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Thursday, January 03, 2008

New Year's Day 2008

1 January 2008

We had planned to go to a big New Year’s Eve party beginning at 9 PM and ending at 5 AM. But the day before we learned that the restaurant in which it was being held, normally predominantly non-smoking, would become totally smoking permitted “por esta noche”. Being committed non-smokers and not very appreciative of cigarette smoke we decided, after much soul searching, to opt out. Instead we went to the restaurant the night before for our own pre-New Year’s New Year and enjoyed a delicious sole dinner.

That meant that on 1 January we were the first people up on a beautiful day. We spent the morning reading. (5994

In the afternoon we hiked, strolled along the cliff tops some 5 km to the town of Roche where we enjoyed an ocean-side beer.

Five km back to Cabo Roche where we spotted un hombre celebrating New Year’s Day by going surf fishing. (6002)

Feliz Año Nuevo y Prospero Año a todo el mundo.

Medina Sedonia

29 December 2007

There has been a town at Medina Sedonia for over 3000 years. The Phoenicians were the first to leave some trace and the Roman town Asido Caesarina was constructed over the Phoenician settlements on top of Cerro del Castillo (Castle Hill) 300 meters above the surrounding plain. Like Vejer de la Frontera (December 2007), and so many other historic towns, a hilltop location meant easier defence against thieves, brigands and invading armies.

Under Visigoth rule, Medina was the capital of the province and from the 5th century the centre of the Christianity for the region. Invaded by the Moors in 712 it became the capital of Cora and was known as Sadunia.

It was reconquered by King Alfonso X el Sabio (the Wise) in 1264, becoming part of the Nazarí Kingdom of Granada. In the 14th century the area became part of the fiefdom of the Dukes of Medina Sedonia and remained such until the ending of the feudal age in Spain in 1812.

There are very limited remains of these periods. Although from afar it looks as though there is a substantial structure on the hilltop, the Duke’s castle is in complete ruins, much of the stonework having been carted off. While its location was strategic and defensible, it has not protected against the ravages of wind, weather, time and the population.

There are 30 excellent catacombs from the Roman period that served as a drainage and sewer system. (medina roman sewers)

The most impressive artefact in the town is the church Santa Maria la Mayor de la Coronada. After the Christian reconquest in 1264 the mosque on the site was Christianized and adapted into a Mudejar (Moorish) style church. The persent church was constructed between 1500 and 1550 in a mix of Gothic and Mudejar styles. Its size and grandeur was due in part to the intent of the then Duke of Medina Sedonia to turn his dukedom into the definitive seat of the diocese. He contributed significantly to the costs.

The roof in particular shows Mudejar styling and structure.

The bell tower or steeple was sometime in construction and was completed only in 1623. It has a square foundation with 3 sections above. The first and second are the largest and are decorated with depressed mouldings on the 4 sides.

The third section holds the bells and has round arch-based windows, finished off with a wide balustrade with superimposed balls for ornamental tops on the corners.

The tower is crowned by an octagonal cap with a semicircular arcade covered by a small dome covered in blue and white glazed tiles.

A seemingly endless climb up the spiral staircase to the top of the tower gives access to the bells and to stupendous views of the town, the countryside and the Bay of Cádiz.

The Cloister, with a square floor plan, was built by the end of the 15th century in a Gothic-Mudejar style. The gallery around its perimeter is covered by a barrel vault, supported on stilted arches bonded by thick buttresses. Constructed with bricks, which emphasizes the

Mudejar style, the cloister met the community’s spiritual needs for meditation and retirement. The space is symbolically related to paradise.

In the 1500’s altars were decorated for teaching purposes with the main mysteries and biblical themes of the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

This altarpiece features Santa Maria de la Coronada.

Fifteen meters high and 6.8 wide, the entire altarpiece consists of 168 images, 80 of them full-length, 29 smaller and the remainder are raised patterns. Forty columns support the different biblical stories.

In 1774 the church organist, trying to clean the images, tarnished them. Not a very fitting treatment for a work of art that took 51 years to complete (1533-1584).

The church boasts a number of altars, one of which was being used as the focal point of a baptism during our visit. The most unusual one was the Altar of Cristo del Perdón . It is a mystical representation, not an historic one based on biblical text and shows Christ going to heaven to ask for the forgiveness of human beings and their failures. His only fulcrum, to symbolically support his plea, is the world on which his knee rests.

So let’s leave Medina Sedonia, not looking up to heaven but down these staircases as a reminder that this is a hilltop city, and like life it has its up and its downs.

Baelo Claudia - Part 2 - Self-Guided Tour

This is Part 2 – for Part 1 on Baelo Claudia scroll down.

Access to these ruins is easy. Just watch for these cattle and the San Bartolomé Hills when heading southeast on Highway N 340, turn right and go 8 miles through the Bolonia Pass (keep these hills on your left and the Higuera and Plata Mountain Ranges on your right) and at Bolonia follow signs to the site. Now wasn’t that easy?

The cove at Bolonia is on the Spanish entrances to the Strait of Gibraltar and the area is still abundant in a variety of permanent and migratory fish stocks, the most important of which is tuna which migrate twice a year through the straits to spawn in the Mediterranean and then return to the Atlantic. This gave rise to the fish salting industry of the Roman period, mentioned in Part 1. The dependence on fish, cattle and grains is also evident in the coinage shown in Part 1 with its depictions of cows, fish and ears of wheat. This 1st century AD lead anchor found in the cove is also evidence of maritime activity.

Once in the parking lot it is a short walk to the outstanding displays in the Information Center. Some of those are in Part 1. It takes a good hour to fully view the displays which provide a good orientation to the site and its history. This charming little (about 2.5” tall) Terracotta Gladiator, mold-cast in the 1st century AD, is also on display.

The lower floor of the center leads to the city ruins via a walk leading past the aqueduct remains seen in Part 1 and then along the side of the city to the eastern gate.

The nearby salting industrial site is pictured in part 1. Tuna was the mainstay but other species were also fished in the area and processed here. Once in the factory the fins were removed. The head, intestines, semen, eggs, and blood were also removed and saved for the production of garum. The fish were then cut into cubical or spherical pieces and lacerated so that the salt would easily penetrate. These were then piled in basins, alternating layers of fish and salt, and left for 20 days curing. The cured fish were placed in clay amphorae and closed with a clay disc and then stored to await transport.

The garum, was a highly prized and expensive sauce used with all types of foods. It was also used as a curative for burns, in enemas to fight intoxications, against ulcers and to alleviate dysentery. It was made with the byproducts: intestines, throats, fauces, hypogastria, blood etc. of tuna, moray eel, mackerel and sturgeon. Small fish like anchovies were also added. Left in brine in the sun for 2 or 3 months to cure this must have produced some interesting smells. The nearby housing (to the right) must have been permeated with the smell of fish. (106-113)

Almost 100 meters directly uphill and across the 2000 year old main street (seen in part1) is the forum, a key element in the Roman city. The administrative and legal center and to some extent religious center it was also a place for networking and meetings and where commercial agreements would be undertaken. In the foreground is the well-preserved Basilica with the rest of the Forum in the back. The entire Forum is 115 by 87 meters.(69)

The Basilica was the courthouse of the period where the local magistrates would hear cases in small civil and mercantile matters. The governor and his council judged higher cases. Constructed on the south of the Forum on the main street between 50 and 60 AD, the Basilica was two storied and occupies a space 38.5 by 19 meters, quite large for a city of 2000, so it probably served a hinterland as well.

Remnants of the 30.4 by 23.1 meters macellum (market) can be seen to the left of and beyond the Basilica. Its main façade opened on the main street. Built between the 1st century BC and about 50 BC it housed the city’s artisans as well as retail shops for fish and other foods. (92-96)

A monumental statue of the Emperor Trajan “presided” over the administration of justice. The original is in the museum at Cádiz and this copy presides over the visiting public today.

The Basilica has 20 Ionic colonnades like these that divide the space into one large central nave and two narrower ones on either side. (97-102)

It is thought that not all the Baths at Baelo Claudia have been excavated since the one that has is too small to serve a city this size in all the functions of a Roman baths: hygiene, massage, exercise, meeting and networking. This bath has not yet been fully excavated but the basic functions can be seen. The bather entered by way of a room with tubs of cold water, proceeded next to be spread with oils, and scratched with strigils to stimulate circulation. Then it was on to the tepid room where the body was warmed enough to move on to the hot bath chamber for real sweating. To finish, the process was reversed, ending in the cold room – frigidarium. (88-91)

The theatre, located about 100 meters above the Baths, was built in the 1st century AD and seems to have been in use for 2-3 centuries. Typically the Roman city financed the construction of some sort of venue for the entertainment of the population, at a minimum a theatre for the performance of tragedies, comedies and mimes. Although the origins of the Roman theatre can be traced to the Greek, but in the Roman model the Chorus (the circular area where the chorus performed) was limited to a semicircle contained within the overall semicircular structure of the theatre. The straight side of the semicircle was enclosed by a 2 storey stage set.

At Baelo Claudia the theatre is a relatively small 67 meters across the semicircle and 49 meters front to back. Even this area would have provided seating in excess of the city’s needs again suggesting that the city served a hinterland. The exterior walls are 2.7 meters thick and have 7 vaulted openings of varying widths around the perimeter allowing access to the seating without the need for circulation corridors under the stands. Here part of the bench seating has been paved with concrete to stabilize the area while the lower seating remains can be seen.

The large rectangular loggias, one at each end of the theatre, are pierced by 3 vaults to lighten their load.

This shows some of the detail of the seating and two of the entrances.

Dominating the Forum on its higher side was the capitolium consisting of the 3 classic temples of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. These 3 independent buildings were separated from each other by narrow corridors. Situated above the Forum in this way they “establish symbolically and physically the per-eminence of the gods over daily life” in the Roman city. (80)

In the 1st century BC cults of eastern origins began to be followed within the Roman empire. “Isis in Egyptian mythology was the wife of Osiris and victor over the night powers. Worshipped widely in the classic world, she came to be considered the Origin of the Universal Female, goddess over all goddesses.” (77) This city boasted a temple to Isis built about 80 AD. Covering an area 29.85 by 17.7 meters, it was completely enclosed by a wall, supporting the theme of secretive mystery which closed its ritual ceremonies to all but the initiated. Again located at height, it is beside the theatre and above the 3 classic temples of the capitolium.

The end of the self-guided tour is at hand and now you’ll have to get back to the highway by keeping the San Bartolomé Hills on your right and the mountains on your left – but you’ve been down that road before. So just before your departure let’s see how well we have captured the essence of a Roman city on the periphery of the Empire by quoting this lengthy excerpt on the “Urbanism of Baelo Claudia”. (53-54)

For the citizens of Rome the city was much more than an agglomeration of housing organized to a greater or lesser measure one alongside another. The city was conceived only when the possibility existed for a series of conscious elements of collective life: temples, assembly or meeting spaces, public institutions, permanent and free services such as public fountains, etc.

This special conception of what is urban comes from understanding the city – the Urbe, that is so say Rome – ultimately as a sacred precinct, protected by gods and as such a space not only physical but also symbolic where each citizen identified with the collective conscience that pertained to a town. Upon reproducing the image of Rome and as much as possible its institutions, the sanctuaries, the public buildings, the tribunals, etc., each city of the Empire, as distant as it might be from the Urbe, participated also in this sacred and collective character.

In effect, the same concept of the city of an essentially religious and spiritual nature demarcated by the “premium,” the city limit, normally defined by the walls, and layout, at least ideally, of the plough line at the founding moment. It was a sacred space, and, therefore, according to the special mentality of the Roman people, it was a legal space. The Law ruled the functioning of the city, and the urban magistrates were intimately connected to the most profound conceptions, and at the same time routine daily life, of the citizenry.

These concepts, repeated in the same way throughout the entire area under the sovereignty of Rome, became one of the most essential structures for the unification of the empire. Definitively, urbanism “was not at that time an abstract, purely technical art.” Its purpose was to give material definition to the essentially abstract and spiritual reality that made up the Urbe.

Finally, it is important to highlight that the spiritual and symbolic character of the Roman city made it a great honour for the important families of each locality to construct the public buildings at their cost, or a least their enlargement, restoration, etc. On other occasions they tried to place beautifying elements on their streets and plazas, such as statues, porticos, triumphal arches, etc. The magistrates elected by the town demonstrated in this way their thanks for the honour they received. The consequence of this patronage was, logically, the greater glory of the cities in the High Imperial period.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Baeolo Claudia - 1st Century AD - Part 1

27 December 2007

Baelo Claudia is 21 km north of Tarifa and about 30 km south of Conil de la Frontera. Not the largest Roman ruins in Spain, nor holding the most people in its heyday and with no spectacular buildings or statuary, it is nonetheless a very important archeological site. “The good general conservation of the ruins, their easy interpretation, the high environmental quality of its surroundings, and especially because in Baelo Claudia we can observe the majority of the fundamental aspects of classic Roman cities” are cited as the major reasons for its importance. (Baelo Claudia, Official Guide to the Archeological Site: Undated, available at site. 12) The other reasons we would give include its role as a port engaged in trade with ports such as Gades (Cádiz) to the north, Tingis (Tangiers) to the south in North Africa and Malaca (Málaga) to the east 50 miles inside the Mediterranean, its “industry”, and the stunning beauty of the location.

The town is mentioned in various documents of the Roman era but it is only in 1663 that the first modern reference is made when it is incorrectly described as being located in nearby Barbate (actually the site of the Roman town Mellaria). The site remains poorly identified in various supposed locations until the 1850’s when there is general agreement on the cove of Bolonia. The first archeological survey of note is conducted by a Belgian curate Jules Furgus in 1907 who publishes two articles in 1907 and 1908 in which he makes a couple of key errors. The first major excavations are conducted from 1917-1921 under the leadership of Pierre Paris. A scientific report was issued, due largely to the work of his assistants, between 1923-1926. (Baelo Claudia, 17-18)

As a result of these excavations, Spain in 1925 declared Baelo Claudia an Artistic Monument. But it fell into “official obscurity” and “between 1921 and 1964, the city did not figure as an object of any research project or conversation plan, with the exception of a few collectors and curiosity seekers who occasionally plundered the site”. (19)

With the advent of tourism in the area and the construction of a few small hotels in Bolonia, a relatively isolated coastal town with a narrow, then unpaved, 8 km road from the National Highway 340 that runs from Cádiz to Algeçiras, it became necessary to better protect the site. In 1966 systematic archeological excavations began once again, this time under the leadership of the French Institution of Spanish Studies – Casa de Velázquez. This work included the acquisition of private properties in Bolonia that had been built over the lower part of Baelo Claudia. Unfortunately some private holdings still intrude over the site (seen here at the upper left of the picture).

In recent years attention has been turned from large excavation work to “graphic documentation, the study of emerging architecture, and the publication of its results” (22) as well as excavations to support the conservation of the site. This unearthed “the intact pavement of the ‘Decumano Maximo”, the city’s principal street”. (23) Imagine hurrying down this street on the way to the market or to the basilica for your day in court (pillars on the left) 2000 years ago. Compare it to a leisurely exploratory stroll over these very same pavements today.

No evidence has been found of settlement of this site prior to the Roman period. Excavations here show the beginnings of settlement with a fish salting industry from about 200 BC to 30 BC. The site goes through a period of expansion from then until 41 AD. The first salting sites having been destroyed around 50-30 BC, they are rebuilt in an expanded form and an urban nucleus begins uphill. The apogee of the city’s development lies between 41-68 AD likely the period when Baleo became “a municipality of citizens with Roman rights, a circumstance for the appreciative inhabitants rechristen the city with the denomination “Claudia’” in recognition of Emperor Claudius. (33)

The city minted its own money from at least 101- 31 BC.

Statuary was added at the city gates and included in the theater in prominent places such as those where these representations of minor gods of intoxication in Greek mythology. Both have a wineskin from which water flowed into two basins in the wall of the theatre.

At this period important hydraulic infrastructure was provided with three aqueducts that provided water for the population and the fish salting industry.

Within the town water was distributed by systems of lead or ceramic pipes and sewage was carried off by a second system of piping.

The economic base of the city depended on fishing and the salting of fish (and some meats), the production of garum, made from fish heads and intestines (in great demand as a culinary sauce and in pharmacology) and the trade of these products with the cities noted above. For examples these products could be exchanged with Tingis (Tangiers) for the bricks used in
the thermae of the public baths in the city. But the salting works seem to have been central to economic prosperity.

The site can be viewed on the web and apparently boasts a virtual tour which we have not yet been able to make run over WiFi here. But give it a try.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Gibraltar - Part 2

This is Part 2 of Gibraltar. To read it in sequence please scroll down to Part 1 and then return to this.

The Barbary Apes, actually tail-less monkeys, are perhaps the most famous of the tourist attractions on the Rock. There are several theories of how these natives of North Africa bottomless cave. A more likely explanation is that they were imported as pets during the era of the British occupation, perhaps in ships of the Royal Navy. For that matter they could have arrived by ship at an earlier date. But today one has to wonder - which is the ape? Where is Darwin when we need him?

The guide seems to be looking a bit askance at our camera since feeding the “apes”, which he is doing to entice them on to the shoulders of his tourists, merits a fine of 500 Pounds Sterling ($1000 CDN). They are known to bite – the apes that is, not the guides.

Gibraltar is also famous for its system of tunnels with 52 km created during WW 2 to add to the hand-dug tunnels of the Great Siege of 1779-1783, the 14th siege by Spain to retake the Rock.

The much more extensive WW II tunnels and caverns included barracks, offices, munitions dumps and a fully equipped hospital with operating theatre and x-ray equipment. These tunnels were opened by the military for public tours in 2005; they require special arrangements which were not possible during our time there.

The Great Siege Tunnels began as an attempt to get large cannons to a place on the precipitous northern face of the Rock known as the Notch. Sergeant Major Ince of the Military Artificers (forerunners to the Royal Engineers) suggested a tunnel and he began work on 25 May 1782.

This was hard manual work, based on sledgehammers, crowbars and gunpowder for blasting. In 5 weeks a team of 18 men had driven an 8’ by 8’ (2.40 m) tunnel 82 feet (25 m) into the rock.

The blasting fumes almost asphyxiated the men so an air tunnel was sunk to draw off the fumes. The effectiveness of this caused a change of plans as it was realized that if the fumes could be adequately controlled, the cannon could be placed in the tunnel and embrasures could be cut through the side of the tunnel allowing the cannon to fire on nearby Spain and thus control the landward access to the Rock.

The guns in the Great Siege tunnel today date from the 1850’s, about 70 years after the digging of the tunnel. But they share many similarities.

To reduce flashback of ignited wadding and to reduce gunpowder fume blowback these rails held wet leather or rope. Although these rails date from the 1830’s, this system was used during the 1780’s siege.

On the north-wester

n side of the Rock the remnants of the Moorish Castle can be viewed from a distance. Fortifications at this location were first built in 1160 and subsequently destroyed during the recapture and occupation of the Rock by Spain from 1309-1333. This Tower of Homage dominates the hillside and the lanfward approach and was constructed about 1333 when Abu’l Hassan in turn recaptured Gibraltar. This fortress was under siege many times and shows the scars.

The extensive Royal Navy dockyards here are now under the control of a private company. The RN presence here is reduced to an operational front line squadron currently consisting of two 16 metre Patrol launches and 3 Arctic 6.5 metre Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs), manned by a team of 19 personnel.

Gibraltar offers shopping with the dreaded European Value Added Tax of 17-21% so for some it is a shopping haven. By the time we arrived on Main Street the weather had turned cloudy and without the sun, cold. Boxing Day meant that most of the stores were closed but looking through the windows suggested that if you really knew your prices and the Spanish Customs restrictions you would probably find some bargains.

Following a nice lunch we strolled back to our motor home for a coffee and then parted as Lee and Monique headed back to Málaga and we returned to Conil. What a great Boxing Day!