Look at Spain and try to imagine the point closest to the ocean. The one point from where you would try to launch a Trans-Atlantic journey. Well, Cádiz would be it. The lower left corner, the one that almost looks achingly (or greedily?) towards the riches of Latin America. This strategic position immediately behind the Pillars of Hercules, as well as its ideal natural harbour, made Cádiz probably the oldest town in Europe. The Phoenicians founded it in the days when the world was still young and no empire had ever set its sights on the European continent.
Cádiz’s location is surreal. Old Cádiz is found on a peninsula connected to the mainland only by a sliver of narrow land. As if a classical ruler had decided in his flight of fancy to build a fairytale city based on a project imagined by a court philosopher. In our days the town no longer fits to the peninsula and has steadily grown towards and onto the mainland.
When Columbus discovered America, the first base where the riches flowed and where they were counted and distributed was Sevilla. Sevilla is the point where the river Guadalquivir loses its navigability, hence that was where the ships had to stop and unload. Later a disaster struck: Guadalquivir silted and the unloading point with all the riches was moved here, to Cádiz, bringing with it an unimaginable wealth. This went on until the fall of the Spanish colonial empire in the beginning of 19th century.
Here in the distance you can see the narrow strip of land that leads towards the mainland (it has the wide sand beach, whereas Old Cádiz only offers a boring and narrow stone beach).
A look in the direction of the ocean.
The most characteristic feature of Cádiz’s skyline is the innumerable observation towers. Every family would build one, in order to be the first to spot an arriving ship. Hundreds of towers were built in the days of flourish. Here the three main types of towers can be seen: the chair type (on the right); the octagon type (in the middle); and the mixed type – chair and octagon together (on the left).
The previous photos were made from the tallest of the towers of Cádiz, which hosts today a camera oscura. The camera oscura is a popular attraction in Spain found in a number of cities especially in Andalusia. Using a mirror installed on the roof, the reflection is beamed into the white cloth located in a dark room. By moving the mirror around it is possible to look at different parts of the city. Quite a fascinating process! It is also very interesting to listen to the stories that a guide would tell you as she moves the mirror. The optical principle in use is the saem as the mirror in a reflex photo camera. No photos were allowed inside the camera oscura, but I made a quick snap of the white cloth which we all surrounded to look at the magical show.
Extremely narrow is how all the streets of Cádiz are. This is one of the main ones:
In one of the parks in the old town. It so happened that even though it was my old dream to visit Cádiz, as I found myself here I was completely overtaken by a computer game (Europa Universalis IV, if you need to know). And so I played all night long and only went to sleep at around 9 am. And already at 11 I had to free my hotel room! At 11.15 loud knocks were heard on my door, the hotel owner shouted that I should get out. I packed my stuff in record time – about 5 minutes – although was quite angry at the owner. Normally checkout in Spain is at 12. Having slept 2 hours, I walked around Cádiz like a zombie and I feel that I didn’t give it its due. Overall it’s very hard to find an ok hotel in Old Cádiz – too few hotels in the middle category, and very poor price-quality ratio.
The Сádiz seafront after dusk.