Anything But Paella

Wartime Alicante

Alicante suffered badly during the Spanish Civil War. The name Guernica may better known, but perhaps that is about to change. When a new bus station was built in the city, work on the old bus station revealed a large underground public air raid raid shelter. The authorities knew a shelter existed but nobody knew its exact location until it was uncovered by chance. Now a new visitors’ centre offers a glimpse into life in wartime Alicante and offers the chance to venture underground into the shelter.

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Located on the intersection of two streets named after Franco’s wartime allies, Portugal and Italy (see map), the centre is inside the refurbished engineering works. It is a beautiful building with interesting information plaques on all of the walls in Spanish, Valenciano and also in very well written English. It is free to wander around and take in the history of Alicante’s role in the Civil War, explore the two showrooms where a firefighting truck, some ammunition, and interesting aerial photographs wait in one and wartime uniforms and photographs in the other. Right now there is a special exhibition called “Alicante ha caido” which refers to the city effectively being the site of the end of the civil war.

At midday on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, or at 6pm Wednesday to Friday, you may even get a guided tour. It’s best to book one on 690004431 or by email at cmemoriahdalicante@gmail.com and the cost is €5 but this will be money well spent. The Spanish used in our tour was clear and precise making it easy to understand for an intermediate learner of the language. We were told me that if a group of visitors want to have a tour in English, they can be contacted in advance and a guide should be available. They recommend phoning from 1000-1330 and 1700 to 2000 Monday to Friday.

Perhaps the most disturbing tale from this terrible time is that of the bombing raid on the market in May 1938. Some 300 people lost their lives as Italian planes based in Mallorca devastated the area on a busy market day. It’s a little known story which is gaining a much wider audience nowadays.

If you have secured a guided tour you will be escorted out onto Plaza Seneca and down into the air raid shelter. Other than a new supply of electricity and some touching up of the signs written on the walls, it remains exactly as it was back in the 1930s. It is not difficult to imagine the claustrophobia which must have been felt as a hundred or so frightened residents cowered away from the bombs dropping above.

Opening times are 0930-1330 and 1700-2000 Tuesday to Saturday with guided with the centre also open on Sundays 1000-1400. Keep up to date with events there on their Facebook page.

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