Prehistoric megaliths near charming ancient town
06.12.2016 - 08.12.2016 17 °C
In July 2016, UNESCO named the Antequera megalithic dolmens a world heritage site. Dolmens are ancient burial sites and Megaliths are massive stones used in prehistoric construction.
We took the high speed train from Barcelona Sants Station to Antequera on December 6. The trip took 5.5 hours, average speed, 250 km per hour.
The Antequera Santa-Ana station is actually 17 kilometres from the town. Thank goodness there is a bus into town about every half hour. Buy bus tickets in the information office inside the station for just a few Euros.
We walked from our hotel in Barcelona to Sants Station. We were hoping to get a coffee but were held up at the entrance. Bags, jackets and purses go through a scanner at train stations.
There was an issue with my suitcase.
'You have a knife!' Rhea and the agent advise me. I squinted at the screen. The paring knife in my suitcase looked like a dagger. 'You can have it, no problem,' I volunteered.
No I had to go into a private side room with a different guard. I opened the stuffed suitcase, praying the knife would be near the top.
Whew! I pulled it out and handed it over. 'This?' he sniffed and handed it back. 'You can take it. Now show your passport and sign this paper.'
Just like that I am a free woman boarding a train with a knife in my suitcase. I had knitting needles in my purse and, as I pointed out to Rhea, I could probably gouge somebody's eyes out. People travel with pens all the time and they could inflict a bit of damage. Not to give anybody ideas.
I was baffled the knife wasn't confiscated. It is pretty dull but the guard never even tested the blade. Handy for cutting off a bit of cheese as we travel or saw off my arm if I fall into a crevice with my suitcase.
Antequera is a pretty ancient town in the fertile district of Andalusia. It would be an easy day trip from Malaga but we have booked two nights here.
High speed train tickets were seventy five C each - a good deal booked online.
We have double booked hotels for the first night. This happened because of free cancelation - Rhea had booked a room for one night too and her email said cancel by Dec 3 but it meant cancel on or before December 2.
When she casually mentioned her booking (morning of Dec 3) it was too late for either of us to cancel.
She tried to argue her case but no luck. We decided to take a cab from the bus station to my hotel which we had for two nights and we would leave her big suitcase in my room.
The Hotel Toril is not fancy but it is clean and the room I was assigned had three single beds and was huge. It was also very quiet. Wifi was terrible but you could get it in the lobby.
Around 3 we walked to the tourist office which was a block from Rhea's hotel. Many shops were closed for siesta.
Her room was not as big as mine but was cute and clean and very well located on San Sebastián Square where the hop on and off bus starts.
She decided it would be easier to stay at my place since I am navigationaly challenged and needed to be guided home.
Antequera has a population of 42000 and has a 5000 year history.
La Pena de Los ENAMORADOS, a limestone hill, can be seen from almost everywhere in the town. It is known as Lovers' Leap and has a legend.
It appears as a man's profile, the sleeping giant.
The Pena de Los Enamorados has a significant connection to the Menga dolman: on the summer solstice the rising sun shines over the peak of Enamorados and straight across the entrance to the chamber.
The Menga Dolman is almost 30 metres long and is the largest in Europe. It is about 5000 years old. The heaviest upright stone weighs over four times more than the heaviest stone at Stonehenge! The Menga Dolmen is unusual because of its alignment with a natural monument, Enamorados.
Nearby is the Viera Dolmen which is, in customary fashion, positioned towards the sun.
A bit further away (and due to lack of transportation we did not visit) is The Tholos of el Romero which is positioned towards el Tocal Mountain.
The three megaliths and two mountains were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in July 2016.
We visited the information centre on site first to watch a video portraying an educated guess of how the huge rocks were moved and put in place in pre historic times (lots of manpower). Then we viewed the Menga and Vierra Dolmens.
The hop on and off bus stops here for 20 minutes. We actually stayed longer and took a later bus around to see the dolmens again.
Following our two full circuits on the hop on and off bus we visited the municipal museum which was closed until 430 pm.
It is a large museum with displays of the prehistoric dolmens, Roman tombs and statues, including a first century bronze Ephebe (considered the most beautiful Roman sculpture in Spain), paintings, church silver and a nice gallery of the works of Christobal Toral Ruiz.
Contemporary artist and home town boy, Christobal's gallery had a suitcase theme including a huge interpretation of Valesquez' Las Meninas where suitcases represent people.
I liked this painting, she only has a carry-on:
The Museum of Civilization, Antequara, is worth a look. It is closed on Mondays and closes every day at 2 - plan a morning visit.
Nuns in habits were selling special Christmas cookies from convents but we bought ours at a bakery. Polvoron cookies are a type of shortbread, very crumbly, flavourful, melt in your mouth. We bought a dozen for 12 euros, the nuns were selling them for seven dollars a kilo - these are very light cookies.
The convent cookies are interesting: there are two shuttered windows. The first one is where you place your order and the second one is where you receive your purchase.
Antequera is an ancient town, as the name suggests. The dolmens go back to the Bronze Age. Then there was the period under the Roman Empire until it was conquered by the Visigoths who were invaded by the Moors in 711 AD. The Moors held power until the 15 th century when Ferdinand 1 of Aragon drove them out.
We saw Roman ruins, the alcazaba and numerous Catholic Churches. A very historic town. Pleasant, slow paced, sunny and warm.
The hop on and off bus was open air and the other tourists were Spanish.
Nothing seemed very commercialized, the hop on bus cost 6 euros (Seniors rate) and the dolmens were free. Unbelievable.
On December 8 our bus to Malaga left at 9 am. We decided to walk as the depot was only a ten minute stroll from our hotel. We stopped for a coffee at a corner bar. Very good coffee for one Euro each. There were 2 Irishmen having a shot with their morning cuppa and one was very talkative. This was our first encounter with native English speakers - it is Dec 8, we have been in Spain for a week!
The hotel clerk had given us directions, the Irishman gave us directions and the bartender escorted us out and pointed the way. Ten minutes. Half an hour later we got directions from a restaurant waiter and thirty minutes after that we rolled into the bus depot.
The sleeping giant dominated the skyline as we headed south to Malaga: