You know how it is to meet/ date someone absolutely stunning and obviously attractive- there is a sense of euphoria, you’re wide-eyed with wonder and your senses are slightly overwhelmed. Some places have the same effect…such as the French Riviera.
Malaga is not that kind of a place. An encounter with Malaga is like meeting a mildly interesting new friend, who you have relaxed unguarded conversations with, and over time realize you have in fact fallen in love when you least suspected it.
We were in Malaga for about 3 days this February, and had the most perfect vacation in a while. It brought together just the right mix of several components that spell out ‘vacation’: relaxation, natural beauty, a touch of history, thinking about ‘life’, wandering aimlessly.. and gathering some memories..
On the first day, I announced I was absolutely going to fit in with the crowd here: I had brought just the thing- a bright embroidered Poncho. Surprise surprise! I was probably the only person in all of Spain wearing a Poncho that day, or in that decade. You could tell by the way it turned heads.
But as I climbed up the steep pathway to Castle Gibralfaro, braving against a strong wind, the cloth flapped like wings when I spread out my arms, and flowed like a cape behind me- making me alternatingly feel like a bird and a superhero. Ever had a piece of clothing make you so ridiculously happy? Try a poncho.
The Gibralfaro castle is a 14th Century fortification built on a hill that provides a panoramic view of the city of Malaga and the Mediterranean sea. It’s the most prominent landmark of the city, especially charming as it lights up high in the sky at night. You can walk its ramparts and keep a watch at the tiny watch-windows to feel like a sentry from times bygone.
The Alcazaba is another 11th century fortress and palace, just below the Castle. It was built for the Muslim rulers of Malaga, but clearly a need was felt for further fortification later, resulting in the castle.You are pulled from the old to the new fairly quickly when you enter the marketplace. While I lamented the modern brand shops I thought marred the old town plaza, I was thankful for globalization when it came to food. We were always too hungry to try the Spanish Tapas (small portions by definition!) but had some of the best Italian, Thai and Turkish food experiences in years.
Malaga is the hometown of famous painter Pablo Picasso. While we are art-illiterates, it would have been a pity to walk by Picasso’s museum in his own hometown without so much as a peek. Once inside, most paintings seemed like mangled messes of human organs.
Apparently he drew reality as seen in different visual plains simultaneously (Cubism) e.g. half a face is drawn as a side profile, the other half as a front view.
He certainly could paint well in the conventional sense- one such painting interspersed every ten eccentric ones, to prove the point. But he argued that all these realities existed simultaneously, so why paint only one aspect? And what was the point of painting if only to ‘copy’ reality as it is seen? Rather it is to express how it is experienced– not an imitation, but an interpretation.
We had been giggling like teenagers, but towards the end I concluded, “You know, I do get him..” This made my husband chuckle some more.
Oranges and Blessings
This is a city where oranges grow by the street-side. And going by the cut oranges served everyday in the hotel, they’re sinfully delicious! So I had to constantly resist temptation to pluck them from the trees around the city.
On the last day we visited the Malaga cathedral which has luscious orange gardens. The cathedral is huge with many ornate chapels. I prayed earnestly, and as soon as we stepped out of the door, an orange fell from a tree and rolled right to my feet. I was delighted! Blessing from God! I dug in with a huge mouthful, only to realize it was too sour to eat. Yes, I had to throw it away.
Now, I am someone who needs to find meaning in most things, more so if they happen in a spiritual place. I wasn’t sure what to make of the sour orange though.. “All that glitters is not gold”?
It was just couple of days later that a childhood school friend buzzed me after what, couple of decades. She said, “I was reminded of you recently. Something you said.” Apparently I had said that when I go to temples, I ask God not for what I want, but for what He may think best for me.
Ah, there! A sour, but friendly, reminder.
The constant unspoken presence, no matter where you go in a port town, is the beach. It was off-season, the sand almost grey-black, and the recliners folded and stacked. But every time we strolled off idly, we found ourselves at the beach.
For me, the language of a vacation is made of the sound of waves crashing on a beach. There is something about the sea that opens up and also closes many questions on the significance and the insignificance of it all. (Mental note: Make life decisions next to sea).
There’s surprisingly little I can find to say about it, as it’s mostly an internal experience. Perhaps there may be a Picasso painting where the heart and the brain are overlapping as the rest of the body evaporates. That may do well.
Thank you, Malaga, for an interesting conversation indeed!