I’ve always been fascinated by history and I love old castles, strongholds and fortresses. According to Wikipedia, there are around 2500 castles in Spain. So when I discovered that a huge, over 1000 year-old-castle is located in Alicante not far away from here, I knew I had to check it out.
My entire life, I’ve celebrated traditional Christmases with my huge warm family and lots of presents and lots of food. This Christmas, however, I was on my own in Spain. I guess I had the option to celebrate Christmas with other Swedes here, eating Swedish food and pretending I’m in Sweden, but that just seemed kind of pathetic to me.
When I woke up on Christmas Eve, I decided that I would take the bus to Alicante and try to discover that ancient stronghold: Santa Bárbara Castle. I met a bearded, rather portly and rugged looking Spanish fellow at the bus station. He resembled Spanish director Guillermo del Toro. I liked him for some reason and he’ll play a part later in my Christmas story.
The bus ride to Alicante took a little over an hour and I quite enjoyed the ride. There were some interesting views along the way, including a wetland nature reserve and a long chain of mountains that seemed to stretch all the way to Alicante. I immediately liked the atmospheric city when I arrived. It was a beautiful day and I noticed some very unusual trees I hadn’t seen in Spain before. I got an urge to climb those trees, but I think it would’ve been frowned upon.
I had looked up Santa Bárbara Castle in Google Maps on my Android phone so I could find my way easier. However, I quickly realized I wouldn’t need any digital guidance since I saw the castle looking over the city right after I walked out the bus station. Even though it was easy to get to the right area, I actually had some trouble finding the path to the castle at top of the mountain. Houses along narrow streets surrounded the hill and I wasn’t sure where to go.
While trying to find the entrance, I stumbled upon an American artist and (I later learned quite talented) photographer named Nicole and her Italian friend Marco. They lived in London and was in Alicante on a short vacation. They also wanted to discover the castle and invited me to join their quest. We slowly found our way up the hill.
They were both interesting and very nice and charming people. Marco was delighted by the sun and the warmth (London is apparently gloomy this time of year) and he howled from the hilltops, just like Ronia in Astrid Lindgren’s book Ronia the Robber’s Daughter. The views got increasingly beautiful the higher up the mountain we walked.
When we finally reached the top, we discovered that the entrance to the courtyard was closed. We started walking along the wall to see if we could get in anyway somehow. That’s when I to my surprise learned that Nicole was completely fearless and also an excellent climber. Without breaking a sweat, she climbed up the cliff-face while Marco and I worryingly watched from below. You can’t tell by the pictures, but there’s actually a precipice to the left.
That was not an ideal spot to conquer the walls, though, and we all decided to break into the castle a bit further back where the wall only was around four meters tall. We actually succeeded and I was thrilled to walk around in the courtyard for awhile, but we quickly got busted. Not by a security guard, but by an actual Spanish policeman. We played the “stupid tourists” card, pretended that the gate had been open and let the policeman walk us out. Later we had drinks at an Irish pub near the ocean. All in all, I had a great time. My day in Alicante was definitely the most original and memorable Christmas Eve I’ve ever had, and in some ways, it was also one of the best.
Remember that bearded, portly Spaniard I mentioned in the beginning of the story? I met him at the bus station on my way back, late in the evening. I asked him when and where the bus would arrive and while he didn’t speak any English, he smiled and nodded and seemed fine. On the hour long bus ride back to my town, however, he basically puked his guts out and moaned non-stop! I have no idea what was wrong with him. I don’t speak Spanish, but I heard the driver talking about both cops and ambulances. The man continued to throw up even after we had arrived in Torrevieja. This most peculiar ending to my Christmas Eve made the day even more memorable.