Coming from Sevilla in June 2019, I went south all the way to Tarifa, but not before I made a stop in Arcos de la Frontera, a monasterio in Jerez de la Frontera where I had a special encounter, and in Vejer de la Frontera so much whiteness that it is hard to imagine. And in Arcos and Vejer I learned that looking out for a specific patio is like trying to find a needle in a haysteck.
Arcos de la Frontera
Kurt Hielscher made three photos here, one from a mirador, a viewpoint which was quite easy to find. The other two from patio's.
A beautiful and pretty well-known photo from Kurt Hielscher, 1914-'19. I have seen it being shared on social media quite often, but did not find it myself. Mr.Núñez, the man who had already tried to rephotograph all the photos Kurt Hielscher made in Spain in between 1987-1991, did.
View on the Iglesia de San Pedro from the Balcón de la Peña Nueva in Arcos de la Frontera, a very exciting moment for me, because of the near depth while I was balancing trying to find the best angle.
Arcos de la Frontera, Andalucía. Photo: Kurt Hielscher, 1914-'19.
Arcos de la Frontera, Andalucía, 22nd of June 2019. Photo: Casper Molenaar.
The night after my visit to Arcos de la Frontera, I could not sleep. It was like I was dreaming, even before I fell asleep. I imagined myself climbing the fence at the Balcón de la Peña Nueva in Arcos de la Frontera, to get a better view on the Iglesia de San Pedro above the precipice, just like Kurt Hielscher had over 100 years ago. In my imagination I fell into the depth, over and over again, accompanied by the repeating melancholic melody of a guitarman and owls circling above me. When I was there, I somehow managed to keep focusing only on taking the photo, switching off any possible fears. I made a chat with the guitar player, passed a couple of a bird show with owls at the mirador casually slipping out something like "Don't worry, I am not going to jump!", before I climbed the fence. I am not familiar with fear of heights but, suddenly here it was in my dreams. The view from the Balcón is stunning, but for a next time I think I will stay behind the fence. Kurt Hielscher probably made his photo after March 2017, because the bridge, that is not visible on Kurt Hielscher's photo was washed away by the floods that month. The current iron bridge was completed in 1920.
The guitarmen at the Balcón with some typical melancholic melodies.
The other patio here I did not find. Now I know Mr.Núñez did. Because of the well, a quite specific characteristic, this one I should have been able to find. With Mr.Núñez' photo it should be easier to ask around. The photo shows that the well is still there but the place changed a lot, so probably the people I asked did not recognized the place when I was there with Kurt Hielscher's photo. And I also had the ambition to visit Jerez and Vejer to visit that day and end in Tarifa, so I made the choice to leave without succes. Photo: Kurt Hielscher, 1914-'19.
I did find a lot of other of the hundreds of patio's in Arcos de la Frontera. It is not a small place. I did not find the right one, though I asked quite a lot of people for some help.
The streets in Arcos de la Frontera: narrow and white.
Though I got some help, I did not find the right patio. Below, copies of Kurt Hielschers photos on a bar and locals discussing what should be the right place.
Basílica de Santa María de la Asunción on the central square, the Plaza del Cabildo, which is adjacent to the Balcón de la Peña Nueva with its characteristic view .
Jerez de la Frontera
The Monastery "La Cartuja" Santa María de la Defensión in Jerez de la Frontera was more or less lost. Only recently, since a few years it is inhabited by nuns after the monks left. This was all told to me by a very gentle and neat lady, named Mercedes, "Now, you will never forget my name!" she said. Her connection with God goes beyond faith/belief and religion. We talked about Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina where I have been only once and she recommended me to go again and again, just as long as I will start feel and experience what she did.
Mercedes runs the souvenirshop of the Monastery here in Jerez and sells handicrafts made by the nuns."What a coincidence!", she said when I told her I was from The Netherlands. "My son works there". "Where does he work?", I asked her. Can you imagine her eyes flickering even more, when it turned out it was Breda, my hometown? Now, she wanted me to prove him that people from The Netherlands are indeed visiting the monastery. Repeatedly, he had said to her that that was hard to believe.
The Monastery "La Cartuja" Santa María de la Defensión in Jerez de la Frontera, 1914-'19. Photo: Kurt Hielscher.
The Monastery "La Cartuja" Santa María de la Defensión in Jerez de la Frontera on a postcard I bought in the souvenirshop.
When I showed Kurt Hielscher's photo to Mercedes, it iturned out that I couldn't visit the gardens from which the photo was taken . There was the danger of stones falling down from the building and the nuns live a very quiet and isolated life here. Nobody is allowed to get in and take photos. Luckily, in her shop I also found some postcards and one of them (2nd photo here above) was more or less taken from the position Kurt Hielscher did over 100 years ago. I offered to hand over another postcard to her son.
The week after I came back home, I met Federico Fiz here in the city center of Breda at his work and gave him the postcard that his mother Mercedes is writing here. Federico told me the photo from the postcard is probably from '70s, so I am still in the dark how it looks nowadays. I guess I'll just have to wait till reconstruction works have been executed and go there again. It is a beautiful place, so why not?
Vejer de la Frontera
A three quarters of an hour drive south from Jerez de la Frontera, I found myself in a sunny Vejer the la Frontera. Everything is so white here, that I can not recall I saw so much whiteness in one place as here. And in between all this whiteness I had a mission.
And that was to find the exact same place where Kurt Hielscher made his photo, again from a patio:
So, I went looking out for the right patio again.....
.... but did not find it. But, when I opened Mr.Núñez' book half a year later I noticed that also he did not capture this one again.
Though I really felt that I was wandering around in the footsteps of Kurt Hielscher here in Vejer de la Frontera, I did not find the patio where he made his photo over a century ago. To be honest, I did not even expect to find it anyway, since from what I learned from my visit to Arcos de la Frontera in the morning of that day: don't try to find a needle in a haystack! That mindset gave me the calmness to enjoy the beauty, tranquility and overwhelming whiteness of Vejer as well as all the differences of all the patio's I did take a look into. And yes, of course I did ask people if they were familiar with the one on the photo, but without succes. Even Mr.Nuñez did not find this patio. So if anyone can provide me with an address with a 100% guarantee, I'll have a good reason to come back. It would be with pleasure anyway. Hope you enjoy the photos I made during my visit. I've put them below here.
And in between all this white, I found ....
A statue of Woman with traditional black dress: Las Cobijadas.
Here a lot of photos from Vejer de la Frontera. I enjoyed wandering around a lot here, though I did not find the place where Kurt Hielscher made his photo.
"El Molinero", back to the car and on my way to Tarifa.
Below: stunning view on the landscape surrounding Arcos de la Frontera.