I have been calling the iconic formation that defines the landscape to the East of the city “the Old Man”, but the real name is Peña de los Enamorados (“The Lovers’ Rock”). There are are a couple of variations of the story – but it goes something like this: A Christian boy was captured and then kept as a slave in a rich Muslim’s household in Antequera. The daughter of the house and the boy fell in love. Eventually they decided to run away together, but the father called in the troops and gave chase. At some point they arrived at the rock and climbed up hoping to hide out and get some rest. According to legend, when it became obvious that they weren’t going to get away, they wrapped their arms around each other and went all Thelma and Louise… or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid… over the edge… and the rest, as they say, is history.
There is statue of the lovers in a plaza near the bullring.
Antequera is located in Andalucia which is a southern region of Spain bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It is located about 1 hour inland from Malaga, which is on the coast. The city has been called the “Heart of Andalusia since the 1500’s, due to the fact that it is centrally located between four other important cities in the area: Cordoba, Granada, Seville, and Malaga.
Like everywhere in Europe, the area has a lot of history connected to it. There are three famous dolmens (ancient burial/ceremonial sites built into a hill) in the area which date back to the iron age. Two of them are the largest in Europe.
The Romans get credit for the way the city is laid out- and for naming the city -they called it Antikaria. The Romans got pushed out of the area between 500 and 600 by invading tribes – the Visigoths, I believe.
In the early 700’s, the Muslims invaded Spain. When they took Antequera, they renamed the city Medina Antaquira. The highest point of the city is where the Moors built the Alcazaba (fortress). It wasn’t built until the 1300’s and was constructed on top of Roman ruins. Parts of it remain today. The old part of the city was enclosed by walls slightly below the level of the fortress. There were different “gates” in the walls where people could come and go. Of course now the city has grown far beyond the original walls.
The Muslims were mostly in control of Spain for a short while, but it doesn’t seem like they ever had a firm grip on things. The efforts by the Christians to reclaim Spain began about 10 years after the Muslims took over. It was like a 700+ year long game of “tug of war” -but bit by bit the Muslims were slowly pushed further and further South. For a couple of hundred years, until the early 1400’s, Antiquera was considered an important border fortress/town between Muslim and Christian territory. The Alcazaba was critical in the effort to hold the defenses for what was left of Muslim territory at the time.
Antequera was finally conquered by Ferdinand I in 1410 after a six month siege.
The above picture is of a statue on the street below the walls which commemorates the expulsion of the Muslims from the city in 1410. They departed after making a compromise with the Christians: In return for surrendering the Alcazaba and their Christian slaves, they were given safe passage and provided with donkeys to help them carry their goods away -895 men, 770 women and 863 children left the city. Most of them went to Granada, which is about 60 miles away. Granada was the last Moorish city to be reconquered, which happened in 1492.
After Spain was reclaimed by the Christians, the city became known for agriculture and craftsmen. They started building a slew of churches and convents between the 1500’s and the 1700’s. There are about 30 churches in Antequera that include convents. Antequera has a population of about 50,000 residents.
On two different mornings of this trip, our morning warm-up was a walk around the city. The pictures here are a combination of the two walks, which did not take the same routes. I also must confess to adding a few pictures from previous trips because it didn’t work out for me to spend any extra time in town on my own this trip.
This is Santa Maria (a shortened version of what is a very long name). It was built in the 1500’s and is located on a plaza slightly below the level of the old fortress.
From the East side of the plaza, I was able to see the Roman ruins being excavated down below the original walls.
At one end of the plaza is the Arc of the Giants. It is also called the Hercules Gate. In the 1500’s there was a statue of Hercules erected at the top of the gate. All that is left now is the bottom half of his legs (if you look close).
On a different side of the plaza is a set of stairs -this is the view looking in that direction.
This is the view after stepping through the Arc of Giants.
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Several blocks further beyond the fountain, the street ends in a large traffic circle with the Estapa Gate in the center. It was once a gateway into the city (and still is even if you don’t pass through it anymore). There are also still a couple of other old gates located on different sides of the city where people arrived along the major roads leading to the city, but I think this is the most ornate one.
Both walks started before the sun was up. For the 2nd walk, we followed a walkway around the outside wall of the fortress toward the oldest part of the city.
Below is a picture of a street in the old city -within the original walls. Even though the street is barely more than one lane wide, drivers seem to navigate through these areas pretty well. Parking isn’t easy though!
We circled around behind the Alcazaba and it was finally getting light enough to try to take some pictures.
Antequera is a nice city where it is easy to see all the sights by walking. Although I’m sure they get tourists, it is not a town that is on the well-beaten, crowded, tourism path like Seville, Granada Cordoba or Ronda -which are all in the region. I’m enchanted by the impression of Antequera as a city that embraces its history, while going about its everyday modern life.
….It seems like weird things seem to happen only to us when we travel -which is how we came up with the word d’aventure in the first place. We had a moment of drama at the hotel pool on one of our first days:
The hotel pool is located in a small grassy, walled area behind the gym. There are 2 doors that open out to it from the indoor pool area (it’s a big wall of windows on that side mostly), plus 2 other doors from other areas of the gym.
A couple of days after we arrived, Mike went out to the pool about 30 minutes before me. He has discovered that jumping in a swimming pool after working out helps him recover faster. When I went to find him, I walked into the indoor pool area and noticed the the doors I’d normally go through were closed and locked. I think the doors were all shut that day because the wind was quite gusty. I thought maybe they’d closed the outdoor pool due to the wind…but I could see Mike out there. There was a swim class for kids was in progress and the teacher noticed my confusion. She asked… “Do you want to go out?” I said, “Yes, please.” She unlocked the door, I walked out, and she pulled it shut behind me.
We were the only two people out there since it wasn’t the best day for hanging around at the pool. When we were ready to leave, we walked up to the door I’d used and it was locked! ALL of the other doors that opened to the outdoor pool area were locked. We didn’t have our phones with us. We peeked through several different windows and saw no one that could come to our rescue. The gym wasn’t closed, but it also wasn’t very busy at the time.
We were seriously debating about whether or not we’d have to boost ourselves over the wall to get out! We were making a lot of jokes about them finding a couple of skeletons in a few days…or us getting caught climbing over the walls (if we even could!).
Fortunately, I remembered that earlier that day on the way to the gym I’d noticed a very small metal gate flapping in the wind at the front corner of the gym by the parking lot. Out of curiosity I’d peeked through it and saw that there was a narrow path along the side of the building. I guessed (but wasn’t 100% sure) that it might be a maintenance access that led to the pool area.
I told Mike, “I think we can get out around the side of the building if that gate is still unlocked.” Thankfully, we were able to get out that way and get back to our room. The next day I noticed that the little gate was shut and locked again -and it remained that way the rest of our trip.