Spain Travel – Granada To Malaga

We left the Alhambra with regret, for it was a green spot in our pilgrimage through Spain. There are two trains for Bobadilla and Malaga, one of which leaves about six, and the other at half-past nine in the morning. The former accomplishes the journey in six hours, the latter in nine hours. The number of miles from Granada to Malaga is about one hundred and twenty. We took the slow train, because, to take the fast train, it would have been necessary for us to rise by four o’clock at our hotel in the Alhambra, in order to reach the railway station in Granada by six, so slowly do people and things move in old Spain.

As it was, the donkey waked us with his melodious bray at four, but we slept again till seven; and by half-past eight we had satisfied the landlord of “Los Siete Suelos,” the beggars at the door, and the gypsy girls who followed us through the avenues of trees to the Granada gate, throwing roses, and telling the fortunes of the ladies, and begging money with an impudence of words and gesture which can be paralleled by no other class of mendicants. They are a handsome and wicked race, and it seems as if they were descended from the devil. They steal and lie, and are the terror of the place, for they will rob the traveller of all his portable property if they have the ghost of a chance.

Climbing into the ancient omnibus with its low front wheels, which aggravated the pitch of the craft in a downhill drive, we committed ourselves to the care, or neglect rather, of five cantankerous mules and a driver who delighted to aggravate them, to be whirled, and swung, and jolted down to the railway station. Thanks to a clear road and a kind Providence, we arrived in safety at the railway in good time; and after the usual baggage weighing and paying, and deliberate ticket stamping, we entered the train. We had a railway carriage to ourselves, for all the passengers were going third-class, and at noon we made tea and ate our lunch as the train meandered along through the fine scenery of Granada. About four o’clock we came to Bobadilla, where we exchanged the slow train for the express which runs from Cordova to Malaga. The scenery from this point till we reached the neighborhood of the Mediterranean Sea was very fine. We passed through tunnels and gorges, and the wildest and most desolate scenery, only to emerge into a region of beauty. Orange orchards filled the air with perfume, palm-trees and acacia-trees, and trees of geranium and heliotrope covered with blossoms, and rose vines mantling walls with masses of their brilliant and fragrant flowers, and the purple Judasflowers overshadowing arbors, and cypresses trained into all sorts of shapes, and fountains of water flowing everywhere were but some of the features in a paradisiacal landscape. At the stations and along the road were picturesque groups of peasants, beautiful in spite of rags, with dark eyes and olive skins, muleteers with leather leggings, and teamsters with velvet hats, and loose, cotton trousers hardly reaching to the knee.

Through the wild ravines we rode, sometimes in a dark tunnel, and anon along the shelf of a mountain high above a river whose dashing we could hear when the stream was invisible far below. As we approached Malaga, the mountain sides were dotted with white villas nestling among vineyards that climbed from the bottom of the valleys to the very summits. Far as the eye could reach, the vineyards stretched in every direction, acres upon acres of green vines. These are not the clambering vines of the poet, but short stubs set a few feet apart in regular rows. Around each root is a little trench, or basin, to gather and retain the precious water which is the condition of their life and the source of their rich product. Every foot of earth is planted; even where water has furrowed the steep height, the industry of man has filled the rift and covered the ridge of red soil with grape-vines. Malaga grapes are known the world over; the clusters of delicious green, oval-shaped berries full of sweet juice, which we have so often seen packed in brown kegs full of cork dust, grow here, upon these mountains which slope to the southern sun and wash their feet in. the blue waters of the Mediterranean. Not only for exportation in. brown kegs, nor chiefly for the manufacture of sweet wine, are these vineyards bearing their fruit. This is the great place for the raisin industry, and hundreds of thousands of boxes of these delicacies are sent from the port of Malaga each. year. Oranges, and lemons, and figs, and almonds grow also in profusion; but the great harvest of the hillsides is the grape harvest, which, in the form of grapes, and raisins, and sweet wine, goes out on the wings of commerce throughout the world.

At six o’clock in the evening we reached Malaga, thoroughly tired and ready for a good hotel, which fortunately we found. The sirocco wind had been blowing for twenty-four hours. This dry and warm wind causes lassitude and languor, and the change from the bracing air of Granada was very trying. Even in the daytime it caused a disposition to sleep, and any exertion was exhausting. As our first day in Malaga was the Sabbath, we sought and found the English Church, and had refreshment there for both body and mind. The Church is a little Grecian temple in the English cemetery outside of the walls of the town, and the cemetery is a lovely garden full of trees and flowers, where any one could lie and sleep the last long sleep with sweet content. There was a pleasant company of English and American Christians in this Protestant temple on Sunday morning, and among them we found, most unexpectedly, friends with whom it was our lot to take some pleasant and eventful journeyings by sea and land in the succeeding weeks.

I have often remarked upon the satisfaction which the American traveller who is a Christian. has in availing himself of the excellent custom which the English people have of establishing a place of worship wherever they go. In Spain we should have been utterly without “the means of grace” in a language which we could understand, but for the chapel of the embassy at Madrid and a few such places as this at Malaga. Wherever there is an English embassy there is sure to be a Sabbath service, and in many places where there is only a consulate there is also a room plainly fitted and furnished for the worship of Almighty God. The promise, “Them that honor me, I will honor,” has been abundantly fulfilled to that great and prosperous nation, chief of the Christian powers of Europe, which carries the worship of the true God wherever her armies march or her flag is planted, and perhaps nowhere more significantly in past history than in this very land of Spain.

Malaga lies upon a fertile plain, which is sheltered by hills and mountains from the cold blasts of the Sierra Nevada. The white and picturesque town sweeps around a bay of the blue Mediterranean, which is guarded by forts bristling with guns, and dominated by the Moorish citadel upon a lofty hill. There stands the lighthouse, which throws its bright beams far out over the sea, and from this point- the traveller obtains the finest views of city, sea, and mountains, a panorama well worth the laborious climb. The city is composed of two portions, the old and the new town. The old town is away from the shore, and is made up of dark, narrow, and winding streets, irregular open places, and low, window less houses. The new town has wide and handsome streets, with fine shops and houses, is bright and gay, and has as its chief beauty the delightful Alameda, a broad and handsome avenue with a promenade in the centre under noble trees, with fountains and stone seats, and people always there, chatting and listening to music in the shade.

Not far from the bay, on the site of the former mosque, rises the massive Cathedral, an enormous, irregular, unmeaning pile, begun in 1528 and never completed. Architect after architect has disfigured the building by inharmonious designs, and it now furnishes a lamentable example of all the defects of the worst periods of art. The western front has two towers, one of which rises like a telescope about three hundred feet into the air, and is crowned with a little dome, while its companion is an unfinished dwarf. The length of the main building is three hundred and seventy-four feet; it is two hundred and forty-three feet broad; and it is one hundred and thirty-two feet high. There are seven entrances, and a number of curious little cupolas on the roof. There is nothing inside which is worth seeing except the wood carving in the choir, and this is very elaborate, the figures of Virgin and Child, the twelve Apostles, and more than forty saints being wrought out of mahogany and cedar, in the best style of legendary art. There is also, within, a great deal of marble, and gilding, and fresco painting, and there are some poor pictures. Upon the whole, we thought the Malaga Cathedral the poorest which we had seen in Spain.

The place is very ancient, and its history full of interest to the student. Phoenicians and Romans, Visigoths and Berbers, have held sway in Malaga. It has always been a prosperous seaport, but was most rich and beautiful under the Moors. They loved its beautiful climate and the bounties of its generous soil. Their writers speak with enthusiasm of Malaga’s fine markets, and important trade, and varied resources; of its delicious grapes, the pomegranates like rubies, the orange groves of wonderful beauty, and the gilt porcelain which was exported to the ends of the earth. Though forbidden by the Koran to drink the wine, the Moors were not prohibited from praising it, and A1 Makari tells this story of a dying Moor, whom the priest was urging to pray to Allah; yielding to his entreaties, the Berber chief exclaimed, “Allah, of all things which thou hast in Paradise, I only ask for two; grant me to drink this Malaga Xarab and the Zebibi of Seville.” These two sweet wines filled all of his desires. These wines are not so good as formerly, or tastes have changed; for the wine is now more used for medicinal and ecclesiastical purposes than for drinking. Perhaps also the ravages of the phylloxera, which has damaged the grape and raisin business so much in recent years, have had a bad effect upon the quality of the wine.

A great deal is still made and sold here. We visited one large and sumptuous establishment, and the polite proprietor seemed pleased to explain the processes of wine making, and would fain have had us sample all his choice vintages, and especially desired us to taste a sweet wine made of the mandarin orange. He could not understand why wine should not be used as freely as bread and olive oil. We understood his surprise when we told him of our temperance legislation and its necessity, for we had seen no intemperance or drunkenness in Spain. Drunkenness is the vice of cold climates, rather than of the lands of oil and wine; indolence and voluptuousness are the special sins of these warmer climes.

This leads me to say a few words about the climate of Malaga. Physicians have for many years considered it the best of a11 places for persons with delicate lungs and consumptive tendencies. The temperature in winter is about fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Thus Malaga is about eight degrees warmer than Rome, Nice, and the Riviera, and five degrees colder than Madeira, Cairo, or Malta. There are only two or three degrees of variation in the temperature during the winter months. Constant sunshine envelops the place. A careful record for many years gives only an average of twenty-nine days in the year on which rain has fallen, and on some of these days it only rained for a few hours. A resident physician says that there are not ten days during the whole year when rain would prevent an invalid from taking exercise. This extreme dryness of the climate, which is so favorable for the cure of diseases of the throat and lungs, is equally unfavorable for nervous patients. There is one wind blowing occasionally from the northwest, which causes such nervous agitation that its influence is recognized in the courts of law, and crimes of passion committed when this wind is blowing are mitigated, in the judgment of the tribunals, by the circumstance. The old proverb gets a new meaning under such conditions, “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good! ” Our experience of Malaga was that some wind blew most of the time, and that dust and dirt were very offensive elements in the place.

The city is not clean or savory, and there are no proper sanitary arrangements anywhere. The chief hotel, managed for a company which also owns hotels at Granada and Madrid, is handsome and poorly kept; the arrangements for travel by land or water are very primitive and unsatisfactory, and one realizes here that he has come nearly to the end of Spain. Yet there are many fine villas in the neighborhood of Malaga, and numbers of English people live there in the greatest luxury and contentment, prolonging and enjoying lives which would be prematurely cut off or made a lingering misery if they were passed in the British Isles.

After we had rested long enough in Malaga, and found an evening when a smooth sea and a good French steamer came together, we embarked, and the early morning found us off Gibraltar.