June 3, 2020

Tramping Around Old Cadiz

Not a bad way to spend winter…

All photos by the author.

Well, one week into country, and we’re settling in to our very first international Air BnB in Cadiz Spain. The oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe, the old walled city of Cadiz is very walk-able. In fact, we’ve taken to jogging the perimeter around the old seawall nearly every morning, a route that covers a good five kilometer route.

A run in the morning, then write ’til noon, then off for lunch and adventure around the city seems to be the daily rhythm we’ve struck, not bad. We’re slowing down a bit, though we fully expect to be on the move again shortly.

Among the markets, museums and alleyways, we made a remarkable find yesterday: the oldest camera obscura in Spain, and a still functioning one at that. It resides atop the Torre Tavira along one of the longest streets in the old city, Calle Sacramento. Our Air BnB is just a few blocks away, and we’d walked right by the tower about a dozen times in the past week before deciding to go in yesterday afternoon.

And we’re glad we did. A camera obscura is a pinhole projection camera. Early man probably stumbled upon the idea way back when; you can imagine his amazement, as scenes from the outside world were projected onto the cave walls via pin hole cracks. These early types of projectors became quite advanced in medieval times, and the camera obscura atop the Torre Tavira is a remarkable device.

In fact, we’d recommend this as a first stop, to get your bearings and orientation around the city. The camera is a sort of periscope device, and has a rotate-able 360 degree view of the city. The projection is done on to a large parabolic dish about two meters across in the darkened room below. It’s magical to watch and a bit eerie, looking on as the ant-like citizens of Cadiz go on about their daily lives. You can see along the rooftops, alleyways, markets and far out to sea. Go on a clear day, as you can see all the way out to Morocco and the coast of northern Africa.

It’s definitely worth the six euros for the 30 minute demonstration of the camera, followed by the view from the top of the tower along the rooftops. Cadiz is a city of watchtowers with over a hundred, essential for merchants whose livelihood depended on knowing just who was coming in to harbor. Cadiz was a thriving port in the 19th century, as its position near the Straits of Gibraltar made it an enviable location for commerce.

And as mentioned, the old city is very runner-friendly as well. We’re a morning runner, and we like to get up early and knock out a good run before we immerse ourselves in the obligations of the day. The time zone challenge, however, serves to offset us a bit: though Spain is the same longitude as the United Kingdom and sits along the Greenwich Meridian, it seems to have opted for some reason to stay on Central European Time at UT+1… it would be interesting to know the exact history of why this is, while Portugal and Morocco opted for UT+0 time. This means that, in the winter months, sunrise doesn’t occur until past 8 AM local, and the offset back to summer time in late March only serves to nudge this back a bit farther.

But, as with our times living in Italy, all woes can be solved with good food and good wine.

What’s next? Well, we’ve got two major itineraries brewing in our brain: one is to head to Seville, rent a car and see Andalusia; the other is to bus it to Algeciras near Gibraltar, check off those sights, and take the ferry over to Morocco and the coast of North Africa…

More to come!