THE FINEST TRIP – CÁDIZ
The oldest city in Europe:
It is something special, this city on (or more precisely in) the Atlantic – many sources indicate it is the oldest city in Europe: Cádiz.
As long ago as 1000 BC, the island off the Spanish mainland was used by the Phoenicians as a warehousing centre and military base. In this way, it developed over time from ‘Gadir’ (its former name) into a flourishing economic centre, specialising above all in the silver and tin trade. In the year 1812, when Cádiz was under siege, it literally wrote history: with ‘La Pepa’, it created the first liberal Spanish constitution.
Putting the worthy history to one side for the moment, Cádiz in February is above all one thing: carnival. The ‘Carnaval de Cádiz’ is among the largest and most famous in Spain and is known as part of international cultural heritage far beyond the national borders.
During the 11-day festivities (this year from 20 February to 1 March), the city is transformed into a vibrant sea of colour, attracting thousands and thousands of carnival revellers from near and far.
The dress rehearsals for the spectacle take place as early as a month before the official starting signal, because never mind the fun: carnival in Cádiz is also a competition among a wide variety of groups that poke humorous fun at politics and battle it out with their legendary ‘chirigotas’ (parodies). The climax of the festivities is then the massive parade in which the carnival groups march singing through the streets.
Church of the Holy Cross, Roman theatre, Gran Teatro Falla
However, outside of the ‘fifth season’, Cádiz also has one or two spectacles to offer, ceremonial and architectural: the cathedral, for example, completed in 1830, with its striking dome decorated with yellow tiles, rising high above the roofs of the pastel-coloured houses on the ‘Plaza de la Catedral’. The monumental edifice can be viewed daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Sundays 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.) for an entrance fee of 5 euros.
Not far away is the Church of the Holy Cross, the origins of which go back to the 13th century. Though less spectacular inside, it is above all the traditional tiled mural on the outside that makes the church famous.
Andalusia would not be Andalusia if traces of the ubiquitous Romans had not also been found in Cádiz, in the Roman theatre right beside the Church of the Holy Cross, for example. The theatre was discovered during construction work in 1980 and excavations continue to this day. During Roman times, the structure with a diameter of 120 metres provided space for more than 20,000 spectators and was the largest theatre in the Roman Empire, even causing good old Cicero to mention it in his writings. The theatre is open daily from 10 a.m. to 14:30 p.m. and the visit is free of charge.
Last but not least, the ‘Gran Teatro Falla’, the legendary theatre in which the above traditional carnival festivities take place in February, is of course also worth a mention. Although it was built in 1884, the theatre was only officially opened in 1910 and today it provides space for more than 1,200 people. And perhaps you will be one of them – at the ‘Carnaval de Cádiz’ 2020…