Gibraltar & The Med: Pt 5 – Algeciras, Spain

The final stop on our week in Gibraltar was a bus trip from the Spanish town of La Linea, to the city of Algeciras on the far side of the Bay of Gibraltar…

Algeciras:

Status: Cadiz Province, Andalucia, City, Spain

Date: 27/08/2014

Travel: Bus (La Linea – Algeciras)

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Port of Algeciras, Bay of Gibraltar, Hotel Seville, Kursaal Building, King Alfonso XI Statue, Church of our Lady of Europe, Tribute to the Mother Statue, Parish Church of our Lady of the Palm, Plaza Alta, City Hall, Colonial Cairo etc

Alg 1

We arrived at Algeciras bus station, and exiting the building we stepped out onto the Calle Segismundo Moret, a main road leading down towards the shoreline by the docks. We passed a number of fine looking buildings, including the one shown above, called the Hotel Seville, designed by Emilio Anton (Spanish Architect) and completed in 1925.

It’s a beautiful building, and located across the road from the local Tourist Information Office, which provided us with a very handy map of the city, without which I doubt we would have seen as many interesting sites as we did.

Alg 2

Further down the same road (on the same side as the Tourist Info) as we moved towards the docks, we spotted the tower of the “Kursaal Building”, designed by Guillermo Perez Villalta and Enrique Salvo. It took 10 years to complete, after it ran into what I assume was financial difficulties, but it was finally opened in 2007, and it houses the HQ of the “Centre of Permanent Relations” who promote the two borders of Spain and Gibraltar across the bay culturally.

The Calle Segismundo Moret road meets the Avenue la Marina further East, where we found a bust of Jose Luis Batugg Barragan, a dock worker who was sadly killed in an accident on the 15th June 1987. Behind him the vast sprawl of the docks stretch out into the bay. There are a number of docks around the bay, including out at Campamento near the Torre de Hercules, as well as in Algeciras itself.

Aside from the usual cargo ships that arrive here, the docks also cater to the ferries that transit between Spain and the African Continent, to the Spanish Exclave of Ceuta, and Tangier. The ferries leave on a timetable that would actually allow you to make a day trip into Tangier, the capital city of Morocco, which we were very tempted to try alas the hard part was getting round from Gibraltar in time.

Alg 5

After a brief walk around the dockland area, and enjoying the view towards Gibraltar, we wandered through into the main city centre, towards the central square. En route, we found this statue of a mother and her child. The inscription on the base reads:

“Homenaje a la Madre” or “Tribute to the Mother”. The right hand side of the base states that it was placed by Algeciras City Council, in May 1995.

Alg 6

Moving on, we arrived in Plaza Alta, at the South East corner of which stands the “Chapel of Our Lady of Europe”, which serves the Roman Catholic population of Algeciras. It was completed in 1769, replacing the previous incarnation which had been dedicated to St Bernard (Patron Saint of Gibraltar) and was unfortunately destroyed in the earthquake of 1755.

It’s a stunning little building, and really stands out amongst the many more modern buildings on either side. The history of the Church is closely linked to the capture of Gibraltar by the English/Dutch in 1704, as many Gibraltarians evacuated the city and moved towards this Church, building temporary homes. Gibraltar never returned to Spanish hands, and the population here remained permanently, founding the modern version of Algeciras.

The Plaza Alta is the heart of Algeciras, and is 1 of the most impressive squares we have seen in a long time. At it’s centre sits an ornate fountain, around the rim of which sit a number of small frog fountains, firing water into the main fountain. The whole square is beautifully decorated, and even the benches are covered in mosaics.

The standout building in the square has to be the large “Parroquia De Nuestra Senora de la Palma” at the South West corner. This translates as the Church of the Parish of Our Lady of the Palm, dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Palm Sunday. The name dates back to 1344 when King Alfonso XI invaded the city and a new diocese was created to cover the area. The original church was later destroyed after the Granada King Muhammed V (1338 – 1391) invaded just 25 years later, and obliterated the original incarnation of Algeciras, which only reappeared after the invasion of Gibraltar as noted above. The new church was designed by Alonso Barranco and Isidro Casaus when The Chapel of Our Lady of Europe became too small for the expanding population. It was completed in 1738 after 15 years of construction, after which it became the new Parish Church.

The tower stands 150 ft above the rest of the square, making it 1 of the standout landmarks in the city as a whole.

Alg 9

Heading North out of the square, we arrived on the Calle Alfonse XI, where the impressive City Hall, shown above, dominates the street. Across the top of the building are the words “Casa Consistorial” which translates as House of the Constitution, or City Hall.

It is the most recent in a line of Town Halls, which date back to 1755 when the City Council was established. The present version was completed in 1897, to designs by Amadeo Rodriguez. The 3 flags flying from the front facade of the building are, from left to right:

1) Andalucia

2) Spain

3) Algeciras

Alg 10

There are many interesting and varied shops in Algeciras, and 1 that stood out in particular was called “Colonial Cairo” which has been stunningly crafted to resemble the type of building you might find in ancient Egypt. It’s such an unexpected find in the heart of a large city in Southern Spain, but it certainly adds something to the city.

Continuing along the same road which houses both the City Hall and Colonial Cairo, we arrived at an extensive series of ruins, which consists of some ancient Merinies Walls, dating back to when the Marinid Dynasty under Islamic Rule was in charge of the area around Algeciras and Gibraltar, as well as Morocco. The Marinid Dynasty eventually surrendered in 1344 to King Alfonso XI and his Castilian Army, who had laid siege to the city for the previous 2 years. They rebuilt much of the city, including creating the original Parish of our Lady of the Palm Church, but as noted in that section King Muhammed later invaded the area and retook the city for Islamic rule. He himself then destroyed the entire city in 1379, and it disappeared from history for a number of centuries.

Alg 13

The last thing we found in Algeciras, before we headed back to get the bus towards La Linea for Gibraltar, was a statue of King Alfonso XI (1311 – 1350, King of Castille) who conquered the area in 1344, leading to the establishment of the Diocese of Algeciras as mentioned earlier. It is located just up the road from the ruined walls. Castille eventually united with the Kingdom of Aragon when Isabella of Castile (crowned 1474) and Ferdinand II of Aragon (crowned 1479) were married, paving the way for the Union that created Spain.

Algeciras is an interesting city with a rich history closely linked to that of the other towns around the bay, along with neighbouring Gibraltar and Morocco. It’s got pleasant squares, some great architecture and 1 of the largest ports in Europe, making it important economically and strategically. It also benefits from Gibraltar Airport just around the bay and the meeting of various main roads close to the town. In 1890 the railway station was completed, and provides links towards Ronda , a city near Malaga where you can reach Spanish mainlines towards Malaga itself, as well as the capital, Madrid.

As for us, we left Algeciras behind us, and returned to Gibraltar via La Linea, at the culmination of our fascinating week around the Bay of Gibraltar…

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