Like most other children, our kids are intrigued with castles. Since we spend most of our time in the United States, we have not had the chance to visit many. Here in Europe every other town seems to have some sort of castle, or at least a ruin. We were curious about the Alcazaba in Alméria.
Finn was just a tad bit nervous. Was this like the castle in Dutch amusement park The Efteling? That one had just been a little too realistic in its décor and activities for his liking. And despite the conversations beforehand, Zoe was imagining that today she was finally going to meet a real princess.
The thousand year old ruins and what has been rebuilt on top are visible as we drive into town. Looking over the Mediterranean, the Alcazaba locks the town outside its walls. We have a great view over the flat rooftops of Alméria, the port and the sea. It is fun to imagine what this would have looked like 500 and 1000 years ago, if there was anything at all.
Originally, the fort was built by the Moors in the 10th century. No more than ruins are left of these early years, although some of the surrounding walls have been properly restored and some Islamic houses were rebuilt on old foundation. People haven’t always used great methods to go about this ancient site and much information has gotten lost. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to see the remnants and to use our imagination to visualize the past. Zoe is intrigued by the bath house, or hammam. The tubs are not very comfortable according to her, since they are all made of stone. Strolling further up where Christians somewhat more recently added to the fortress (15th century) more of the castle is in decent shape and the kids can make a little more sense of the ruins we walked through before. Ruins that almost disintegrate even more, when Finn starts kicking them from under the rope surrounding the area. When we shout not to do that, he quietly asks us why. I guess he did not really understand how time works, when we talked about the age of this place.
The current entryway to get into the fortress is lined with lovely, narrow water channels, ending in fountains with fish. It is not original, but it certainly gives the place allure. What a fun way to climb up to this fort.
Dodging the drug-loaded beggar on our way back to the van, this experience opens a whole new subject of conversation. Though I have seen much worse, it makes me slightly uncomfortable to run into this situation with kids. Suddenly you look at the world through three more pairs of eyes, and the last thing I want is to get the kids scared. Yet, it is a great educational opportunity in many ways.
On our way up, we drove by the Parque Nicolás Salmurón. With numerous playgrounds it looked like the perfect place for lunch. It would have been, had the wind not been so tough that the tomatoes are pretty much blown out of my salad. Nevertheless, we explore playgrounds and admire the obviously ancient trees along the entire park. Out of curiosity we walk by the Cathedral and a bit into the town of Alméria and head over to the Parque de las Familias. By then it is late afternoon and this park with several fabulous playgrounds is filled with children. Kids of all ages find more and less challenging structures, but of course all three of ours (the 2 year old included) decide to begin at the most advanced one. Before we know it, it is close to getting dark. We have barely explored half of the grounds.
As in every larger town in Spain, Almeria has plenty tourist attractions. For us however, just exploring the Alcazaba and two parks made a perfectly beautiful day.