Antequera - The heart of AndalucÍa
We approached Antequera from Fuente de Piedra, after a visit to El Refugio del Burrito (the donkey sanctuary). Climbing the hill past modern apartment buiildings and a shopping centre, a visitor new to Antequera could be excused for thinking thay are entering a relatively modern town. It is only when you reach the nineteenth century bullring and the monumental archway do you start to appreciate Antequera's history.
The first corrida was held in the bullring in 1848. Its atmosphere remains, even when empty and viewed from the restaurant that nestles in its walls. It is that side of the town that is the more commercial. There are still houses and apartments from the town's Renaissance and Baroque periods which, when the ornate doors are open, show the havens from the city that are Andalucian courtyards.
The older part of the town houses the Moorish influence of the Alcazaba that stands proud above the town. When I had visited previously, I had used the audio guide (because it was included in the price!)and found it added to the experience. There were no remnants of the original Moorish artwork to see as the complex had been remodelled in the sixteenthe century, but it was definitely worth the visit. The views of the town spreading beneath us made the climb to the top of the fortress worthwhile.
Every time I set foot in Antequera the church of San Sebastian is closed. I have been deprived of its Baroque interior but I have seen the wonderful interior of the Belén church which is attached to a convent. The rather sombre exterrior of the church belies its richly decorated interior.
In 1504, the humanist university of the Real Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor was founded in Antequera. Important writers and scholars of the Spanish Renaissance would meet there including Pedro Espinosa, Luis Martín de la Plaza and Cristobalina Fernández de Alarcón. Outside the church that stands in the grounds of the Alcazaba, in the Plaza des Escribanos, is a statue of Espinosa.
Past the churches and out the other side of the town are the Dolmen caves - neolithic megaliths (not easy to say at the best of times). These small caves are incredible when you consider the basic technologies available to the farmers who created them, thousands of years before the Christian era. The caves line up with the La Peña, a rock formation that looks like a giant head reclined. The whole area arund Antequera is reknowned for natural and neolithic formations including the limestone formations of El Torcal just outside of the town.
On this visit, we lunched at the side of the road and enjoyed hearty sandwiches made from the bread of Antequera: mollete, a soft white bread roll which was toasted. Washed down with chilled white wine it was a perfect lunch for a sunny May day.
Antequera's long and interesting history makes it a super town to visit. From natural, surreal landscapes, to Moorish fortresses and Renaissance churches there is something to satisy all my cravings. It has a lot to offer and I never tire of returning. You never know one day I may time it correctly so I can see inside the church of San Sebastian!