It was a discovery of sorts to come across that in the 19th century Malaga was the centre of a sugar industry and the sugarcane came from India! Malaga, with its lyrical name, on the southern coast of Spain is more known as a jewel in the leisure travel circuit, flanked by the twin towns of Marbella and Puerto Banus. But, in fact, it has much more to offer and a long history to fall back on. It is one of the world’s oldest cities; the Phoenicians established in about 770 BC calling it Malaka. Shows how impressions are created through images.
Malaga lies on the Mediterranean Sea in the Andalusian region of Spain. It is also the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and Hollywood star Antonio Banderas. Chances are you will hear umpteen times about the star and how he loves this place and makes it a point to visit regularly.
A walk down the Larois Street is a must to get a feel of Malaga on the move. Outlets of international fashion houses, local boutiques, eateries and people all around make it a happy place to explore. The street was inaugurated in 1891 and is very European in essence though the city’s many parts show influences of the Moors — the Arabs, who ruled in Andalusia for almost 800 years. Nearby is Plaza de la Constitucion at the heart of Malaga’s old quarters. Quaint cafes, restaurants line the narrow lanes. A good idea is to stop by and order a coffee to be enjoyed with local delicacy churros dipped in chocolate sauce.
In the recent years,
Malaga has been striving to reinvent itself as an art and culture
centre. It boasts of 19 museums within the city limits. One of the
most famous, and most visited, is the Picasso Museum, comprising more
than 200 expositions of his work. Family members of the great painter
have donated these paintings and sculptures to be housed in an old art
school. At the entrance, you would see long lines of children queuing
up; they are given priority of entry. Apparently Picasso wanted it
Malaga has another interesting museum entirely built around the theme of heritage cars. The automobile museum is the brainchild of a Portuguese tycoon and collector; his son is also interested in high-end fashion. So the theme is built around car models from early years to the present day and their role as a lifestyle statement.
New areas are being developed around the promenade by the bay. Shops, restaurants, sound of musical bands all merge together to make an evening stroll here a pleasure and just right for a holiday.
The cathedral near the sea in Gothic style has a magnificent gilt-edged throne and Mother Mary statue. During the Easter celebrations, a procession with the statue is a spectacular event. Young men, strong enough take pride to carry, lend the shoulder, and for hours ion end, to carry the statue. Across the area you will find ruins from Roman times; groups of schoolchildren are often found enjoying a piece of history as costumed players enact those days of yore. Next explore 11th century Alcazaba palace and walk up or take the lift to the Gibralfaro castle. The Moors built the fort to keep vigil on the sea for any enemy. From the walls of the rampart, on one side, you can see modern Malaga’s traffic whizzing by, and from the other, the blue bay with ships ready to go to Morocco. Ah, a place caught between two cultures.
Being near the sea, Malaga’s cuisine gives pride of place to fish. It’s a heaven for fish lovers. For the famous fried fish of Malaga, the trick is to use small fish like anchovies, mullet, mackerel, etc. fresh from the sea and fry using extra virgin olive oil. Then there is the ‘Pescado a la Sal,’the salted fish. The fish is covered by some wide salt sheets and baked on a tray for approximately 30 minutes. When done, the waiter takes the salt off using fork and knife. The fish is normally large seabass and bream. All to be washed down with excellent Spanish wine, if you will.
The vegetarians can enjoy fritters like sliced aubergine, our good-old baigan, fried and topped with sugarcane honey. Andalusia is home to gazpacho, the famous cold soup, and it always precedes a meal. Quite delicious in its many combinations. It is a good idea to take a trip to Marbella, the A-list resort area on Costa del Sol (coast of the sun) on the Mediterranean, 45 minutes away. With around 160 km of uninterrupted coastline with beaches and marinas, it is also known as Europe’s golf capital. The place is pretty as a picture, especially the old area with cobbled paths and surrounded by white houses. Their walls display in summer pots of geraniums making perfect background for the boutiques with souvenirs of ceramic tiles, scarves and mementoes to take back home.
On the way to Marbella, you would come across Puerto Banus with its Golden Mile, choc-a-bloc with designer boutiques, casinos, restaurants where you can ogle at the Ferraris, Cadillac and Lamborghinis. But the most attractive part of the town is the seaside with its exclusive yacht harbour. Beautiful boats with flags of different nationalities fluttering in the air, and you envy, even if a little, the freedom of sailing on one of these pretty boats.
How to get there: Unless flying fromMadrid (50 minutes) take high-speed train ‘‘AVE’’ (2 hours 30 minutes)
Where to stay: Hotels to suit all budgets from luxury to youth hostels
What to do: Visit Picasso museum, walk on Larois St and the promenade; visit the Moorish castle and palace
What to eat: Fried fish of every kind, gazpacho
What to buy: Ceramic tiles, souvenirs, colourful toys and Spanish fans