andalucía: antequera’s bronze age dolmens & on to málaga

Friday, July 12:  It’s time to pack up and leave our little villa, Puesta de Sol, in Mollina because our tour is over. :-(  I for one am sad to have it come to an end.  We have a leisurely breakfast, painstakingly prepared by Alan and Verna.  Barry picks us up at 10:30; we load all our bags into the van, say our goodbyes to Alan and Verna, and head to Antequera, home of the impressive 3,000-5,000 year old Dolmens.

La Puerta del Sol ~ our villa in Mollina
La Puerta del Sol ~ our villa in Mollina
the whole gang: Scottish Barry, Australian Barry, Verna and Carole at the villa
the whole gang: Scottish Barry, Australian Barry, Alan, Verna and Carole at the villa

Antequera is a city in the province of Málaga.   It is known as “the heart of Andalucía” because of its central location between Málaga, Granada, Cordoba and Seville.  It is noted for two large Bronze Age dolmens.

In addition, the Vega de Antequera, watered by the river Guadalhorce, is a fertile agricultural area that provides cereals, olive oil and vegetables in abundance.  There are also fields and fields of sunflowers.

a blur of sunflowers seen from the van on the way to Antequera
a blur of sunflowers seen from the van on the way to Antequera

On the northern outskirts of the city there are two Bronze Age burial mounds (barrows or dolmens), the Dólmen de Menga and the Dólmen de Viera, dating from the 3rd millennium BC. They are the largest such structures in Europe. The larger one, Dólmen de Menga, is twenty-five meters in diameter and four meters high, and was built with thirty-two megaliths, the largest weighing about 180 tons. After completion of the chamber (which probably served as a grave for the ruling families) and the path leading into the center, the stone structure was covered with earth and built up into the hill that can be seen today (Wikipedia: Antequera).

There is a great visitor’s center at the site where we sit and watch an animated film showing how the dolmens must have been constructed.  It seems the people wanted a connection between the spiritual realm and the earthly realm, and they positioned the Dolmen de Menga so that its opening faced the Sleeping Giant, a giant rock in Antequera.  It must have taken a long time and hundreds of strong people to build these dolmens.  Australian Barry notes that the people must have had plenty of food and other resources at hand for day-to-day living, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to devote so much time and energy to building these dolmens.

a great recreation of how the dolmens were built in the excellent Visitor's Center
a great recreation of how the dolmens were built in the excellent Visitor’s Center
a visual of the mound from above in the Visitor's Center
a visual of the mound from above in the Visitor’s Center

When the grave was opened and examined in the 19th century, archaeologists found the skeletons of several hundred people inside.

Dólmen de Menga
Dólmen de Menga
Dólmen de Menga faces the Sleeping Giant
Dólmen de Menga faces the Sleeping Giant
entrance to Dólmen de Menga
entrance to Dólmen de Menga
Carole inside Dólmen de Menga
Carole inside Dólmen de Menga
the view from inside Dólmen de Menga to the Sleeping Giant
the view from inside Dólmen de Menga to the Sleeping Giant
the countryside and clouds around Antequera
the countryside and clouds around Antequera
Dólmen de Menga
entrance to Dólmen de Menga
me, Barry and Carole at Dólmen de Menga, with the Sleeping Giant behind
me, Barry and Carole at Dólmen de Menga, with the Sleeping Giant behind

We visit the smaller dolmen, Dólmen de Viera.  It’s not nearly as impressive as Dólmen de Menga.

entrance to Dólmen de Viera
entrance to Dólmen de Viera

The Dólmen del Romeral, which dates from the early 2nd millennium (about 1800 BC),  is outside the city. A large number of smaller stones were used in its construction.  We have to drive through a palette factory to get to this dolmen; the palette factory even has some apartments for rent.  I think it might be cool to live there so I could tell people: “Drop by for a visit at my apartment between the palette factory and the Dolmen!”🙂

entrance to Dólmen del Romeral
entrance to Dólmen del Romeral
walking around the Dólmen del Romeral
walking around the Dólmen del Romeral
the Dólmen del Romeral
the Dólmen del Romeral
inside Dólmen del Romeral
inside Dólmen del Romeral
Dólmen del Romeral
Dólmen del Romeral

After we finish exploring the dolmens, we head to Málaga.  We’ve arranged to meet Marianne at the hotel where Barry and Carole are spending the night before they fly to Paris tomorrow: Hotel Molino Lario.  Barry and Carole are so sweet; Barry says to Scottish Barry: “I’d prefer to make sure Cathy is situated with her friend before you drop us off.”  They’ve become a little protective of me, I think, during this trip, especially as they seem to think I’m a little disorganized.  I wonder why?  Usually I’m a very organized person, but as I seem to be doing everything on the fly during this trip, I think they have a wrong impression of me.  Or, maybe it’s a correct impression as far as this trip goes!

The whole time we’ve been on this tour, I’ve tried to be careful not to become the third wheel with Carole and Barry.  Often, when we got to the historic sites, I would drift off on my own: 1) because I like to take my time and soak in the atmosphere and take pictures at my own pace, and 2) because I wanted to give them time to themselves.  They never made me feel like an intruder, though, and I love them for that.

Our tour, Tour Andalucia, was operated by Gary Montagu from the UK.  We met Gary the first night of our stay, and had dinner with him in Mollina, but the face of our tour was Barry Simpson, our guide, who also runs his own tour company: Your Andalucia.  As we got to know Barry quite well, and found him laid-back and highly knowledgeable, and since he will tailor-make tours for his clients, I highly recommend him.

My first look at Barry’s website had him referring to his tours as “bespoke.”  As an American English speaker, I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about and thought the word sounds rather medieval.  So I bring this up to him as we are driving to Malaga today.  Australian Barry knows the meaning of bespoke, but he says it isn’t used much in Australian English either.   I learn that bespoke is a British English word that means a clothing item made to a buyer’s specification (personalized or tailored). While it can be applied to other items, including computer software or luxury cars, the term historically was applied to only men’s tailored clothing, footwear and other apparel, implying measurement and fitting. For most non-clothing items, the term build to order is usually used instead.

I notice much later, when I look at Barry’s website, he has changed the word bespoke to “a totally personalised tour holiday in Andalucia designed by YOU.”   Ah, okay, now it’s perfectly clear.🙂

7 thoughts on “andalucía: antequera’s bronze age dolmens & on to málaga

  1. Having a personalised tour is a great way to see the country. I will be looking this up when we go to Spain…one day. If you ever watch the English TV show “Grand Designs”, they talk about houses that are built to a person’s own design as being bespoke.

    1. I love the idea of the personalized tour, Carol. I would highly recommend Barry for this as he is so laid back and his head is so full of information. I feel bad now about teasing him about using the word bespoke; though I had heard the word before, it’s not used in American English and I didn’t know the meaning. Either way, a “bespoke” tour, or a personalized tour, is a great way to go!

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