March 11-13, 2022
This weekend, I wanted to get out of Cartagena and visit a nearby city. First, I was going to go to Jaén, then a lack of transportation led me to a back-up plan of some cities along Costa Blanca. After two cancelled Bla Bla cars, I switched my plans to a new city: Almería. Almería is an Andalusian city with about 200,000 people. It was founded in 955 and an important city during Arab rule. The main sites in the city include the Alcazaba Moorish fortress, the Cathedral, air raid shelters, museums, and beaches, among others.
At 2:30 PM, I headed down towards the Cartagena bus station to meet my Bla Bla car for a direct trip to Almería. After about 30 minutes of waiting for the other passenger (the Spanish sense of puncutality is certainly different), we were on our way.
After about two hours of driving, I was dropped off outside the Almería bus station, which was across from the Museo de Arte de Almería Espacio II. Naturally, I decided to pop in here and take a look around. As would be a common theme for most sites in the city, it was free admission. (I’m starting to run out of media space on this blog, so I’ve tried pre-creating collages to upload instead of all the individual photos. Hoping this works and looks okay).
Next, I walked about 30 minutes towards my hotel, Hotel La Perla, and crossed through the Puerta de Purchena. This is a busy town square in the middle of the city that is the starting point of Paseo de Almería, a bustling street of shops, restaurants, and sites. Until the mid 19th-century, one of the main entrance gates to the walled city was located here. Some of the main sites of this square can be seen in the photo below. Casa de las Mariposas (Butterfly House), Statue of Nicolas Salmeron, and the cañillo water spouts.
After I checked into the hotel, I went to a site right down the road, the Aljibes Árabes (Moorish Water Cisterns). These were built during the Moor era and built around the year 1000 to provide water to the city. Although only one cistern remains, there were originally more and could hold up to 630,000 litres. It’s now used as an exhibition and center for the Peña flamenca El Taranto.
Next, I went to one of the one of the famous museums in the city, the Museo de Arqueólogico de Almeria. One of the most interesting parts is the stratigraphic column that goes from the floor to the roof of the building. Their permanent exhibitions mostly focus on hunter-gatherer society, the Los Millares society, and the El Argar society. I found some of the exhibits that explored the idea of life and death and funeral rituals, as well as signs of the introduction of social classes, to be particularly interesting. I challenged myself to understand as much as I could from the Spanish plaques and explanations and will say I got a pretty good understanding of it.
On my way back to the hotel, I spent some time walking up La Rambla de Almería and spotted the Plaza de las Velas where a large ferris wheel is located.
The next morning, I was up bright and early and planned for a busy day. I started with coffee and then was on my way.
My first visit for the day on Saturday was to the Almería Cathedral (Cathedral of the Incarnation of Almería). Construction began in 1524, and it was built as both a place of worship and defense against attacks. It is the only cathedral-fortress in Spain from this era. Admissions was around 3€ for the student rate and included an audioguide.
Next, I went to another archaeological site, the Centro de Interpretación Puerta de Almería. This is broken up into three parts. One part holds the only Roman archaeological remains preserved in the city (a salting factory) and the other side holds gates of the Islamic wall that closed the southern part of the city. The third part covers the excavation of the area, the first of its kind in Almería, and the social debate around the conservation. This was another free site to enter, and the employee was excited to talk to me about the remains and practice his English.
Next, I continued along the coast up through Nicolás Salmerón Park towards my next two sites: the English Cable and the Monument of Tolerance.
El Cable Inglés (the English Cable) was a railway pier used as a loading bay for the mines. It was built in the early 1900s and used until 1973. It is now a cultural heritage site that speaks to important economic and cultural history of Andalucia, and the role of the mining industry during this century.
Next to this pier, there is a monument called Monumento a Víctimas Almerienses de Mauthausen. During the Franco era in Spain, many people were exiled and fled to France at the end of the 1930s. As France was under Nazi control, over 1,500 Andalusians were imprisoned in the Mauthausen concentration camp; a majority of them were killed. Of these, 142 were from Almería. The monument features 142 vertical pillars to remember them. The last survivor of the camp, Antonio Muñoz Zamora, returned to Spain in 1963.
With such lovely weather and the afternoon still free, I decided to head towards the beach. Like in other cities I’ve been to, there is a long strip of beaches that blend into another. I entered “Playa del Zapillo” in my GPS but ended up walking through the main three that are along the coast in central Almería. It was beautiful and reminded me of the oceans back home.
After a few hours of enjoying the water, nature, and sun, I stopped for some tinto de verano and tapas along the beach and walked through a COVID-restrictions protest twice. These are far less common in Spain than in the US, but they still pop up from time to time.
As I mentioned earlier, two of the big sites to see in Almería are the Alcazaba and the air raid shelters. Because the Alcazaba is so huge, I was really interested in finding a guided tour. I had booked one the night before that ended up being a Spanish tour (note: read the fine print) which I don’t feel competent enough for yet. The tour was paired with entry and a guide through the air raid shelters, which were otherwise sold out for independent viewing, so I decided to keep that tour for later in the evening. I had found an English tour for the next morning of the Alcazaba, but I received an email while I was at the beach that it was cancelled due to low interest.
As I continued to walk along the beach, I stopped into the tourism office to ask if they knew about any English tours of the fortress. After a few unsuccessful phone calls, I decided it was a sign that I was meant to trek it myself, and I started heading over to Alcazaba. It was quite the uphill journey to get to the entrance of Alcazaba, and then even more so to enter into it. It was intentionally designed with an unclear entrance and windy steps leading into it. Surprisingly, this was another free site to enter. I did a little bit of research online beforehand so I understood some of what I was seeing. Although, I wish there had been an audioguide or tour to help me appreciate the space a bit more.
The Alcazaba of Almería is a fortified complex that underwent construction at the beginning of the city’s establishment. Much of it was destroyed in the 16th-century earthquake, so what has been rebuilt is from that century onwards. The defensive walls remain from the Muslim military camp. The first enclosure was built by King Charles III and contained a bell to warn of incoming danger. The second enclosure was “the residence for the governors, their soldiers, and their servants. It included also the mosque, baths, tanks, tents, etc.” The third enclosure was built after the Catholic Reconquista with a castle for the Catholic Monarchs and defensive towers. With a 1430m walled permiter, this is the second largest Muslim constuction on the Iberian Peninsula after the Alhambra in Granda (blog post about my visit there can be found here).
First, there were some amazing views that I still can’t get over. This is my favorite picture and was as I was entering the fortress.
It felt like a maze walking through at times, and I was poured over my map trying to understand which enclosure I was in. There were some intriguing artifacts and displays, and the views over the city were remarkable.
Connected to Alcazaba, there is a long wall (the Muralla de Jairán) and the Cerro San Cristóbal. I had to walk up about 20 flights of stairs to get up here, but it was worth it for another set of views of the city and seeing Alcazaba from that perspective.
After, I walked back to my hotel for about an hour to rest before my 6:00 PM tour of the Spanish Civil War Air Raid Shelters. The tour was in Spanish, so I only understood some of it, but it was booked out for the rest of the week for independent tours. This is probably the top destination to see in Almería along with the Alcazaba. It was built in the 1930s with 4 kilometers of underground tunnels to protect the citizens from air raids during the war where over 700 bombs were dropped in 52 air and sea bombings in Almería. It has a capacity 40,000 people. We spent an hour and a half walking through the various tunnels and still only saw a small percentage.
After this, I walked up Paseo de Almería briefly but was very tired so called it an early night. The next morning, I made a stop to one last site: the Casa de Cine. This is currently a museum about the role of cinematography in Almería. It was also a place where many movie stars stayed during their time in the city. There is a special room on John Lennon who stayed here during the filming of How I Won the War.
I began my trek towards the Almería bus station where I would meet my Bla Bla car back to Murcia. I stopped into a souvenir shop to grab a few of my typical items (shot glass, thimble, and postcard) and got an interesting overview of the Indalo symbol. This prehistoric symbol is thought to be “a prehistoric god holding the rainbow in his open arms in an apparent pact of protection with man.” It is now a common symbol of Almería and used as a sign of good luck.
At 1:30 PM, I met my Bla Bla and was on my way to Murcia. While I had originally had a trip directly to Cartagena, they cancelled and I had to change it to a two-part trip. After about two hours, we were in Murcia. I walked to the bus station, had a coffee, and was then on my way back to Cartagena. I arrived at home at 5:55 PM, then had Spanish class at 6:00 PM. Afterwards, I was in bed early and read for the new week to begin.