We ended the last post with the cliff-hanger about what we would do after finding it difficult to hitchhike south from Valencia. It was about one week until our friend would meet us in Granada – how to best spend that week in Spain?
After discussing different options we decided to go to Madrid since we never had the chance to explore the Spanish capital before. To go to Madrid we had to return to Valencia and we were very lucky to be able to spend another great day with lovely Linnéa and her boyfriend Emil who had also arrived!
Emil and Linnéa in our favorit Valencian park.
Chapter 4: Madrid
We took the evening train to Madrid and walked through town right when Real Madrid won the Champion’s League final! People celebrated in the streets and almost all hotels were fully booked. The hotel we finally found, to a reasonable (?) price, was located in the city center, but already in the reviews before making a reservation we were warned about the complicated check-in process. After making the reservation, a WhatsApp message was sent to us, including codes for opening the doors in the building. When we got into the reception it turned out to be unmanned. A camera zoomed in on us and a voice requested us to leave the money (in cash) in an envelope in a safety box. After this was done the code to our room was sent to us on WhatsApp and we could enter. This procedure was interesting and felt a bit surreal. The experience felt rather uncomfortable and we have to admit that it is nicer to interact with physical persons.
The unmanned reception (if they spy at us, we spy at them).
In Madrid we did some sightseeing during two days:
“The Bear and the Strawberry Tree”, which is also on Madrid’s coat of arms.
Campo del Moro park with the Palacio Real de Madrid in the background.
A nice photo exhibition in El Retiro park.
Spain’s largest flea market, which is located in El Rastro district during Sundays.
El Retiro park
We left Madrid, happy to have seen the city. Our impression of Madrid is that it is a lively city with less tourists than Barcelona, but it lacks the big landmarks that capitals like London and Paris have. Unfortunately, our impression might be clouded by all the rain we had during our stay. It is also a city which would have been more interesting on a bigger budget.
Chapter 5: Granada
From Madrid we took a bus to Granada, a five hour long journey. During the trip we enjoyed nice views and dramatic weather.
View from the bus window.
We arrived in Granada a few days before our friend would arrive because we wanted to have time to hike in the Sierra Nevada mountains. This was something we had looked forward to for a long time, but now we were not sure how Anna’s knees would be able to handle it.
The first day we walked a short, but very beautiful trail close to the village Monachil that was easily reached from Granada by bus. In the beginning we had to share the trail with school classes on field trips, however, they all turned around and walked back after seeing the most spectacular views. Below follows some photos from the trail.
The following day we returned to the Sierra Nevada mountains close to the village Güéjar Sierra. This day David walked mostly alone while Anna enjoyed the beautiful views while resting her knees.
While in the mountains we were contacted by Helén and Andreas, friends to Anna’s family. Andreas and Helén were in the surroundings on vacation and decided to drive by our location to meet us. We had a nice cup of coffee and we got a lift back to Granada. Coincidences like this are a lot of fun, it was great seeing Helén and Andreas and we even got invited to spend a night with them in Malaga after leaving Granada.
When we decided to go to Granada we did not know that it would be during the Corpus Christi celebrations. This is one of Granada’s biggest fiestas of the year and lasts for one whole week with processions, festive areas, traditional dances and fireworks. The day of Corpus Christi is a catholic feast to commemorate that the bread eaten during the Eucharist is the body of Christ. We did not see the processions, but saw some traditional dancing and a lot of happy people in the streets.
Our friend and Anna’s former colleague, Oskar arrived in the middle of the celebrations. Oskar was an exchange student in Granada five years ago and we spent a nice weekend together. Oskar showed us the pearls of Granada, we ate a lot of tapas and had a great deal of fun!
Before and after a gigantic portion of churros.
The famous palace and fortress complex Alhambra.
Nice view at the outskirts of Granada.
Abadía del sacromonte, an abbey at the outskirts of Granada.
The weekend with Oskar came to an end and we got on the bus to Málaga. In Málaga we met up with Helén and Andreas again and this time we also got to spend time with their daughters Elin and Sofia. The Redfors family even let us stay for the night in their apartment, which they had rented for the week! We spent a nice evening and morning together and we also got to see a little of Málaga.
The Redfors family
Square in Málaga
Chapter 6: Linéa de la Conception & Gibraltar
Since we wanted to pass over to Africa crossing as little water as possible as well as seeing Gibraltar we went to the city La Línea de la Concepción, which is a Spanish city bordering to Gibraltar. We stayed with a Finnish couchsurfer named Kim, who like a lot of other people work in Gibraltar, but live in La Línea. We spent the evening hanging out with his other expat friends who showed us the best food and beer the town had to offer (tapas!).
Gibraltar is independently governed, but part of the UK territory. This means that they can put their own tax rates and is thus considered a tax haven. While also being part of the EU, this puts it in a special position which attracts a lot of companies, especially in online gambling, banking and other financial services. There were a lot of talks of what would happen to La Línea after Brexit, since it could possible make a lot of people unemployed.
Kim and his friends.
The next day, we crossed the border into our next “country”: Gibraltar! Gibraltar is famous for its big rock, which hosts the only population of monkeys in Europe. We decided to hike up to the top on the trail known as the “Thrill Seeker” which took us up on the backside of the cliff along the “Mediterranean steps”.
On top of the rock we finally got our first glimpse of Africa on the other side of the strait. It had been three months since we left Sweden with our sights on the African continent. We had fantasised about this moment many times on our bikes and it was a good feeling to finally see it with our own eyes.
So close we could almost touch it!
A little further we saw our first Berber Macaques. The monkeys were very cute, but naughty and tried to steal a lot of people’s food and belongings. We were surprised how intelligent they appeared to be and kept an extra eye on our bag.
The Gibraltar flag
The main shopping street in the city of Gibraltar.
From La Línea de la Concepción we took the bus to Tarifa, on the southern most tip of Spain. We spent a few hours in this cute surfer’s and whale watching town before taking the fast ferry over to Morocco and AFRICA!
Luggage “securely” fastened on the ferry
Three months have passed since we cycled out from Lund in the snowy weather. The journey through Europe took us on many emotional and physical ups and downs. We took one of the trip’s most difficult decisions: to send home our bikes. If we would have started without the bikes, we would not have seen this much of Europe and instead headed straight for Africa. We are now glad that we had the time to explore so much of our home continent before taking on the real adventure that Africa has to offer. What will stick with us the most is the people we met and the knowledge that hospitality is still alive and thriving in Western Europe. It will be a while until we will be back, so thank you Europe for this time and we’ll see you again when we are done with Africa.
Nights spent in Spain. Red = staying with hosts, Blue = paid accommodation, Green = wildcamping. One bed = one night, two beds = several nights.
Nights spent in Europe.