Moving to Málaga – one of the oldest cities in the world

Hotel Villa Guadalupe in Málaga, Spain

Ever since I first got to Torrevieja, I’ve occasionally fantasized and thought about where I’m going to travel next. For a while I had my mind set on San Francisco. I’ve wanted to visit, and even live in, that city ever since the mid 90s when I was just a teenage kid. Then I started thinking strategically about my time abroad: it’s better to discover more of Europe first while I’m already here, before traveling to another continent.

I considered Barcelona, Marseille, Nice and Paris among other places. However, a close friend of mine suggested Málaga in Andalusia – it’s one of the oldest cities in the world and it seemed like a very interesting place. Málaga is also close to Gibraltar and North Africa. The ferry over the Mediterranean Sea to Morocco only takes about an hour. So I decided to go to Málaga when my lease in Torrevieja ended at the end of January.

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I’m used to great public transportation in Sweden and for some reason I thought I could just get on a bus in Torrevieja around noon and arrive at Málaga five or six hours later. It turned out that getting to Málaga would be a bit more troublesome than that. It took longer than traveling all the way from my hometown in Sweden to Torrevieja and it was basically as expensive. To go by train wasn’t really an option, and neither was taking a flight. I had to get up before dawn, take a bus to Alicante located an hour away in the complete opposite direction of Málaga, and then travel to Málaga by bus for nearly seven hours.

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On the day before departure, the 30th of January 2013, I started getting somewhat nervous. I wasn’t nervous before traveling to Spain. This move, however, seemed like a bit of a challenge. Unlike Torrevieja, I didn’t have a nice apartment waiting for me in Málaga. I wasn’t fully sure about the travel plan and I knew I had to get up really early in the morning.

I had no trouble falling asleep the day before yesterday. I regained consciousness for a brief moment in the middle of the night, opened one eye and thought I saw a tiny ray of light coming in through the curtains. “Is it morning already?”, I pondered and looked at the time. It was 1:30AM. I knew I was screwed and that I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep. I had to get up at 06:30 to make it to the bus. For a while I thought of moving another day instead. I eventually decided to go through with my plans anyway, even though I had only slept for 2,5 hours.

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Needless to say, it was a very long day. Even though I was a drooling zombie vegetable (not the fast modern zombie; the slow, old-school, George A. Romero type), it was a great trip. I’m getting long-winded as usual but I want to discuss a few highlights. Like I mentioned earlier, I had to travel around 10 kilometers to the North in the wrong direction before taking a bus to Málaga. In Alicante (I’d been there before), I was moved when a girl around my age spontaneously translated what the bus driver asked me when she realized I didn’t understand what he said and that the driver didn’t speak English.

During my 63 days in Spain, it has rained once. It wasn’t even a full day cloudburst – it just rained a bit for an hour or so around noon one day. Having grown up in Sweden, Spain’s constant sunshine doesn’t feel natural after a while. Being a weather forecaster in Spain must be the easiest job in the world. I’ve heard that it rains heavily here sometimes, especially during certain seasons, but I haven’t seen any of that. I’m almost surprised that I haven’t been living in a desert.

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During my trip from Alicante to Málaga (around 500 kilometers), I fully noticed the impact the dry climate has had on the landscape. The soil is very sandy and there are low bushes everywhere, mixed with occasional palm trees and orange plantations. What really struck me, however, is how extremely mountainous and rocky Spain is. I wasn’t aware of that before I moved here. My mother said that she didn’t see any mountains while she was in Barcelona, but around Torrevieja and Alicante and all the way to Málaga, there were tall, wide mountains everywhere. I must have seen hundreds of hills, mountains and rocks during the road trip. The landscape was full of wide, open expanses between the mountains and the area appeared to be very sparsely populated. Some surroundings seemed to have been taken straight out of a Sergio Leone spaghetti-western from the 60s. I loved it.

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This seems a bit bizarre to me, given how much I dislike the winter season in Sweden, but a few weeks ago I started longing for some snow, hazy days, and cold winds. After permanent sunshine, I missed the climate I’m used to this time of year. That’s why I got such a deep warmth and excitement in my heart when I started to discover snow on the mountain tops on my way to Málaga. It was a peculiar mix – palm trees and snow.

The best thing about the trip, and I get emotional just thinking about it, was when trees without their leaves started appearing outside the bus window. I even saw melting snow on the ground. For about an hour, I had the feeling of spring and that was priceless. Another high spot of the trip to Málaga was the stop in Granada. I definitely want to visit that city for a longer period of time. It’s located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, 738 meters above sea level. Granada appears to have many sites worth seeing: I find Alhambra particularly exciting! It seems like an awe-inspiring and fascinating palace and fortress.

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Another highlight was the 30 minutes or so leading up to Málaga. There were tall, green hills with beautiful blossoming trees on both sides of the road (they looked like cherry-trees). Sometimes you could see old ruins high up in the slopes: remnants of farms and haciendas. They stirred my imagination. It looked like a blown up version of the Shire.

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I left Torrevieja a day early and hence I needed a temporary bed for the night before going to the hotel I had booked in advance. I stayed at a three star hotel called the Eurostars Astoria, centrally located near the ocean. The girl at the counter was really nice but I didn’t particularly enjoy the hotel. It was anonymous, generic and lacked character. The hotel room was super hot when I got there. I turned on the AC, or at least I tried.

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I maxed it but it only seemed to make matters worse. I finally put my hand in front of the fan and noticed it was blowing hot air. According to the thermostat, it was 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) in the room. I walked down to the reception and asked the girl about it. She said the air conditioning was disabled during the “winter” and the only way to make the room colder was to completely turn off the AC, or open a window. Doh.

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In Torrevieja, I had to use the AC every other day to make the apartment warmer. Otherwise it would get too cold during the nights. Here it was the other way around. Not surprisingly, Málaga has one of the highest temperatures in all of Europe during the winter season. After basically having been awake for 36 hours, I felt like a dead man. I quickly fell asleep around 9:30PM, and while I didn’t sleep well at all that night, lying naked on the bed without a quilt because of the heat, I felt invigorated the next morning. Around noon, I started walking the five kilometers (I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t have taken a taxi) uphill to my next hotel, while carrying my heavy luggage. I have a good feeling about this place and will write down my thoughts on a later occasion.

View from Eurostars Astoria, Málaga