Moors and Christians in the Mountains of Alicante.

Posted in Alcoy, Almeria, Castalla, Castles, Christians, Churches, Crusades, forts, knights, medieval, moods, Moors, photo, Photography, pirates, relax, Relics, renactment, road trip, Spain, travel, walks, writing on November 29th, 2009 by wabisabipix

While traveling through the Mountains of Alicante region I came across many interesting sights.Two areas in particular captured my interest.The ancient Moorish Castle in the town of Castalla and the town of Alcoy world famous for its Moors and Christians festival held every year.

The town of Alcoy is the site of a yearly re-enactment that happens every April in which the entire population dress in  full historical costume.It remains one of Spains most well known and Colourful Fiestas.

It is based on  the battle of Alcoy in the 13th Century and is in place to honour St George the patron saint of the town who is said to have saved the town from the Moorish forces of Alazraq in 1275.

As the tale is told James I of Aragon led a campaign of reconquest through the region after centuries of Moorish occupation and influence. In retaliation the Moors  invaded once more to recover their lost ground.However as the battle was starting St George is said to have appeared in the sky over the v shaped famous gorge in the town to save the day.

It is a colourful and entertaining day in which mock battles are fought all over the town and where a fog of gunpowder and fireworks descend amidst the playing of traditional period music and merriment and much feasting.

It is a 3 day 24hr long festival in which 28 armies do battle and the whole town is festooned in the red cross flags of St George.                                  St George saving Alcoy from the Moors.

Being from the UK I was fascinated by the  interpretation of  the patron saint adopted both here and in  England and its interpretation in both countries.

In the U.K  St George is frequently shown as the slayer of a dragon but in this area of Spain he is shown as a saviour from the Moors.

The local Church of St George at Portal de San Marcos shows fascinating murals of the battle painted by Fernando Cabrera Canto painted in 1921 and a relic said to be St Georges finger that is paraded around the town during the festival.

Heres link to the Alcoi festival tourist site:http://www.alcoiturisme.com/

The Battle of Alcoy in St Georges Church

The Relic of St Georges Finger

Further South heading back to Alicante one sees the outstanding pinnacle on which is perched the Castle of Castalla.

The Castalla Castle

Raised in the 11th century by the Moors it was incorporated into the kingdom of Aragon in 1244.

In 1362 the castle was given to Ramon de Vilanova to defend against Castilian attacks and ultimately became part of the Hapsburg Monarchy’s defence strategy against Barbary pirate attacks on Alicantes coast line.

Throughout the 18th century Spanish war of succession it became a place for storage and sadly was in ruins by 1813.

Castalla like Pamplona also has its own running of the bull festival in August and like Alcoy above has its own Moors and Christians festival.

The town found itself embroiled in the Spanish Civil war and between 1933 and 1935 the hill and fort was sacked by the locals looking for treasure.In recent times it has been the subject of restoration with a view towards tourism.

Wandering through the old medieval town on an early morning sunlit stroll is a nice way to start the day and each corner throughout the maze of passage ways can reveal odd surprises and treats for the senses with sun bleached bright coloured old buildings and elevated views of the area ,a coffee and a taste of the local olives is also highly recommended.Below are some views around Castalla.

All these images were shot on a Nikon P6000 compact camera which I like to set up with easy access to manual overide settings for compensation,flash output and white balance using the my menu settings for speed.

Its a great light weight durable tool for keeping in your pocket when traveling light.

Bon voyage!

 

copyright:Kerry Davies.

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Six Guns,Swords and Sorcery a road trip in Almeria and the Alicante Region of Spain.

Posted in Almeria, arrows, bows, Conan the Barbarian, cowbay, cowboy, Film set, indian, knights, medieval, moods, photo, Photography, relax, renactment, road trip, Spaghetti, Spain, swords, Texas Hollywood, travel, Uncategorized, walks, Western, Wild West, writing on November 28th, 2009 by wabisabipix

“Howdy partner!” The gunslinger announced as we turned up unannounced in a wild west tumbleweed town strangely somehow familiar after traveling hundreds of miles across the sun scorched desert.There had just been a torrential downpour and the ground steamed as we disembarked from our metal horse with rubber hooves and examined our surroundings.” This Sure isn’t Kansas anymore toto”,I muttered as my boots hit the sand,”then again it isnt quite America either,more Almeria Spain,mmm! I think I fancy a pepsi and some tapas might be a good idea!!!”

We had just arrived in Almeria Spain,surprising to some this was the real wild west that is portrayed in the classic movies from the 70s starring such famous stars as Clint Eastwood,Yul Brynner and many others.

Clint apparently even bought his famous Poncho locally in the area.

It was the location of such Spaghetti Western classics by Sergio Leone  as “a fistfull of Dollars”,”for a few dollars more”,and “The Good,the Bad and the Ugly” and also for other films such as Conan the Barbarian and Michelangelo Antonioni film “the Passenger” starring Jack Nicholson.

My interest had been drawn to the area after seeing an hilarious Spanish black comedy film by Director Alex de la Iglesia called  “800 Balas” meaning “800 Bullets”(2002),starring comedy actor Sancho Gracia,Angel de Andres Lopez and Carmen Maura.Its an hilarious film about a Stuntman and his colleagues who make a living at a Wild West town in Almeria Spain.They are making a living entertaining small groups of tourists that are deposited in their Wild west  movie set town.The stuntmans son, also a stuntman, was killed in a filming accident back in the towns golden age somewhere far back in the decadent past when westerns were popular.His child grows up fascinated in the life his deceased father lived.So begins an hilarious quest as the son runs away seeking out the wild west town to learn more about his fathers percieved heroic past.When the childs powerful theme park executive mother finds out the son has run away she pursues them angrily trying to close down the park with hysterical results.

This film rekindled my interest in the Spaghetti westerns and I was totally stunned to find that the town portrayed in the film was in fact very Real and that it did indeed have a contingent  of Actors making a living out of the old Wild West movies.

Its called Texas Hollywood in the area known as Tabernas Almeria.

So hi ho silva and away and here we are!!!

It was a hilarious afternoon walking around the exact same set as 800 Balas almost pinching ourselves as to how we had stumbled across the attraction.

Throughout the day they put on shows for the public and provide excursions and carriage rides around the area giving a tour and insights into its movie past.

There are pictures from its film set days and you can see quite a few famous faces portrayed treading the dusty streets in which you now find yourself.

Theres also an Indian village and a few Buffalos, by the way,dont miss the Camels apparently related to those in Lawrence of Arabia which was partially shot in the area!!

Most recently a Pepsi advert was shot here starring David Beckham and his pals and the area is frequently used by car commercials needing that authentic Wild West touch.

All in all it was quite a surreal and amusing afternoon as well as quite informative from a movie history point of view. I’ve been watching the old spaghetti westerns lately just trying to catch a glimpse of parts of the landscape.

After some refreshments at the saloon  we saddled up,put in some more petrol,set up the Sat Nav and headed south  across the pass and into other areas of movie interest.

The area was  also the location of the film Conan The Barbarian by John Milius starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sandahl Bergman and the nearby Las Salinas mountains featured  in scenes portraying Conan in Hyboria which were in fact locations better known as the land of the spaghetti western.

Almerimar was the scene of the Wizard/Stone Fortress encounters along with La Ciudad Encantada,El Condor,Cuevas de Roque and Penon De Bernal the famous Mount Doom in the film.This was the location we headed for next in our whistle stop tour of the region.

Penon De Bernal was the mountain upon which a spectacular Temple of Doom was built and Arnold Schwarzenegger Aka Conan The Barbarian confronted his nemesis ultimately burning down the temple film set in the movie.

It is located near the town of Almeria itself.you can find more locations from the film here:

http://www.western-locations-spain.com/almeria-top-20/conan/index.htm

I found the Conan Completist Web site very useful in finding these locations and it is packed with great information on the area.

I am sure local tour groups provide tours of this movie history rich area and a little research would provide a great trip if you are interested in the area.

After a long day passing thorough several periods in movie history we turned our wagons back north and headed back into the sunset.

“By the way where did I put those bangers and mash? errr! black lotus ,anyone? Stygian the best!!

Contemplate this on the tree of woe!!”

Enjoy.

Blog Pictures:Copyright Kerry Davies.

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