Frigiliana, el pueblo blanco
I vividly remember the day, about a year ago, when I received my teaching placement in my inbox— “Frigiliana,” it read. “Where on earth is that???” I asked myself. It certainly was not Madrid, Malaga or Seville as I had requested in my application—that much I knew. This Oregon girl was hoping to lead an urban, European life in Spain for a year—really, a change of pace and a chance to improve my Spanish. With “Frigiliana” sitting in my inbox and a million questions on my mind I set off to do some online research. However, much like the rest of Spain, things aren’t so well connected online here. I found a pretty large gap in information about Frigiliana which heightened my nerves for my upcoming move… What I was able to learn was that Frigiliana is a PUEBLO—and a small one at that. With a rather rapid change in attitude and a solid dose of courage, I clicked “accept” on my Frigiliana teaching placement for the 2014-2015 school year and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Now that I have been here teaching English in the local primary school for the last 8 months, I feel it’s finally time to share my knowledge and experience of one of Spain’s most charming villages.
View from the top of the old town
The white washed village of Frigiliana is found just five kilometers north of Nerja, nestled away in the slopes of the Tejeda and Almijara Mountains, boasting stunning views of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. Yes, a traditional Spanish village located in a natural park with sea views—that is definitely a good start, eh? What else makes this pueblo so eye appealing? The village homes are stacked tall and follow the winding cobbled streets of this hilly town—nearly all of them sport bright blue doors and have red geraniums and little bird cages hanging off the balconies. The residents take pride in their stunning pueblo—keeping it immaculate and true to Andalusian style. I promise I am not biased—this gem of a village has won numerous awards for its beauty and charm! The old town part of Frigiliana appears to be completely unaffected by modern times—you can get lost on these curvy streets and run into something like this on any given day:
Completely un-staged and not the first time this happened to me. Honestly, it’s a normal sight in this town. I was so charmed when I first arrived and saw livestock working in the village! Many of these traditional homes, restaurants, and stores cannot be accessed via car and supplies must be carried via mule or donkey.
When you arrive in Frigiliana by bus (1 euro from the Alsa bus stand in Nerja), you’re dropped in front of the fountain and Plaza de las Tres Culturas—a circular plaza with panoramic views of the sea and countryside—note the olive, avocado, and mango trees out in the countryside! The fountain in the middle of the roundabout carries a lot of significance—it represents the three historic cultures of Frigiliana: Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. These cultures are celebrated in Frigiliana’s biggest party of the year in late August in the Festival de las Tres Culturas.
Another important festival in Frigiliana is called Las Cruzes which happens in early May. If you’re looking for a truly traditional pueblo—this one is perfect. The streets are lined with giant crosses made entirely of flowers and residents place tables outside of their pueblo homes, offering family made muscatel wine and treats made with miel de cana (molasses). You can stroll through the streets eating and drinking your way to the top while enjoying flamenco music and shows in the streets.
If you orient yourself north and take a look up, you’ll see this brown building, El Ingenio, or The Mill. This is the oldest and still functioning sugar cane molasses mill in Europe! You’ll notice stores selling the sweet molasses in Frigiliiana (miel de cana) and all over Spain really—it’s great on yogurt, fruit, fried aubergine/eggplant, and other typical dishes here.
As you make your way up the town and past the mill, you’ll start noticing these large, ornate tiles—telling the history and story of Frigiliana. Since they are in Spanish, and actually a bit difficult to understand even if you’ve got some Spanish under your belt, I never actually knew what they said. I felt kind of silly working here every day and still not knowing the full story about Frigiliana. Nearly a month ago, I decided to change that and take a tour of Frigiliana’s history, using the tiles as a point of reference. This has been one of the most interesting and enjoyable tours I have taken in Spain—stunning views, delicious tapas and local wine, and a change to not only learn about Frigiliana’s history, but also how it fits into the greater story of Spain.
Its rich history starts with early civilizations such as the Phoenicians and Romans—leading to the Arabs in the middle ages. The Arabs built a small castle at the very top of Frigiliana which has mostly been destroyed in a final battle ending in the expulsion of the Arabs. These beautiful tiles tell the tales of fertile lands, ancient inhabitants and those who’d rather die than lose their precious village of Frigiliana.
One of the many history tiles
Working hard for that siesta!
If you’re planning on a visiting Frigiliana, comment below! This is a magical place that absolutely cannot be missed. Or, have you visited Frigiliana before? If so, tell me you favorite sites or places to taste some local fare!