Whenever I visit a place I like to research the local history too. I find this adds to the enjoyment of the trip and I always learn something new.
So when I saw the memorial to the crew of SMS Gneisenau in the famous English Cemetery in Malaga ( St.George’s church) I decided to find out more and what I learnt was an extraordinary story of tragedy and heroism.
During a great storm in 1900, the German navy corvette, SMS Gneisenau, which was anchored in the port, broke its moorings and was smashed against the harbour walls and quickly sank. Forty men lost their lives including the captain and first officer who gallantly stayed on board, whilst the ship sank, trying to assist the evacuation.
Local citizens were also drowned when, in the face of the terrible storm, they bravely assisted in saving many lives. In honor of the help given by the citizens of Malaga on that day, the German Government built a bridge over the Guadalmedina near the town centre which still stands today: the “Puente de los Alemans“.
Another attractive option for those seeking a life of comfort and pleasure on the Costa del Sol is the town of Benalmadena just down the coast from Malaga. It’s popular with holiday makers as well as retirees and people who come just for a few months to escape the northern European winter.
The town has three areas: the coastal strip with many bars and tourist shops; Aroyya de la Miel near the station with its many pleasant cafes; and the quiet and peaceful mountain village area including the Great Stupa , with great views of the coast.
There is a wide range of accommodation including many apartments which can be rented by the month or year at much less than the cost of the average hotel, making an extended stay an attractive option for those perhaps who have retired and are on a budget.
I visited the attractive marina, one of the biggest in Spain, and saw many good bars and restaurants where you can sit out all day and watch the world go by, and there was plenty of boat trips available for the more adventurous.
There’s also the pretty Paloma Park for a stroll, as well as a casino, and a lively night-life in places like the Twenty-Four Hour Square and of course some fantastic beaches including a nudist beach; which was one of the first to be officially established in Europe.
If you decide to relocate from a cold northern European country and move south then, like thousands of others, you might choose to live in beautiful Fuengirola on the Spanish coast south of Malaga.
The climate in this area is seriously attractive; it has the mildest winters in mainland Europe, and has everything you need, including excellent health care, beautiful beaches, a vibrant nightlife and good transportation.
When I visited I noticed how different nationalities were catered for; each had their own bars and restaurants with menus in German, Swedish etc. as well as national food shops for those missing their favourite foods from home.
Walking around the town it’s clearly well maintained including the attractive beach which runs several miles, and for those with mobility problems it’s easy to get around.
There’s a great promenade for a stroll, shopping malls, a great market on Tuesdays, a quaint square with a fine church, and it even has its own medieval castle where events, concerts etc. are held. There’s a wide range of apartments for long or short term letting, often with pool, many owned by foreigners. All in all, Fuengirola seemed a paradise for retirees and expats.
On a baking hot day a visit to a good, modern and air-conditioned museum can be a great option and the Museo de Malaga has been described as the best museum in Southern Spain.
It finally opened its doors in December 2016 after lengthy delays and has thousands of artifacts in its interesting historical section as well as hundreds of paintings in its fine art section.
The historical section traces the history of Malaga from Phoenician to Roman through the Moorish era to the present day. It’s well curated and holds the attention.
On the ground floor is the fine arts section which, like the history section, is centered on Malaga with many local artists on display.
The building in which the museum is housed – the Palacio de la Aduana – is well worth a look in itself. It was constructed in 1791 in the style of an Italian Renaissance palace and served as the port’s customs house. A fitting setting for Malaga’s excellent new museum.
There are plenty of great public squares in Malaga’s old centre from the small and intimate to the huge and stately. Traffic is always excluded and they are invariably crowded with people sitting outside the many restaurants and bars enjoying the fine local cuisine.
By far the best square in Malaga is the grand Constitution Square which has been the heart of the city’s cultural and social activities since early medieval times. All kinds of fiestas have been held here including bullfighting.
Merced Square is another large square with an interesting history, as I mentioned in two of my earlier posts Picasso’s boyhood in Merced Square and Malaga’s martyrs .There are plenty of popular bars and restaurants here where you can sit out and watch the world go by.
Another fine square is next to Marina where you can pick up a horse drawn taxi to tour the city. Much of the area leading into the showpiece Larios Street, Malaga’s best, is pedestrianized and pleasant for walking.
Other plazas include Unibay Square and the small Jewish Square near the old Roman theater is worth a look as well as many others too numerous to mention. They are all enjoyable places to visit, to enjoy a meal, and an essential part of Malga life.
The local train service is a cheap and efficient way to travel; it mostly runs through the tourist areas from Malaga down the coast to Fuengirola. If you’re arriving at Malaga airport your likely best option is the train rather than the taxi or pick-up service. The chances are there will be a station near your accommodation and if not there is usually a taxi rank outside. All the ticket machines have an English option so they’re easy to use and remember to purchase a top-up card.
If you’re on a budget, as usual, try looking away from the centre of town in places down the coast, and along the train route, where there’s every kind of accommodation available. If you’re exploring Malaga the excellent transport even makes places like Fuengirola at the end of the line an attractive option.
Sight-seeing : free or reduced rates
The cost of admission to the many interesting galleries, museums etc. can soon add up. Consider visiting some of the attractions on Sundays if you can when entry is at reduced prices or even free, e.g. the Picasso Museum; Malaga Pompidou; the Alcazabar. Entry times can vary so check in advance – the Tourist Information Office can tell you more.
The bus system
If you’re counting the Euros, the buses are cheap and plentiful, and easy to use once you get the hang of it. Get a bus card from the Tabac outlets and top it up when needed. The card gives excellent savings over time, i.e. 0.83c instead of 1.30 Euro on every trip. Get aboard one of the many buses in the central Alameda Principal, which has a circular route, and enjoy sight-seeing tours at a fraction of the price of the official tour buses.
Torremolinos developed an unenviable reputation after it became one of the first centres of mass tourism in the ’60s and ’70s, so on a recent visit I was fearing the worst. However I was surprised to find it mostly pleasant and friendly, at least during the day; the Carrihuela area especially, where many Spanish visit.
However I had not come to lie on its nice beach but to visit the Molino de Inca Botanical Gardens. This is little known attraction just outside the town centre with acres of beautiful, landscaped gardens including fountains, gazebos and hundreds of different species of exotic trees and plants.
The date on the house says 1488 and one imagines being back in medieval Seville rather than in a modern tourist town. The lush gardens are later but have interesting features like the aviary containing colourful and unusual birds as well as fine statues. Cool and tranquil and pleasant respite from the beaches and bars.