After leaving Granada we drove about two hours north to the medieval hill town of Ubeda.
The drive across Andalucia takes one through a continuing series of olive groves in
all directions. This is the view from Ubeda looking out to the north. While in town
we visited an olive/olive oil store and information center and learned a bit about the
various types of olive oil made locally. The local olive of choice is the Picual.
So how does a random hill town in Andalucia garner so many architectural wonders?
Well, Francisco de los Cobos, a prominent resident became the secretary for Emperor
Charles V and then his son succeeded him. As a result they brought back a lot of money
and a lot of favors for Ubeda. The construction of most of the major buildings was done
by the architect Andres de Vandelvira, a leading proponent of what is called Humanistic
architecture. This cathedral, the Holy Chapel of the Saviour was built by Vandelvira
and others, financed by Francisco de los Cobos and is absolutely amazing inside, since
about half the space is sacristy and all of it is decorated lavishly. Photography is not
allowed inside and we decided to be good and follow the rules so we have no pictures of
Ubeda is a rather quiet town. We stayed in the center of the old city (this is the
Maria-de-Molina hotel where we stayed) and from there it's easy walking distance
to just about anything of interest. We also ate dinner in the hotel the night we
stayed here, one of the most interesting and definately the most elaborate meal we had
in Spain. We ordered for the first and only time from the fixed Menu del Dia, each
of us picking an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. What we didn't know is this also
included bread, a plate of olives, pate, a skillet of what turned out to be pork kidneys,
and a hearty bean and ham stew. After all of this we got to the appetizers (3 eggplants
in Melanie's case) and the entree and dessert. The food was very good but we don't recommend
the menu del dia unless you're really hungry.
This is one of the many plazas in Ubeda. We sat on a bench here for a while
people-watching. There were really no obvious tourists either foreign or domestic
as far as we could tell. Ubeda has a sister city Baeza which is just a short distance
away and is similar in being a quaint walled town so maybe everyone visits Baeza instead.
The narrow twisting roads of the old city are fun to wander around in and Ubeda has
very nice tourist information signs in English, French, Spanish and German in front of
buildings of note.
This is the church of Holy Mary of the Royal Castle (as translated into English).
This was undergoing restoration during our visit and we could not go inside it.
Something else we came across in Ubeda was bull-fighting, which is found throughout
Spain but it is particularly popular in Andalucia. The nearby city of Linares was
having its annual festival and the bull fights were televised locally. Without
overt political comment on the activity we can say that it is a very violent sport, not just
the killing but the ceremony leading up to it as well. Neither of us were willing to
watch the entire match through although we read about it in the following day's paper
and the culture surrounding the event is fascinating.
Ubeda is a town of artists and craftsmen, and besides the local olive oil and wine
production, they specialize in carvings from olive wood, basketry and pottery. Ubeda
has a signature dark green glaze which most of the pottery is finished with. We
bought a sangria pitcher and a candle holder shown here, but you can find just about
anything in the various pottery stores.