure on the visitors goal with just the occasional breakaway interrupting the inevitable. The second and third goals preceeded the final whistle and the 3-0 win strengthened Malaga’s position in La Liga, moving them above Valencia into third.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of an overseas football match and, with Malaga being my adopted team in Spain, it was good to at least see them play. Quickly back to the car, we picked our way through the traffic and out of the city and back to Vinuela.
Our flight back to the UK was early on Thursday morning so that left us with two full days to spend locally. Various ‘domestics’ took care of some of the time and before we knew it we were packing for our return to journey.
This had been a good trip and despite our familiarity with the area and several previous visits (mainly in July and August which will in future be avoided!) we achieved the aim of filling our time with doing things that we hadn’t done before. It was also good to see the landscape in Green rather than its usual summer hue of Brown and enjoy comfortable daytime temperatures instead of spending so much time protecting ourselves against the searing heat of Southern Spain in August. Until the next time ................................................