Frigiliana – Visiting Andalusia’s Pueblos Blancos
We’ve spent the past few days in the town of Nerja on the Costa del Sol and are now headed into the Andalusian mountains to visit one of the pueblos blancos or ‘white towns’ that the region is famous for. Frigiliana is not far from Nerja and is reckoned to be one the prettiest of these. White towns are named for the obvious fact that all the buildings are whitewashed and from a distance they gleam a bright white against the arid earth tone colours of the mountain countryside. This is Frigiliana from the highway that leads up from Nerja.
One might ask the question of why the people would choose to locate themselves high up in the mountainsides rather than on the more fertile coastline where access to the sea provides an abundance of seafood as well as whatever can be grown on the land. Well just like in the song One Tin Soldier, the mountain people were afraid of what might come from below, whether it be marauding pirates or invading Moors. Up high the people of Frigiliana could see danger coming from a long way off and prepare. That’s just what happened in 1569 when the Moors, ostensibly finally defeated by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, rose up in a bloody rebellion that ended just outside Frigiliana. The remnants of an old tower, where the last of the rebels holed up, is visible above the town and I’m now regretting that we are only here for a short visit and won’t be able to climb up to see it up close.
While there are paved roads up to these white towns, not surprisingly they are best explored on foot as most of the streets are really just alleyways too narrow for cars. There are also a lot of steps. We park the little VW Panda close to what appears to be a fairly major set of steps and start out. Frigiliana is just as becoming up close as it is from a distance. It is immaculately clean with many small gardens interspaced wherever there is room. The steps are inlaid with mosaic designs and in places you can see where the houses have been built right over the mountain rock. Look at the lower left hand house in this picture for an example.
Although Frigiliana is a tourist destination, the buses that bring visitors up from Nerja and Malaga stop at the main plaza and just about 100% of the passengers are content to shop for souvenirs or sit at one of the cafes, never bothering to climb the stairs. The higher we go the fewer people we encounter.
The Ceramic Murals
One of the things that makes the walk interesting and breaks up the stair climbing are the frequent ceramic murals that depict events from the town’s history, particularly the resistance to the Moors. This one describes the defeat of the Morisco revolt by a force led by Luis de Requesons at the Battle of Penon. All told there are twelve ceramic panels throughout Frigiliana and looking for them certainly makes for an interesting way to explore the town.
Other pleasant surprises included this unusual little machine which was embedded in a wall on a street near the top of the town. It’s called a Harem Fantastico. You put in a euro coin and the curtains part to reveal the harem ladies dancing in a circle. Why it’s here I have no idea, but it’s just one of those whimsical things you might come across if you step off the beaten path.
The walk to the top of Frigiliana is rewarded by fantastic views of the Andalusian countryside all the way down to the Mediterranean.
There was an open terrace that invited sitting on to get a shot with Frigiliana in the background.
We returned to the main Frigiliana plaza for a well deserved cerveza where I couldn’t help but notice this sign. Yes, Black Friday has even made its way into the Andalusian hill towns.
The pride of place in Frigiliana even extended to the manhole covers which contain the town’s coat of arms. It’s actually a pretty niece piece of artwork. I can just imagine the uproar if one dared to suggest spending money on decorative manhole covers in my home city.
Near the plaza there was an art collective that seemed to have some pretty nice items for sale that were made locally, but I have to confess that I settled for a fridge magnet.
Returning to Nerja I contemplated returning to Frigiliana for a longer stay. There appears to be splendid hiking in the area with lots of natural and historical sites to be visited. Maybe I will climb up to that tower someday and if I can’t, maybe you will.