thomas m wilson

Guadix and Caminito del Rey

June 5th, 2023

Last week I was in Guadix: I and a friend took the train an hour to the east of Granada, to this small town.  The train passed on a high plateau, overlooking a vast valley bordered on either side by arid erosion canyons, and topped to small trees and shrubs.  It looked exactly like the Wild Western movies of the 60s looked.  These films were supposedly set in Arizona or Texas, but were often shot in this very area of southern Spain, arid and wild, and cheaper to film in. 

Badlands… Sometimes a train ride is worth the price of admission for the journey itself.
Coming back from Guadix – this country is gorgeous, despite its recent drought.

These landscapes I travelled through were ennobling.  I imagined Clint Eastwood on his horse standing on a ridge and looking out over the same valley I looked out over…  The rider shifting in his saddle, the leather creaking slightly, the sun smiling warmly down from the heavens, the adventure beckoning around the next corner.  A feeling of freedom, freedom from the tawdry rigmarole of twenty-first century domesticity, detail and disconnection.  Freedom to live or to die with a little more heroism and poetry.

And then yesterday I left Granada and headed to a place an hour north of Malaga called Caminito del Rey. An old hydro project had left a narrow walk way down a gorge which has since 2015 been a very successful and safe guided walk.

This is a 300 metre deep gorge of sandstone and limestone cliffs, with a little boardwalk drilled into the stone, so that we walked 100 metres above the raging river below, along a metre wide wooden plank path.  Along sheer cliffs sides.  When the valley opened up I left the tour group and walked by myself under the pines, along the dry path, looking down on aromatic herbs and flowers covering the valley bottom and sides.  The place has a genuine majesty.  I felt uplifted and deeply satisfied by this walk down the valley by myself.  The walk along the cliff faces was thrilling, but it was the walk by myself along the valley under the trees that was most special, with intimations of the majesty of these mountains surrounded me, connotations of Majorca, or the Gorge de Verdon..

It is my last evening in Spain and Granada.  Tomorrow I travel to Greece. I am excited for the next chapter.  But also will be slightly sad to leave this city with its wonderfully young population, connected inhabitations/inhabitants, general vivacity, aged and venerable architecture, towering Sierra Nevada frame, trickling fountains from which you can drink, and cosmopolitan downtown plazas. 

Yet More Views of Granada

June 2nd, 2023

I was at the Carmen de los Martires the other day and it was a reminder of how it is usually individuals who create beauty, not government committees.  This was, long ago, a convent, but the gardens are mainly nineteenth century and since more than half a century this has been for the people of the city to enjoy, not private property.  But the materials – marble, stone, water, tiles, etc – are gorgeous, the arrangement of passageways and of fountains and avenues and wooden benches on which to recline – is lovely.  For a hot and arid climate it is a space of reflection and retreat and renewal.  If only Perth had more such spaces.  Europe can do this kind of thing so much better than Australia.  And yet it is not contemporary Europe that I thank for this kind of thing.  It is Europe of a hundred years ago to a thousand years ago… (The contemporaries generally build thing just as ugly and money-saving as they do in Australia.)

In Carmen de los Martires… Simple wooden benches with this shape are so relaxing to sit on and would be cheap and easy to introduce into public spaces in Australia – why don’t we do it?
Sacromonte Abbey, a steep walk up the valley behind the town, leads to this beautiful cloister where you can catch your breath.
El Monasterio de San Jerónimo – In this monastery I found a stone basin where the monks would wash themselves to purify themselves – Wash me entirely, says the Latin motto.
The third monastic cloister in the city, La Cartuja (the charterhouse) was a Carthusian monastery. Again its beautiful cloister is graced by orange trees and make the perfect place to sit and reflect.
Spain had its driest April in recorded history, but May brought some rain. Glistening cobbles on old European streets are still charming to me…
Relaxing in the patio of the Hospital Real – you can see the river stones used to create flooring in Granada’s courtyards.
Cat on a warm tiled roof…

More scenes of Granada…

June 2nd, 2023

Some of my favourite places here… The gardens of the Carmen de los Martires: I am often found sitting here, feeling tranquil and serene amid the greenery and the water flowing from the fountain, and the absence of noisy crowds of tourists (they are over at the Alhambra). 

The day before I had discovered the Carmen Victoria – again I had sat and read and felt well and connected and grounded – all from a well designed and planted and built garden space, connected to history and with a view over the valley to the Alhambra on the other side. 

Carmen de los Mártires, donated to the city and now free to enter, has plenty of flowing water. Here the lambent orbs or oranges are reflected amongst the water lilly.
Carmens are traditional houses in Granada with orchard gardens. Here I stand in Carmen de la Victoria and look to the Alhambra.
Respecta el silencio – quiet and peace in the University of Granada’s library in the 16th century Hospital Real building.
I feel relief seeing some ageing beauty in Spain – in richer places like Australia anything old is instantly repaired.
Old doors, portals to something or other, surely significant.
Outside my window people eat, drink and socialise. Its not a visually beautiful part of the city, but there is so much social interaction in this Spanish barrio compared to Australian suburbs.
In the background you can see the way ugly high rises ring old European cities – on the plus side over seventy percent of Spanish people own their own home.
Looking upstream along the Rio Genil, which runs through Granada.
Shadows of the elaborate stone work of the Royal Chapel, shadows that have been falling for over 500 years old.

Next Page →