There are times when I really miss South America. I believe I have now found the antidote to that feeling – the town of Baza. I didn’t even know Andalusia had an Altiplano as it is something I associate with Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Imagine then my surprise when I drove into Baza, and around its surrounds, to find myself taken back to a time when I lived so far away.
First things first though, and finding a place to stay on arrival was far from easy. The hostal on the main square looked like it had closed its doors many moons ago but the effort of driving around the streets was rewarded with a room at the Hotel Anabel. From the room we had a rooftop view over the town but it was a little too chilly to stay outside and enjoy it! The hotel was nice, comfortable and friendly but with a bit of prior planning we would probably have tried one of the quirky cave houses in the area. That’s definitely on the list for a return visit. Two such options are Al Jatib, a couple of kilometres out of town, or maybe Malutka if we go with friends.
Arriving on a Monday afternoon you soon find there are limited options for things to see and do. As in most places in Spain, museums and many restaurants are closed on a Monday. We wanted to try some local stews but none of the places which specialise in these were open. If you can find it, Meson Siglo XX is worth calling into, even just for a cerveza and a free tapa. The Venecia Restaurant provided us with a wonderful pizza and a good bottle of wine for not a lot of Euros and we highly recommend it, especially on a Monday night when nothing more traditional seems to be available.
The town itself is quite nice to wander around and it’s always fun to explore the maze-like centre trusting that you don’t take a wrong turn and get hopelessly lost. The Iglesia Major towers over the central square and will always provide you with a good reference point should this happen. Nearby is the Archaeological Museum which looks worth calling into if you are there on any day but Monday! Talking of archaeology, you can’t visit Baza without finding the roundabout which is the home of a statue of the Dama de Baza who looks like she’s sat on an armchair with her surfboard right behind her. The jewel in the crown of Baza’s attractions are the Moorish Baths. This was what I really wanted to see so imagine my horror when I found out that they are also closed on a Tuesday! Oh well, next time!
Wandering around town will take you a while because there are things of interest in all directions. The central Parque de la Alameda is nice and provides welcome shade from the fierce sun no matter what time of year you visit. It overlooks the Palacio de los Enriquez which is undergoing extensive renovation. Nearby is the tourist information office which remained stubbornly closed, the leaflets on maps on the counter so tantalisingly close! It’s worth walking up to the bull ring even if you can’t find a way to get inside. It is located uphill from the town and affords splendid views over the houses. On the way you can’t miss the statue of local shot putter José Luis Martínez which adorns one of the roundabouts. It’s quite sad to think that this legend of Baza’s sporting success died from a heart attack at the tender age of 34 back in January 2005.
Like many towns in Spain, Baza once had a railway. The station buildings are still there but there was no evidence of any trains on display. The old turntable is still there but it has clearly seen better days. The railway line has been converted into a Via Verde, a long footpath which is easy to follow. Don’t miss the chance to stretch your legs along this route because the scenery is spectacular. It goes for miles out to nearby towns but it’s just as pleasant to follow it for an hour then retrace your steps.
With a car you can also drive out into the hills above the bull ring. It’s a bit of rough track after a while but it’s not too difficult to negotiate. The air is thin up there and the whole of the altiplano opened up in front of me. Sat at the edge of a field with a picnic lunch, all it took was a close of my eyes to transport me back to South America!