More than a Stereotype: The Andalusia Experience

While it’s true that Andalusia plays a key role in promoting the Spanish identity abroad, most foreign tourists may think that it is all about dancing flamenco, playing the guitar, eating olives, lazy siestas, lingering images of fiery women, seductive hairy men, bullfighting and clapping hands while shouting, ‘¡Olé!’. Hell no. Andalusia may be the greatest stereotype Spain has ever produced and exported to the world but the former neighborhood of caliphates is far deeper than the surface. Just a friendly advice though: Don’t dare ask a Basque or a Catalan to do a private flamenco show for you because not even all Andalusians themselves fully comprehend it. :)

baños arabes

baños arabes in Ronda

But setting these clichés aside, Andalusia is enchanting in many ways and I’ve proven my undying passion for this Southern Spanish region throughout my backpacking journeys. For a vast land occupying the South, I’ve found everything that I needed to spend a perfect holiday or maybe more: mountains, beach, sun, friendly people, fragrance of a grand Moorish history, tapas, white villages, desert, olives, Moorish architecture, Oriental flair… What else do I miss? Probably there’s still so much more to include on my list. Andalusia has exceeded my expectations for the second time. By summing up all the things that I love and appreciate in the captivating South, let me share them with you as we go out and about once more through Andalusia.

Ronda

Muralla Árabe and white-washed village of Ronda

Culinary Sins

salmorejoFood, drinks and more food. I’m no culinary expert but I definitely have a sumptuous taste bud for food especially when starving. To top my list, here’s an appetizer that has always kept my hunger untamed: Salmorejo or porra, according to the people of Córdoba, is like a much more beautiful sister of gazpacho. Got what I mean? It tastes even richer and creamier. Pour in olive oil and add eggs and ham on top of it to savor its sinful delight. If you want to commit another mortal culinary sin, then do it until the last bit on the plate is gone: Plato Alpujarreño.

alpujarreñoTypically a delicacy of Granada (from the mountainous region of the Alpujarras), this plate consisting of meat, sausages, potatoes, egg and pepperoni is highly recommended to eat in winter to keep the body warm amidst the harsh temperature of the mountains. It definitely isn’t an easy meal. Since I had it summer, I ended up sweating like a pig. Speaking of sweat, why not quench the thirst after a heavy meal with tinto de verano? It sounds contradicting to eat a winter meal then drink a summer refreshment, doesn’t it? Either way, tinto de verano, a fruity wine-based beverage, is the thing to order in hot days. Because according to my Malagueña friend, nobody orders sangría anyway. Going back to Granada, here’s a real treat for the sweet tooth (and the tooth fairy), pianonos. Though its origins can be traced back to Santa Fe, Granada, Spain’s former colonies like Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and the Philippines also have this specialty. A pastry of thick syrup and toasted cream on top, hmmmm… that sounds like a diet sin to me. Andalusia’s kitchen is so diverse that their food is not only regional. Other culinary delights that filled my tummy were pulpo a la gallega (Galicia), Chocolate con churros, gambas al pilpil, and even  horchata de chufa (Valencia). Last but not the least, the most exotic of all mentioned, is Filipinos. No, I don’t eat people, it’s a cookie brand that is famous in Spain and Portugal. Since I couldn’t get it anywhere, not even in the Philippines, I included it on my list.

filipinos

Filipinos (cookie)

Filipino (person)

Filipino (person)

Weather

It is one obvious reason I love about Andalusia. Having grown up in a tropical country, the summer heat and mild winters wouldn’t disturb me at all. The sun is also a big factor that has influenced my profound liking for Andalusia. It is because of the weather that most people gather outside that makes the streets much more alive even at night. Too cold to stay inside the house in winter, and too warm in summer. The solution: stay outside.

mijasPeople

What’s with Andalusian people? I bet some of you think that they’re supposed to be funny. I hate to disappoint you but they don’t run around telling jokes to everyone, though that’s another stereotype that’s making me chuckle. Cute, isn’t it? I’ve met not only people from Couchsurfing but also the locals on the streets who were willing to help and share their time chatting with me, as well as the families who let a stranger into their homes and treated me as equally as their own. Not only did the weather give me such an overwhelming warm welcome, but also the locals who shared with me their time and a part of their culture and identity. Overall, I must admit that they’re funny but they’re not constant entertainers.

Some of the people I met along the way. There's more of them :)

Some of the people I met along the way. There’s more of them :)

Accent

Oooh, yes. Talk to me in my sleep, I want to hear that sound lingering even in my dreams. Before I began to discover Andalusia, I had always thought that the Madrileño accent was prevalent throughout the country. While the Castilian accent has a wide influence over the Iberian peninsula, the Andalusian variation has deviated, if not slightly, then extremely, from the rest of Spain. Eating their s’s and emphasizing their h’s are what I found attractive. Having said it, does it mean I’m literally a language freak? I admit to have had slight problems in understanding the people at first, believing that they swallow their words a lot. But before I knew it, most Spanish people who I’ve become friends with are from Andalusia– even the ones I met in Madrid and Catalonia are Southerners. Reprezent!

Enchanting Cities

Granada

San Geronimo

Monasterio de San Geronimo, Granada

sacromonte

sacromonte

Granada instantly topped my list of favorite cities the first moment I saw it. It is for the reason that the city possesses such a medieval character and at the same time, the vibrance of modernity and young crowd. This eastern Andalusian enchantress is not only all about La Alhambra, but the whole city is also filled with thriving nightlife due to its student population. Not only that, tapas are always a free treat in bars. Follow the tapas route on every street of the city to get your culinary delight.

La Alhambrala AlhambraWhile savoring the taste of Granada’s culture, plunge into its 15th century history that changed (or for some, ruined) the course of the world forever and get up, cold, and personal with the Spanish Monarchs at the Capilla Real and contemplate the grandeur of the Granada Cathedral. With culture and history combined, Granada also showcases a rich collection of museums and galleries, namely, Museo de Bellas Artes, Casa Museo de Lorca and Parque de las Ciencias. Don’t be afraid to get lost through the winding streets of Albaícin and the caves of Sacromonte for pleasant surprises of the Arab past are lurking in every corner.

Patio de ComaresalhambraSevilla

Sevilla es una maravilla. The sound of its name is already seduction to my ears. Seville, being the Andalusian capital, is the fourth largest city in all of Spain, after Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. Despite its size, this provincial capital doesn’t give a stressful city life but rather a barrio-like experience.

La GiraldaThe city won’t be complete without exploring the neighborhoods of Triana, Sta. Cruz and La Macarena that give a very intimate environment within the comforts of small streets, tapa bars, as well as being surrounded by the local people. Triana is said to be the place where flamenco was born. Apart from that, the barrio is (was) also the main producer of azulejos (or blue tiles) and iron works. Some houses are open for people to enjoy the sight of their patios, colorfully designed with ceramics, tiles and plants. The barrio Sta. Cruz, meanwhile, is where the heart of mainstream tourism beats. What I loved the most in the old town is the blind alleys (callejones sin salida) and the hidden little squares in the Jewish Quarter. On its centerpiece, the cathedral along with the towering La Giralda is definitely not to miss. Add the Torre del Oro by the Río Guadalquivir to experience its Moorish grandeur and the Plaza de España to live out the colorful 1929 Seville Exposition. To be profoundly immersed in its environment, there’s no need to leave the city for La Macarena already offers a less touristy, more local ambience.

catedral de sevilla plaza de españacatedral Córdoba

mezquita

Inside La Mezquita of Córdoba

What a splendid old town of Córdoba! The main reason I came here for was basically to see the Mezquita. But of course, there was more to that. Although considered as one of the grandest cities of Medieval Europe, the historic center nowadays is smaller that those of Sevilla and Granada. But the good thing is, the sights are all in a compact neighborhood.

patio cordobés

patio cordobés

I happened to encounter Muslim tourists with their veils on and so I got keen on asking them how they felt to be in a former Moorish city, where strong influences still live on. I was pleasantly surprised at the sound of a chanting imam along with the ringing of the church bells. I didn’t know where the singing came from but truly, Córdoba is the cultural crossroads of Catholics and Muslims.

pilasters

2016 marks Córdoba's year as European Capital of Culture

2016 marks Córdoba’s year as European Capital of Culture

Málaga, Ronda and Costa del Sol

These cities are probably the most privileged of all the region. Pure sun pleasure, beaches, whitewashed villages, gorgeous views from the canyons, romantic atmosphere and tropical feel, I could content myself by simply saying, I learned to love this region more than ever. I wish to come back this winter!

ronda

Ronda canyon

IMG_3622

roman theater and moorish fortress

IMG_3603 IMG_3617 IMG_3874I’ve had a fair share of my favorites in Andalusia. Being more than a land of stereotypes, this region is all about how to enjoy life in spite of everything. The festive South, though attractive and paradisiacal as it really is, is still far from a utopic world. However, I’d like to live out my sueño andaluz to immerse myself into their culture and daily life. It is not a perfect place after all; but its imperfections are what makes Andalusia the ideally perfect place to be. With that said, I think I’ve found another home away from home.

What are your thoughts about Andalusia? Do you have any favorite Spanish regions to share? Then tell me why:)

 

 

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