Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The inexplicable beauty of inland Andalusia

This is an article about 'duende', the dominating atmosphere of inland Andalusia. 

Duende, as most of the very best things in life, is inexplicable. 
You can't catch it in words, and you definitely can't explain it to others.
You feel it. 

If you prefer to hear and feel rather than to read on, definitely open this song in YouTube: 'Hijo de la Luna' by Mario Frangoulis. It might be a glimpse into the ancient heart of Andalusia - which still exists today.

For there's Andalusia, it's coasts and gorgeous touristy cities... and there's inland Andalusia: a land of gypsies and farmers, cultural highlights and a stunning history, under a Moorish moon.

It's 2015 and 1492 at the same time. You can walk through modern towns with all the amenities and services of the 21st century, and at the same time feel the way of life of the 19th century. 

How can we foreigners who live in inland Andalusia explain to friends in northern Europe why it's sometimes so heartbreaking to leave Andalusia? Why if you live here for a year and slowly start to feel it rather than to just see it, it's a bond for life? 

It's that heightened sense of emotion, expression and authenticity... the 'duende'.

Slowly, very slowly, it sneaks into our own lives and that makes that Andalusia is not just a place where you've been, but that you carry with you. 

Hemingway felt it, Orson Welles is buried here. Carmen, the cigarette girl is from here, as well as the original Don Juan. Foreigner after foreigner, after first having felt no connection whatsoever with the 'fandango', suddenly says: now I get it! 

The 'route 66' feel of stopping at a Venta (a diner) long a windy road, the sitting at a fireplace in a bar, the wind carrying the voices of people practising the next procession, a youngster playing a 'rumbita' on a Spanish guitar... other people saying 'olé' for loving the twists and turns of the voice... and then obviously that great big and pure love for living, breathing, singing, dancing, tasting, loving...

Olé! for inland Andalusia, that distinct, unique and stunning corner of Europe. 

May you too be so lucky to feel and be carried away one day by its duende! 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The 3 Christmas traditions in Andalucia

What do Andalusians do or prepare for at the turn of the year?

1. Go where the Christmas lights are!

They are stunning. The tradition to illuminate the town centres is quite a new one, started by Malaga, and they drew in so many visitors that many towns along the coast followed - and now the pride of the inland villages demands they follow suit.

If southern Spaniards spot a chance to exuberance, they grab it. Many a foreigner is flabbergasted by the elegance and festive feel of the lights. Follow the lights!

(Remarkably enough Andalusians are not big on Christmas itself: it's spent at home, with close relatives, without the tradition of dinners and presents of northern Europe).

2. The lucky grapes of New Year's Eve

Before midnight on December 31st, head for the main plaza. You will be surrounded by many, all waiting for the magical moment.

And when it happens, everyone pulls out grapes.

To be precise, 12 of them.

And at every chime of the clock, you eat one.

According to the tradition that dates back to 1895, and became popular at the beginning of the 20th century, this will lead to a year of prosperity.

Ask an Andalucian friend if you can join him or her, for 'las doce uvas de la suerte' is - as anything else in Andalucía - a social habit, enforcing the unity between friends or in families.

3. The King Cake at Reyes

'Reyes' means Kings. And is the name by which all know Three Kings Day.

Put it in your diary: January 6th is the day of days.

Far bigger than Christmas actually: this is a day no Andalusian can miss.

It's a Must for families to gather, with as highlight the dividing of the King Cake.

Traditionally a small plastic or porcelain baby is hidden in the cake (usually gold, green  or purple, the colours of this holiday).

Whoever finds it in their slice, will enjoy a year of luck and prosperity - and is responsible for making or purchasing the cake of the following year.

We from InlandAndalucia can't send you a cake, but wish you luck and prosperity. May 2015 be a very special year for you and your loved ones.

Merry Christmas everybody!



Friday, 21 November 2014

Spaniards, prepare for a long life

According to the latest research the average European lives 2 years longer than the average American. 

A baby born in the USA has a life expectancy of 78 years and 7 months, whereas the European baby can hope for 80 years and 4 months. 

This is mainly the average in the axis Ireland-UK-Benelux-Germany. 

In many countries in Eastern Europe it can drop to 77 years... and guess who makes the overall average go up again? 

Yes, Spaniards and Italians, on average looking at 82-83 years. 

Which propels them in the Top 10 of longest living people on the planet (admittedly, still overtaken by people from Andorra and San Marino). 

Now that question... what is the reason?

Out of work and struggling with the economy... but beating the USA, Canada, Norway, Australia, and just about any other typical role model - how do they do it? 

Digits are one thing, but to come up with that one and only answer is almost impossible. 

Most scientists point to the Mediterranean diet. It's heavy on fruit, salads, fresh fish and olives, for cooking olive oil is used instead of butter - and Spain also has so much agriculture that even the food on the supermarket shelves can come straight from the land. (As opposed to the bags of lettuce in the UK often coming from Kenya). 

Others assume it's related to more space and the fresher air. The air in southern Spain is said to be the healthiest of Europe - and do not forget that even air contains vitamins. 

More space and lower stress levels are also said to be contributors. 

Arguably the answer lies in a combination of many elements. 

If there's one thing humans and societies all try to achieve, it's a forever higher life expectancy...  so Spain must be doing something incredibly right.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Ski Season has started in the Sierra Nevada

Skiing in the morning and being on the beach in the afternoon: an unlikely luxury?
Once again, not so for Andalucía! Here it's only a 2 hour drive from beach to skiing runs.
Admittedly, only some 2 months a year: the typical ski season lasts from somewhere-in-November through to somewhere-in-February.
But sometimes it goes on until early May, at which point you can really expect very long, sunny days of skiing.
(But why combine skiing with beach, if you've got the superb city of Granada or the world renowned Alhambra at only 20 kms?). 
Today we are at the start of the season, so the reservation departments at all resorts in the Sierra Nevada are working overtime. It is the most southerly ski resort of Europe, and thus one catering to all aficionados of ski and snowboarding of southern Spain and Portugal. If you intend to stay overnight, make sure to make your hotel booking well in advance and as soon as you can!
Sierra Nevada means 'snowy mountain range' and snowy it is. The highest summit is the one of the Mulhacén mountain (3481 mts) and the highest ski lift goes to just below Veleta (at 3398 mts).
In case you hesitate, here are 2 handy links:
Anyone living in Andalucía, should have tried this at least once... skiing in the morning, après-ski in the afternoon.
Have fun!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Game of Thrones filmed in Andalusia

'Game of Thrones' filmed in Andalusia?

Yes! Producers at HBO have confirmed it: America's most popular TV series is coming to our gorgeous region.
To us who live here it's no surprise. Where to best transmit a mythical, imaginary land than in mythical Al-Andalus?
The shooting is said to start still this 2014. Parts of the TV series will be shot in the province of Seville, with the Alcazar in Seville city as main contender - but the town of Osuna will see most swordsmen and dragons.
This sun drenched hilltop town, amidst olive groves east of Seville, is well known for its 16th century courtyard mansions.
But hold your breath. Speculation might go through the roof, the precise locations and dates are a well kept secret.
This does not stop many Andalusians being in a frenzy. Iceland, a location of the previous season, saw it's tourism increase by a staggering 20% - mainly because of the huge fan base. One can imagine the inland towns and villages of Andalucía, with their current unemployment rate, looking forward very much to some action - and an increase in tourism.
Whether or not anyone will get close to the film sets: proud of Andalusia we will be anyway, anyhow, and anytime.
This is our 'tierra' where knowledge spread to the rest of Europe from the university of Cordoba, the land of tiles and food brought in by the Moors, the land of Carmen and Don Juan.
Every day is a Game of Thrones.
OK, the settings are.
But don't miss that 5th season!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Malaga Jazz Festival from 4-10 November 2014

Halloween is barely over and there's the next high light: The 22nd Malaga Jazz Festival. 

In 2014 the festival takes place from November 4th-10th 

National and international names of the world of Jazz will head to Malaga, turning our gorgeous city into the centre of Jazz for a week.

It's a great opportunity to get to know or enjoy this musical genre, in the year-round festive atmosphere of Malaga city.

As always, the Cervantes Theatre (Teatro de Cervantes) will be the epicentre.

But there are not only concerts in the theatre: also outdoors in the historic centre of Malaga you will find many a concert as well as workshop and even dance lessons.

And then there are the 'Off Sessions' in various theatres throughout the city.
For full calendar and concerts visit the website of the Cervantes Theatre.

Jazz fans, have (a) great evening(s)!


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Halloween in Andalucia!

October 31st is almost there, so be prepared for Halloween!  

Er, Halloween… in Andalucia

Isn't this a typical Gaelic and American tradition? That doesn't catch on in many European countries, or just half heartedly? 

It's time for a secret: the Spanish, and especially the Andalucians, just LOVE a party. 

And that's a love with a capital L. Any reason to be surrounded by people, any reason for music or dancing or just atmosphere, is a good reason. 

"You live to work, we work to live". That might be the anthem of Andalucia. It's a miracle we've not incorporated most Chinese or Arab festivities yet. 

So, yes, this Friday the 31st of October, many an inland village (if not all) will go bezerk. 

Later in the afternoon, groups of children will conquer any town centre, usually (but now always) under the supervision of a few adults. Expect quite a lot of banging on your door to be demanded for candy. 

And the squares of the small towns will be filled with parents - some of whom dare to dress up now - trying to get away from the noise of it all, with a good glass of wine. 

Where ever you are in Andalucia… you will notice! 

So you too might as well come down to the town centre, and have a great, spooky winter evening… be it in agreeable temperatures. 


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Olive season has started!

Autumn... so it's a busy period for olive pickers.

All over Andalucia small groups of people are working from dust until dawn to get you those olives with your tapas, or your olive oil.

Picking olives is hard work.

In general it's still done as it has been done for a century: hitting the branches with a pole so that the olives drop onto a sheet. 

And then to the next tree. And the next. And the next. 

An olive tree can handle that, for it's a very strong tree. In Andalucia, many of them are close to a 100 years old, and have been providing many a generation with its fruit.

Fruit? Is an olive a fruit?

Yes it is. It is the small, bitter tasting fruit of the olive tree. They are classified as a fruit because they are formed from the ovary of the olive flower and because of their seed-bearing structure.

Where do these olives go?

At the end of every day, the olives are brought to the local Olive Mill.

Nowadays that usually means a cooperative, installed for the protection of all locals who contribute to the process. In this olive mill a part is being processed and turned into olive oil that is sold with a local label on it. 

The main chunk though goes to whole salers, usually in the most nearby city-sized town. These whole salers sell to local restaurants but also the supermarket chains that - trickling down a long ladder - package and distribute it to your local supermarket.

What's the difference between green and black olives?

Well, black olives are actually over-ripe green olives that are then treated with chemicals. This is done to make the olive less bitter and more flavourful. 

A great tip as souvenir

During your holiday in inland Andalucia, go to a local olive mill! 
Or ask the locals where you can buy a bottle of the local olive oil.

It's a great gift for people back home, for this way you are really sure the olive oil is authentic and fresh, and it's up to 3 times cheaper than buying something less authentic at the Airport.

About olives and 'aceitunas'...

The whole world calls them 'olives', except for the Spanish!

For in Spanish, an olivo is the olive tree. 
The tree is named olivo and its fruits are aceitunas

Hence, olive oil is aceite de aceitunas.

The health benefits of eating olives

May you all enjoy your next tapa with olives, think of the hard work that has gone into it, AND of the benefits that are attributed to them. Eating olives is thought to be good for: 
  • Cardiovascular benefits
  • Cancer prevention
  • Skin and hair health
  • Bone and connective tissue
  • Digestive tract health
  • Good source of iron
  • Eye health

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Top 3 festivities in Andalucia

When you live in Andalucia you know: at any given day there's a 'fiesta' somewhere.

Here's the Top 3 of Andalucia-wide celebrations that are also interesting for the incidental visitor. The Real Musts so to speak, that do not just make you visit Andalucia, but live it. 

Real dates to block. When their dates approach, we will tell more about them in detail. 

1. SEMANA SANTA - March 29th through to April 6, 2015

That one week that turns Andalucia crazy. From Sunday to Sunday there are processions in even the tiniest village, turning any city or town centre into a magical environment. Those evenings are most spectacular in the big cities, with Seville and Málaga leading the way.

You are mighty lucky if you happen to have a hotel room in the centre of a big city that week. 

2. THE NIGHT OF SAN JUAN - The night of June 23rd, 2015

That crazy night, summarizing Spain with its colours, vibrant life and surrealism. When you are in Andalucia on June 23rd, head to the nearest beach in the evening! Bonfires, atmosphere, people walking in or diving into the sea. 

An evening not to be missed. Where ever you are in Andalucia, ask the locals for the nearest San Juan beach, site or campsite.

3. VIRGEN DEL CARMEN - Afternoon and evening of July 16th

On the evening of July 16th all coastal towns and cities celebrate the patron saint of the fishermen. It takes the shape of a procession that does not only end near the sea, but in the water. It's one of these spectacles that make people associate Andalucia with colour, music and the sheer pleasure of being alive.

A beautiful, traditional afternoon and evening, that is an agreable experience everywhere along the coast, with Estepona as the town with the most spectacular decoration (fireworks during the procession).

We know we're early... so you won't miss those 3.

Never hesitate to tell about your experiences here below.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Property Market in Andalusia

The property market in Andalusia is slowly bouncing back.

In 2013 one out of five property purchases in Spain were by foreigners. 

The total number of properties bought by non-Spaniards was 55.187

The internationalisation is the most remarkable evolution: 

The Britons are still the ones that buy most second homes in Spain, but they’re now closely followed by the French, Russians and Germans. Belgians complete the Top 5. 

The lower prices are the motor of the renewed enthusiasm to move to or buy a second home. 

Whereas in 2008 foreigners on average paid 2.338 Euro per square meter, this had gone to 1.631 Euro per square meter in 2013. That’s a decrease of 31 percent in 5 years. 

Valencia and Catalonia are the most popular destinations together with, with its exuberant culture, sunshine, healthy environment and gorgeous lifestyle, Andalusia

The lowest prices can be found in inland Andalusia, in the towns and villages of the provinces of Jaen, Málaga, Granada and Seville.

Today is the ideal moment to become the owner of a villa, finca, hacienda or typical Spanish townhouse and live like ‘God in France’. (Be it obviously that Andalusia is more beautiful than France).

Just have a quick look at the featured properties we offer on a daily basis, and you see what we mean.

Enjoy the search for your ideal home in Spain! 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Is a visit to El Torcal worth the while?

'El Torcal', it sounds as a rock in touristy circles.

And yet there are so many foreigners living in inland Andalucia who have never visited it.

I must admit it took me years too, and even then only by coincidence. Only to then wonder how it is possible that we live so close to something special and never think of stopping there.

Now, 'just stopping there' is not possible: you will have to turn it into a half-day excursion. An excursion of the very calm or romantic sort, preferably with a partner or very good friend. 

You will enjoy that zigzagging through the gorgeous countryside and up the hills of Málaga - or combine it with a visit to beautiful Antequera. In most cases you will have to drive through Antequera anyway, for the scenery of El Torcal is located on the hilltops of 1300 meters, high above this city.

What is El Torcal? 

It's the name of a nature reserve in the Sierra del Torcal that is known for its unusual landforms.

These landforms are shaped by limestone, layer upon layer, left behind when the sea withdrew in the Jurassic age (150 million years ago). Quite a playground for photographers! Also biologists will have a field day, with the impressive array of wildflowers, the many species of reptiles and the Griffon vultures circling high above the valleys.

There are color-coded hiking trails of 1.5 km, 2.5 km and 4.5 km, all starting at the main parking and visitor center, that also includes a cafetaria. 

Spring and fall are the best times to visit, since the summer can be too hot for the walks and climbs, and in the winter it can be very cold and windy here. 

To get there, you either drive through Antequera or, on the other side of the hills, via the village of Villanueva de la Concepción

It's the only place in the world where I witnessed this: an old fox coming to beg for food at the tables of the summer terrace. Quite the experience! 

So, yes, go to El Torcal. If you want to turn your short excursion into a long one, you can combine it with Antequera, or the 'flamingo lake' of Fuente de Piedra as well as the 'Embalsos de Guadelhorce' which make for such a gorgeous of swimming or walking.

Enjoy your day! 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

All head to the Culinary Festival in Antequera

By foreigners living in inland Andalusia, Antequera is often seen as an epicentre.

For beautiful Antequera, on and against its rocky hill, has got it all, the location, beauty, history and amenities of a city. 

And today, September 25th, it's the start of the yearly culinary festival.

For the next 4 days, Antequera will attract over 15.000 extra visitors, coming from all directions to enjoy the ambiance, drinks and delights of this 'tapa festival'.

It takes place at the Plaza de Toros, which will be turned into a sea of bars and restaurants that are open every day from noon through to 16:30 and again from 8 PM until midnight.

With this festival, Antequera wants to become a reference for Andalusian and Spanish gastronomy. That there's a need for this event is proven by the over 10.000 visitors of its very first edition in 2013.

If you go to Antequera this weekend, don't miss it! 
And let us know your comments or review. It will definitely be posted here.

The dates for 2015 are not yet known, but when they are, we will for sure keep you informed in this page.

Right at the main motorways between Málaga and Seville or Cordoba, Antequera is very easy to reach. If you've never visited this beautiful small city, it's really a recommendation.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Flamenco explained to foreigners

If you're ever so lucky to be present at a gathering where Flamenco plays a role, treat it with utmost respect.

For Flamenco is not just some type of folk music. It is very much alive, and deals with life itself. The experiences and emotions we share as a group, woven into an art form. 

Ever since the late 18th century, it has been handed over, by generation after generation, who all improve it and adapt. Flamenco deals with 'duende', that heightened sense of awareness that is so important in Andalucian speech and culture. 

An expression of Flamenco can include canto (singing), toque (guitar playing), baile (dancing) and palmas (handclaps) and, as in jazz, the art can sit in the improvisation and artful balance. 

In Western European ears Flamenco music can sometimes seem repetitive or even painful. If that is the case, we're most probably dealing with the Fandango.

For Flamenco music falls apart in different 'palos' or styles, that are classified by rhythmic pattern and chord progession. For example the Rumba and the Buleria are 2 palos any ear does love, and that have almost become synonymous with what we often call 'Spanish music'.

Though the precise origin of the word 'Flamenco' is disputed, there's a main theory that states it comes from the musicians of Emperor Charles the Vth. When he came to his palaces in Andalucia he brought his own musicians with him from Ghent in Flanders, which triggered the expression: 'Playing music à la Flamenca' (the flemish way) or 'as a Flamenco' (someone from Flanders). 

In 2010 UNESCO declared Flamenco intangible cultural heritage of humanity, or a musical pendant of a monument.

All over inland Andalucia you will find villages with their own 'Peña Flamenca', which is a bar/club for lovers and practisioners of Flamenco music. The music you hear here can be a world away from the more touristy form at the coast or specifically organized shows.

Epressions of flamenco are very popular, accross all ages, and is not the monopoly of the Roma people ('gypsies'). Many, and especially the most famous singers, do come from the Roma community though.

With as most famous and reverred singer, Cameron de la Isla, a name that simply everyone knows, from every person in Andalucia to all the Flamenco schools in Japan (where, by the way, there are more Flamenco schools than in Spain). 

Paco de Lucia though might be a name that sounds more familiar to you.

For more information, visit this page on Wikipedia

For when you decide to buy property in inland Andalucia, Flamenco might become a part of your life.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The beauty of October in Andalucia

Are you visiting Andalucia in October? 

An excellent idea. No month can be so pleasant as this one. 

Every year millions of visitors land in one of the main airports of Andalucia, mainly in Málaga airport with Seville as a more distant second. 

Most of them do so in the summer months. Whereas those who live in Andalucia would probably say: "Come in October".

For here we are in the outskirts of summer. The heat is gone and the sun becomes bearable, agreable. You can walk around in T-shirt and shorts, without sweating or carrying your sun-block with you or waiting for the sun to set before you decide to go out.

Little wonder this is the season of city-trips. Exploring Seville, Cordoba, Granada or Ronda becomes more relaxing than exhausting. And then, obviously, there's that great luxury of having beaches to yourself, rather hearing the sound of waves than of noise.

Somewhere around November the temperature of the air tends to sink below the temperature of the sea water, and this creates a sort of own, regional 'El Niño' effect, often resulting in heavy rains or the chilly and grey days as anywhere else in Europe.

Before that time though, it's Indian Summer, a time to breathe and relax, until the sun goes down in a golden light.

Fancying a city trip in October?
Longing to hike in green valleys or rocky ones for that matter? 

'Otoño' or autumn is your season! 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Welcome to Inland Andalucia

This will become the blog for all things inland Andalucia.

What it is like to live, work or travel in our gorgeous region. 
Photo by Mario Perez, a photographer from Seville.
Travel information, history, weather, travel tips, highlights, opportunities, language tips, traditions, real estate...  

If it's about inland Andalucia we'll cover it.

Dear reader, we hope you like it, that you will connect with us, or provide us with travel tips. 

Or, alternatively, you let us know what you would be most interested in.  

Thank you for your visit, and bienvenido a Andalucia! 

The property specialist for inland Andalucia