Cadiz, enlightened and charismatic

Thu 1 Oct 2015 17:05

Since pre-Roman times Cadiz has been a major player in trade and culture with the Mediterranean, Europe and north Africa but in the 17th and 18th Centuries along with its sibling, Seville, they became two of the most important cities in the world, based on trade with the Americas.


The relatively new 18th to 19th Santa Iglesia Cathedral was financed by wealthy merchants and contains paintings and sculptures from centuries ago right up to date. Murillo of Seville and advocate of modern naturalism was well represented. Some sculptures were created by a woman and painted by her husband and another sculpture of a 21st century priest has only recently been completed and installed. History in the making.


The connections with Seville were essential for the assimilation and distribution of the wealth being brought back from north, mid and south America. Tobacco came in through Cadiz, but because the air is moist by the sea and not ideal for a commodity that relies on fire, it was shipped to the dryer, inland 'Carmen' factory in Seville for cigarette production.


When the Cadizians claim to be the source and origin of flamenco in the Santa Maria area, just like the Tiana area in Seville, it is likely it developed at the same time as concepts and imaginations were shared between the two.


The city has been laid out with four different coloured walks each taking in areas differentiated by age, defences, Cadiz in its apogee and the 19th century Constitution written in 1812. We religiously followed the purple route and most of the green but then became side-tracked as we came across, for example, one of the biggest 1st century Roman amphitheatres on the Iberian Peninsula, Flores Square full with sweet smelling flower stalls, a lovely place for lunch and some people watching, 'guess whose from the cruise liners' became a favourite game. The food market was better on the Tuesday as the fish stalls were open with stunning displays of fruit de mer.


The camera obscura at the top of the Tavira watch tower revealed the city from a different angle as the lady provided a bridge made of folded paper for pedestrians below to walk over and the new suspension road bridge, opened only a few days before came into view. From the top of the cathedral views to the west reminded us that the watch towers, on top of the houses all over the city have two purposes. First to keep an eye on who is coming into and leaving the harbour and secondly to spot ships returning from the Americas when they were 25 - 30 miles away.


We had a pretty intensive first day and flopped onto our seats on top of the ferry at 6.20 in the evening. On return we found the chunky Russian square rigger Shtandart, built and crewed by youngsters was moored in the marina. We were impressed by her stoutness, rig in good order, boy and girl sailors at work in the rigging, aft accommodation where the crew sleep in hammocks and store their possession in wooden chests and the captain on his lap top in the galleried cabin below.


The young Russian crew were more interested in the plentiful oysters attached to the harbour wall. I could imagine that after the daylight had gone we might hear the chip chip of russian knives, and good luck to them.


On the second day we followed our noses to Cadiz Museum, The Castle of Santa Catalina where there was an exhibition on the Flamenco artist known as Mariana of Cadiz, the lovely Delicias Gardens facing the Atlantic to the west and the San Felipe Auretorio, home of the 1812 Constitution. Apart from that we had two little loose ends to tie up. First I needed some red polyester thread to patch a hole in our small ensign and Rob needed some pot rivets to refix the aft hatch lid, both essential for our next leg and Cadiz being a place where people live, grow, work and play both purchases were easily made.