European Adventure V: The Castillo Overlooking Jaen

After we checked out of our hotel in Malaga, we took a taxi to the bus station. We would have to take the bus first to Granada and then from there a bus to Jaen. It was past noon by the time we checked out. In the end, we took the easy way out and just took a taxi to Jaen. We wanted to make it to Jaen before it got too late (no point burning daylight). Happily, we arrived in Jaen in time for a late lunch (lunch is late there anyway).

Vin is a professor of Spanish and during his graduate studies he lived in Spain for a total of 4 (non-consecutive) years. His very first year there was spent in Jaen and he first went there 20 years ago this September. So this is truly a return to his Spanish “kampung” (hometown). He lived for 3 years in Seville after that, but Jaen remains close to his heart so he wanted to get there quickly and start looking up his old friends.

Jaen (pronounced “ha-yen”) is the capital of the province of Jaen in Andalucia. It is surrounded by olive groves and I learned that Jaen is the olive oil capital of the world. However, because Jaen is a landlocked province, it’s a little off the beaten tourist path. We saw relatively few tourists while we were there and Vin said that twenty years ago there were absolutely no tourists in the city. Before we get into the city itself and Vin’s old friends (in the next entry), I wanted to show the one historic and sort of touristy place that we visited. It’s the Castillo (castle) that sits on a hill overlooking Jaen.

[[image:eur68.jpg:Castillo from downtown Jaen:center:0]]

The Castillo was a Moorish castle (like the Castillo de Gibralfaro in Malaga) and like the site in Malaga, there is a Parador de Jaen hotel located at the site. We took a taxi up to the Castillo to view the ruins and afterwards we were going to have some refreshments at the hotel restaurant.

[[image:eur69.jpg:Shot from the taxi:center:0]]

This is the hotel part of the Castillo:

[[image:eur70.jpg:The Parador de Jaen:center:0]]

We walked past the hotel section into the ruins of the Castillo. This castle was won back from the Moors in the 13th Century, so was probably built before the 10th Century AD. Here’s the tower just growing right out of the granite hill:

[[image:eur71.jpg:Castle Tower:center:0]]

[[image:eur72.jpg:Rampart with bird flying over it:center:0]]

[[image:eur73.jpg:Vin looking at the view:center:0]]

[[image:eur74.jpg:Sila by the Castle door:center:0]]

[[image:eur75.jpg:Vin walking through the archway:center:0]]

[[image:eur76.jpg:Vin by the Castle:center:0]]

[[image:eur77.jpg:Magnificent architecture:center:0]]

Notice the extremely tall archway and its very Islamic motif. I can just imagine the Moors riding their horses through the narrow archway, guards posted in the tower ready to shoot arrows at unwanted approachers. There were narrow slit-like windows which were probably for the archers. The castle is so grand and huge, it’s unbelievable that it’s still standing and not completely in ruins considering that it is probably over a thousand years old. Manually hauling those stones up the hill would have not been a fun job back then. And it looks like the castle was built right on a rocky hill – that’s still a feat of construction these days. The building was just amazing.

Aside from gawking at the awesome castle, we walked along a narrow walkway all the out to where a large cross stood. Spain is, after all, a predominantly Catholic country.

[[image:eur79.jpg:The walkway:center:0]]

We had a panoramic view of Jaen from up here. Olive groves as far as the eye could see, and the city itself. Vin says that the city has grown tremendously since he first beheld this view twenty years ago. Santa Catalina (the patron saint of Jaen) would be pleased at the growth. You can really tell where the newer sections of the city were from up here. The buildings look brighter and the roofs a more vivid color than the older buildings.

[[image:eur78.jpg:View of Jaen:center:0]]

[[image:eur80.jpg:Vin marveling at the growth of Jaen:center:0]]

[[image:eur82.jpg:Olives on the plains:center:0]]

[[image:eur83.jpg:Los Villares:center:0]]

[[image:eur84.jpg:Rocky outcroppings:center:0]]

I zoomed in on the Cathedral in the middle of town. It still stands out from up here:

[[image:eur81.jpg:La Catedral de Jaen:center:0]]

Then we walked into the Castle for drinks. Una mas Coca-cola, por favor. So here’s what the interior looks like.

[[image:eur85.jpg:Antique lamp?:center:0]]

[[image:eur86.jpg:Tapestry and High curvy ceilings:center:0]]

[[image:eur87.jpg:Dimly lit medieval corridors:center:0]]

There were so many Moorish (Islamic) motifs throughout the building. I saw window decorations that could have come out of any masjid in any Muslim country. The Moors did control this area for quite a while and so many things here still bear the influence of them. The name Jaen for instance, comes from the Arabic word meaning “caravan” (according to our guidebook). It was originally transcribed from the Arabic as “Xauen” and natives of Jaen pronounce it “kha-yen” with a very strong “khhh” sound in the throat – like trying to clear phlegm – which is how Hisham’s and my first name (Khairul) is supposed to be pronounced (don’t worry I’m lazy, I usually just make it a regular “k” sound). The province Andalucia, Gibralfaro (Yabal-Faruk), the Alhambra and numerous other place names in Andalucia have their origins in Arabic.

Anyway, we had a lovely visit and then we taxied back down into the city.

[[image:eur88.jpg:Waiting for the taxi:center:0]]

In the next entry I’ll go into more detail about the rest of our visit in Jaen.

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