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Published: April 8th 2018
We walked through the pouring rain in early morning Jerez. The streets were quiet. The population was sleeping off the late night start to Holy Week. We boarded the train for Cadiz, which had few passengers on this early start on a Sunday morning. Despite 90% of the seats being empty, we found our compulsory reservations occupied by 2 American seaman who appeared to have been on an alight bender in Seville. As both appeared worse for wear and alternative seats were in plentiful supply, we sat elsewhere. The ticket conductor never appeared and our interlopers left the train a few stops before Cadiz.
The rain continued to lash down. The approach to the city featured Peurta Real, from where Jerez exported their sherry in the day. As the railway station was underground, it was impossible to see the modern day port to assess further. The remaining views of the edge of mainland Spain were of bleak, non-descript industrial estates and cranes from nearby docks. If you look at a map, the approach to Cadiz is across a narrow causeway. The land to either side of the train tracks was initially a scene of muddy ponds. It was
clearly a man-made landscape, but the purpose eludes me. At the narrowest part of the strip of land, the views either side were of 2 extremes. Flat calm on the mainland side and roaring breakers crashing in from the Atlantic on the other. The miles of golden sand reminded me of home, but as with home the weather meant there would be no sun worshippers laid out here for the foreseeable. The first station in the city was also underground. I was therefore unable to get a feel for the football stadium adjacent. I had initially been hoping to catch the Cadiz top of the table clash in the Segunda Division, but had been foiled by the needs of TV moving the game to a Monday night with a 9 pm kick off. I was mildly annoyed, but I suspect not as much as the opposition from Huesca. If any of their fans had chosen to watch the game further afield than their local bar, they would be faced with a 1030 kilometre drive home - even without delays, that is a 9 1/2 hour flat out drive. It shows that TV is actually running football everywhere without any consideration
Plaza De Espana, Cadiz
1812 Constitution Monument
for the fans.
The good news was that the rain had ceased on arrival into Cadiz central. The railway station where the trains arrive is new, but the old sections and platform areas remain just beyond. It looks like there was a plan for redevelopment within the old buildings, although the man with the money had clearly deserted the project. I waited patiently for a map, whilst the staff member successfully sold 2 tickets on the hop on hop off bus. The narrow streets of the city do not exactly lend themselves to an open top double decker bus, but each to their own. I got my map, having successfully avoided being the next sale. The city of Cadiz is recognised as the oldest inhabited settlement in Europe founded in 1100 BC by the Phoenicians. "Gadir" as it was known was then subsequently occupied by all the major civilisations, who realised the trading importance of this peninsula of land at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and as it turned out - the Americas. The confines of the geography means that Cadiz is actually quite a small city. Whilst being the capital of the province, in population terms it is
dwarfed by Jerez. The lack of available land has seen development originally in the form of narrow cluttered streets, with a high rise density of population. The port lies on the landward side near the railway station, protected from the worst of the Atlantic weather. Once the monopoly of trade for the Americas had been stripped from Seville, Cadiz was in prime spot to capitalise and became the main naval port of the Spanish fleet. We had seen the huge former Royal Tobacco Factory in Seville and one of the first buildings spotted on the way out of the railway station is the Cadiz version.
A favourite view of Cadiz and the most high profile landmark is the Cathedral. We stumbled across a parade for Palm Sunday, as we wandered in the general direction. The Cathedral was completed in 1260 and burned down in 1596. The reconstruction, which did not start until nearly 200 years later, was supervised by the same architect who also built the Granada Cathedral. Alas, he never finished the job. It took 116 years to finally come up with the finished article and thus it contains many different exterior styles and doesn’t look
like it is a good fit.
After the Phoenicians, the Romans settled here and one of their finest monuments is tucked away down the backstreets near the Cathedral. The Amphitheatre was apparently only discovered in 1980, having been built over for several centuries. It was allegedly one of the larger amphitheatres in the whole Roman empire and could seat 20,000 people, which makes it even more bizarre that it laid undisturbed for all those years. The jumbled streets of Cadiz are generally quite confusing. Narrow lanes, twists and turns and hidden courtyards. The port area is largely devoid of population and apparently the majority of the population is squeezed into less than 2 square miles. In retrospect, it makes it easier to understand how the Roman ruins remained hidden for centuries.
The Moorish rule of the city is hard to detect and the only real obvious architecture influence was to be found in the theatre. The Moors were around for about 500 years until removed by Alphonso X in 1262.The Gran Teatro Falla looks like it has Moorish roots, but was only completed in 1905. It was renamed in honour of local composer, Manuel
De Falla, in 1926. As indicated earlier, Cadiz benefited from the relaxation of Seville’s grip on trade with the Americas. Christopher Columbus sailed from Cádiz on his second and fourth voyages and the city grew rich on the back of the teasures brought back by the fleet. The wealth attracted the enemies of Spain, which contributed towards the destruction of the Cathedral. In April 1587, a raid by the Englishman, Francis Drake occupied the harbour for three days. He captured six ships and destroyed 31 others. The event became known in England at least as 'The Singeing of the King of Spain's Beard" and ultimately caused Spain to delay the dispatch of their Armada to English shores. Drake was able to play a few more games of bowls undisturbed.
Whilst the above attack grabbed all the headlines, Cadiz suffered a more serious attack in 1596. The Earls of Essex and Nottingham came to pay a visit this time and destroyed 32 ships, as well as occupying the city for the best part of a month. A ransom was demanded for the safe return of the city, but once the demand had been refused, it was torched before
the eventual withdrawal. The English were back again in 1625, but failed to take the city on this occasion. The city was subsequently blockaded on and off over the rest of the century. The hostilities resumed during the Napoleonic Wars and large periods of the first few years of the 19th
century saw blockades by the British. Cadiz became one of the few Spanish cities to hold out during this period and was installed as seat of Government. The new liberal Spanish Constitution was proclaimed in 1812, which is widely celebrated in the current names of city landmarks. We wandered on to the Tavira Tower via the City Market – closed as it was Sunday – and the fantastic looking Post Office building. An impromptu street market occupied the square. The Tavira Tower was just round the corner and houses another Camera Obscura. After our visit to Jerez, we are now clocking up the visits to them. At the height of the power of Cadiz, there were over 150 towers in the city. The local merchants used them to look out to sea for their returning merchant ships and as such, they formed part of their houses. The Torre Tavira
named for its original owner, stands as the tallest remaining watchtower on the highest point of the city above sea level. We paid for a visit 6 Euros, which included the camera obscura tour. The views from the tower platform give a 360 degrees panorama over the core city. The other towers can be seen dotted around, as well as the key landmarks of the Cathedral and the new 1812 bridge back on to the mainland. We descended and headed to the Atlantic extremities of the port city. The University of Cadiz was locked up, as was the Gran Teatro Falla. The Park Genovese at the very end was full of exotic plants and trees, some of which they say were brought back Columbus. The peace and quiet was broken by a group of school children on some sort of trip. The city walls at this point are quite imposing. The Atlantic breakers smash into the base below. We considered some lunch in the Plaza De Mina, but moved on after an assessment of the “tourist” prices being suggested in the menus. We chanced upon a much more local alternative off the Calle Antonio Lopez on Calle Isabel La Catolica.
Bar Tito might not not sound Spanish, but it was a locals hang out. There was no English spoken or menu translation. Freshly prepared tapas and Estrella Galicia on tap. Whilst we even managed to get a plate we hadn't ordered in the confusion, it was rated as the best tapas of the three city trip. It had the added bonus of being just round the corner from the Museum of Cadiz - free entry, but be sure to have a Euro coin for the compulsory locker. It was mainly full of ancient archeological finds and statues - a bit pots and pans, as the Man in the Middle would describe it - but worth a short distraction. The upstairs art gallery section featured a lot of religious paintings by well known Spanish artists. It wasn't our thing really - give us a Lowry anyday.
The sun had come out now and it was really quite humid. A cooling breeze was blowing in by the shore. The Gardens of Almeda Alpodaca featured a series of busts and statues, one presumed of great Cadiz citizens of the past and some rather large trees. The Plaza de España is
a large square close by and in contrast to the other narrow streets that dominate is very expansive. It is home to the Monument of the Constitution of 1812. A space was cleared inside the old city walls for a new square to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the liberal proclaimation in Cadiz. The work apparently started in 1912 and took 17 years to complete. The finished article is quite impressive. The port is just beyond, but was largely devoid of activity. The other monument to 1812 stands as the second crossing or bridge back to the mainland. The Constitution of 1812 Bridge also known as La Pepa, is supposedly the highest in Europe. The central 540 metre section stands 69 metres above the bay to allow ships to pass in and was meant to be finished in 2012 to mark the 200th anniversary of the Constitution. It eventually opened 3 years late. As we wandered back round by the Cathedral again, the crowds were swelling. Cadiz was lining up for their Easter parades. We caught the train back to Jerez.
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