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All Around The Mediterranean:
The Southern Atlantic Route
The Atlantic Islands
The Spanish Ports
Naples And Sicily
( Originally Published 1926 )
Many of the winter-cruise steamers make Cadiz a call on the route. I can give you nothing, of that, outside of what can he found in the esteemed Baedeker, not having been there. But, on the return voyage to New York from Marseilles, via Lisbon and the Azores, many of the one-cabin boats have a delightful and wholly casual way of putting in at some Spanish port not on the sailing calendar. In this way we saw four of them, Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia, and Denia.
The first is a handsome big Spanish city, but too civilized to attract any special attention. It might just as well be Marseilles or Lyons, the people in the usual European dress of the latest fashion, not even the peasant and coolie as individual as those of Lisbon. You will not see the market woman with a shouting shawl down her back and a little flat black derby on her head, on which to balance a basket of vegetables or a tray of live chickens, as in Lisbon. The steamer moors to a stone quay, and you walk ashore without formalities. A handsome esplanade leads to the tall column of Columbus, and thence a broad boulevard, shaded with plane trees, into the heart of the city.
Spain is expensive; the peseta changes at about seven to the dollar, and it hardly goes as far as the franc in France. The day we arrived, all the city and shipping seemed to be in gala attire in our honor. The royal arms of Spain hung in carpets of maroon and gold from every window, and the streets were crowded and the military very much out and about. However, no huzzahing thousands greeted our descent down the gangway, and we learned that it was all about Primo de Ribera, who was visiting Barcelona that day. A parade of some two hundred thousand of the citizenry followed, all in their lodge uniforms, while overhead soared fleets of aeroplanes. and dirigibles. Ribera made a speech from the base of the Columbus column, and then we, with all the rest of Barcelona, paraded up the esplanade to see him off to the railway station. After which, a tour through the very fine gardens with their fountains and casino.
Baedeker says that the cathedral Ind the various museums of. fine arts and archaeology are the things to see. The cathedral lies a short distance in from that big boulevard, up near the Land la Boquer, and the museums adjoin the park before mentioned. They were closed because of Ribera's visit the day we were there, but there is time to see them, and all Barcelona besides, in one day's stop of the steamer. We took on thousands of casks of olive oil and cinnabar ore. The cargoes at these casual ports interest me; like our loadings of thousands of bales of cork from the Lisbon lighters. The romance of Commerce is there, and it extends down to inconceivably tiny boats. One lay off the ship with only six crates in it, its crew of two lying peacefully asleep in the sun for hours. About five in the evening its captain's turn at the winch came; he was unloaded, came aboard for his receipt, and hoisted sail for departure. Commerce, literally in a nut-shell!
Malaga is more interesting, from a tourist's standpoint. There the male natives wear the tall Catalonian hat, and the senoras their veils and mantillas. The market is one blaze of color, and from it the narrow streets are jammed with noisy humanity. Wandering like a ship in a squall through that typically Spanish crowd, one felt all the joys of Balboa. There are the fine cathedral and the parks to see. The Paseo de Alfonso XIII is particularly well laid out. One should not miss a foot of it under its avenues of palms. Every park decoration is Moorish as Fez, tile in abundance, the slender twisted column, the ornate Moorish arch. Decidedly an improvement on Barcelona; but we had to hunt the town through to find a typical Spanish wine jug, with its long spout for pouring the precious fluid into. the mouth. Malaga regards that as archaic and uses the prosaic bottle and glass.
While the winter-cruise steamers generally arrange an optional side trip—Algeciras, Granada, Malaga—which can be enjoyed while the ship is steaming along the coast from Gibraltar to Malaga, it may happen that you have two days at your disposal in Malaga. This in particular happens with the one-class ships, with their casual habit of dropping into a Spanish port for one or two days to take on olive oil, sardines, almonds, and cinnabar ore in barrels. As the distance from Malaga to Granada is hardly a hundred miles, it is well to take the train and go. I would engage a guide in Malaga, some one reliable whom the exchange bank can recommend, for Spanish trains are queer things and it is hard to get about not knowing a word of the language. The railroad station is reached by tram or car, or you can walk it via the Paseo de la Alameda and the Tetuan bridge (about half a mile). 'You reach Granada at the Andalucian Station and engage a car direct for the Alhambra, as there will be little time to see anything else. It is that grim-looking fortress on the hill to the south, across the deep gorge of the Darro, plain as a wall outside, as are all Moorish constructions. But inside is another matter; here are courts and columns and tile and faience fretwork in such gorgeous profusion as is seen nowhere else, the apotheosis of Moorish art. You will be shown the Court of the Lions, the grand court of the pool (Platio de la Alberca), the Salon of the Ambassadors, the gardens, the numerous Moorish side salons, and the rather fatiguing Palacio de Carlos V. I shall not attempt any description of the glories of the Alhambra; it is like Niagara; too much talk about it is apt to end in disappointment. If you are an artist you will get the thrill, and will wander about dazed with the lavish intricacy and exuberant architectural fantasy here revealed.
If there is time, descend to the Generalife, one of our curious corruptions of the Arabic, Jenan-al-Arif or Garden of the Arif. It is one of the finest examples of a Moorish palace and garden extant. See first the palace and then the garden above it to the east.
On the way back to the station there will be time for a visit to the cathedral, the royal chapel (Capilla de los Reyes), and the Alameda in Granada itself. The brilliantly colored houses of the town with their Spanish blaze of awnings and tilework are fascinating. Get into the patio of a fine Spanish house, if the guide can arrange it for you. It is a triumph of semi-tropical luxury, that patio with its fountains and flowers, and the walls of the building surrounding it in typical Spanish style. If there is still time before the night train, the sights yet to see are the Paseo del Salon, the Bibarrambla, and the Plaza de Rodriguez Bolivar. You can hardly miss most of these, as a matter of fact, in the car drive itself, to and from the Alhambra. -
We steamed into El Grao, the port of Valencia, one sunny day in May and dropped anchor amid the crowded shipping. Spanish boat-men come to take you off to the water gate at a peseta go and return. You land at a wide square at the foot of the Alameda, and the first thing to do is to take tram No. 2 or 8 to Valencia, which is three miles inland. The Alameda is but a wide boulevard of plane trees and is uninteresting, but in time we cross the Guadalquivir river over a bridge and are in one of the most picturesque and colorful cities in Spain.
You pass various handsome modern government buildings and two fine semitropical parks, but my advice is to stay on, and get off at the turn of the main street where is an old Moorish-Gothic campanile of the church of the Two Johns. Right near is a kiosk, where they sell for a peseta a very good map of the town, with all its principal public buildings printed on it where located. And then go exploring.
Your first steps will be to the cathedral "La Leo," Our Lady of the Desamparados, built in 1459. It has a dome typical of Valencia, in gorgeous dark-blue vitrified tile (one of the industries of the place) and the interior is typically Spanish, with the choir occupying all the center of the nave and blocking all effects of distance—but it will make up for it with the rolling organ tones and the religious pomp and parade always going on in a Spanish church. The apse is very fine—great height, sunlight through stained glass windows far aloft, fine mural paintings, up where the eye looks in adoration. Ask to see the fine fifteenth century sculpture and metal work in this cathedral.
Its campanile is isolated and is to be seen with the archbishop's palace better around back of the church, where is a square to give you some distance. At the end of that little square is a fine vista up the street to one of the two old towered gates still standing. This one is of square-brick towers and once joined with the heavy wall that ran around the city following the bend of the river. Beyond it is a fine promenade park, where all Valencia turns out after the siesta, but we turn back and regain our kiosk as a starting point. From here a short walk west brings you to the silk exchange, an astonishing old Moorish-Gothic guildhall, date 1482, with high roof supported on numerous slender columns. At first you think it must be some kind of monkery converted to a sort of stock exchange, for the brokers are there and busy. But there will be an old fellow about, and he will show you more wonders, the spiral staircase and guild rooms, all in gold and ornamentation that is a glory for the eye. Some-thing memorable to take away from Valencia!
Continuing, we follow the street to the second of Valencia's ancient gates, that of the Torres del Cuarte. You must go out the gate to see them, as the rear side is nothing but brickwork. But once outside imagination runs riot. All scarred with musketoon and cannon balls are these old round towers. You have but to shut your eyes to see the town taken and re-taken by the Moors, taken at last by the Christians under El Cid in 1094, defending itself against our old friend Khair ed Din, when Charles V was king and had built the Citadel because of that very gentleman of the Algerian galleys-of-war.
Since we are in the mood for history because of this old towered gate, let us recall that Valencia is very old; was founded by Junius Brutus in 158 B.C. with a colony of the soldiers of Viriathus, was ravaged by Pompey in 75 B.C. because it sided against him, and was taken by the Visigoths in 413. After that came the inevitable Moors, who took it in 714, and, after the fall of Cordova, set up the independent kingdom of Valencia here. That was in 1021, and it lasted until the Almoravides, starting from their desert near Figuig, reached and took it in 1094 as the climax of a conquest that included all Morocco and half Spain. In 1172 it became tributary to Aragon and has been as Spanish as Spain ever since.
Its principal industries are silk and colored tiles. The things that make Valencia still picturesque to-day are those numerous Moorish-Gothic palaces and churches and campaniles that dot the city, with their colored-tile domes and airy minarets—surely campaniles of North African descent—that rise up out of its modern streets into the blue sky of Spain overhead. A delightful town, Valencia; and it has a good provincial gallery with paintings by Velasquez, Ribera, Goya, etc., in it. I like Valencia—and of course they were singing the jazz song of its name in the streets while we were there.
It was Denia that showed us primitive Spain. One hot glassy morning in June, we awoke to see land out of our portholes, and the ship at anchor in a wide roadstead surrounded by an amphitheater of bare red Spanish mountains. And, on shore, a sleepy little Spanish town with a great castle on a hill above it, and huge winged feluccas sailing out through the break-water for us. It was Denia, founded in the sixth century before Christ by the Phocean Greeks of Marseilles. Here they built an exact replica of the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, which gave the place its name. Ragged teeth of ruined battlements on shore told of seven centuries of Moorish occupation. The castle on the hill dated from Roman times, and be-came a great fortification in the seventeenth century when it withstood siege after siege during the wars of the Spanish Succession.
Here was all the history of the civilized world written in that one little town. What has Denia not seen? And history of the present was being written in those feluccas coming out to us, for they are the identical ones that Sorolla painted and made known to the world through his blazing canvases.
They came alongside, loaded to the guards with crates of white Spanish onions. There was much shouting between the bridge and the genial and stubby-bearded pirates on board. The huge yards were lowered on deck by triple block tackles that ran up the forward-slanting masts. Mooring lines were heaved. Ragged and muscular rascals, with nothing on them but a pair of trousers and a kerchief about the fore-head, secured them and then swung up in both hands the porous white drinking jugs that pour a stream at large through a spout. Expert were they at it; not a nose hit, always a bearded mouth to catch the stream! And so to work. A felucca about ten feet long came drifting out. The occupant was without doubt a more ragged pirate than any yet seen, but he bore letters for the captain and him I approached with the question, "A terre? Quanta costa?" We agreed on one peso per person and were sailed ashore. Old Spain, at last; a sleepy boulevard of dusty tamarind trees, leading to a small town with the usual picturesque market in full blast.
"Oh, this is nothing; you should see Granada and Seville !" said the World Traveler of our party, and headed back for the ship. Perhaps; for those who have not eyes to see, but we preferred Spain to Granada and Seville. And it was here, in all its unchanged primitiveness. My artist better half, who has the merit of al-ways knowing exactly what she wants, made a dive into the first crockery shop. Here was everything that is the daily life of Spain, rows and rows of glass wine jugs, from big fellows for country vintages to little ones for cordials, white pottery ollas, porous water jugs of graceful shapes and all sizes, immense floppy straw hats, basketry, copper cooking utensils, all that goes to make a Spanish kitchen on the farm. We bought plunder without end, until I began to hold tight to my pesos. But the bill added up to only one peso, ninety centavos,--about thirty-seven cents !
We visited the cathedral, and were chased out of there by an indignant priest, who pointed out a large sign warning the world that ladies with short skirts and bare arms would be summarily ejected. Now -we knew why the senoritas,pull on those long black lace sleeves above their gloves, and why they slip into a priceless drapery of more black lace over their modern skirts before venturing to go near the padre !
But there was compensation, for outside the cathedral was something much more interesting, one single marble stone of the Temple of Diana, now built into the steps of the church. That slender stone bridge to the past recalled to us a Denia that once had fifty thousand inhabitants, and that did its full share in spreading Greek culture and art and philosophy around the shores of Our Sea. It was only one of a chain of such towns—bordering the shores of Spain, the Riviera, Italy north and south of Latium (where the warlike farmers lived) Sicily, and Egypt. The Phoenicians could have the rest of North Africa if they liked. They never stirred out of their ships except to build a town like Carthage. and never made any lasting impression on the hinterland. Greece could afford to wait.
We come out of this dream to wander at will in the shade of the Spanish houses of Denia. Romance greets us over a Spanish fan, hazel eyes, half hid under a drooping mantilla. And many tall and beautiful girls with gray eyes walking like queens, barelegged, barefooted, no veil, but a stunning kerchief. Whence came they? Direct descendants of the Visigoths of Alaric, if I may venture an opinion!
Malaga has only one thing that Denia has not, and that is a smart cafe, divided in two, and one side bearing the stern inscription, "Caballeros unaccompanied by senoritas may not enter here." For all that, a married man can; and, in the ladies' side, we saw those same senoritas flirting with vigor with the handsome officers seated outside the glass panes at the cafe tables. There is no such place in Denia—too small—nor a single drinking glass outside of the hotel. The spouting wine jug rules here. This hotel, howeyer, is a very good one, kept by a Frenchman from Cette. We had there a typical Spanish table d'hote : chicken with peppers and tomatoes, okra soup, onions disguised in some fashion, pomegranates, a smooth and wholly delightful Spanish wine.
And here an extraordinary thing happened; an Englishman at a near-by table actually had the hardihood to come over and introduce him-self. Knowing well the British horror of ever by any chance making advances to barbarians, I nearly collapsed. It seemed that he had mistaken me for a man he was expecting from Valencia about fruit. But, the insular ice once having been broken, he went on to invite. us to see the town with him. We met the Collins family, manager of all the vast English jam and apricot industry of which Denia is the port. A place of big concrete floors, where raisins and apricots are sorted and packed, of jam machinery where the fresh fruit is boiled down and tinned, of donkey trains without number coming in from the inierior, their basket panniers laden with fresh apricots. We Rent to tea at the Collins villa. called up the governor of the castle, and where duly escorted up there to see it. The vast fortifications cover acres, now canonises; but from Roman times it has been a place of martial affairs. It was taken, at last, by the combined Spanish and British fleets. It had been held for over a year's siege by a French garrison (1813). When there were only three of them left, the doughty three got tired of loading and firing one gun after another and surrendered with the honors of war—all on their side, I should say ! Fancy those three men marching out to stack arms before the marines of two entire fleets !
Denia is, however, our stepping stone to the Greek Mediterranean. From now on we will see more and more of it; for the home city, Massilia, is not far away. And beyond it lies Nice, and then Neapolis on the ankle of Italy, beyond them Syracuse, Cnossus, and Alexandria. Six hundred years before Christ, all this was Greek colonia, with the temples and altar fires and art and philosophy that set the pace for us all of to-day. It is with an eye to this heritage of Greek culture that makes the Mediterranean Our Sea, even in America, that we will continue the voyage. Not until Constantinople will we come in touch with Moslem art and ideas once more.