The monument to Andersen in Plaza de la Marina. / SUR

Malaga: Hans Christian Andersen's 'home' in autumn 1862

Some 160 years ago the city became home, for a short period, for the Danish poet, playwright and novelist

ALEKK M. SAANDERS MALAGA.

Our childhoods have been filled with Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales of The Ice-Maiden, The Wild Swan, The Snow Queen, Ugly Duckling and The Tinderbox. Most of them are about travels and searches, discovering different ways of thinking and living. The author himself loved so much to travel and learn that once even wrote his famous line 'to travel is to live'.

Friendly people

On 4 September 1862, Hans Christian Andersen crossed the Franco-Spanish border at La Jonquera in Catalonia. Later he visited Valencia, Alicante, Cartagena. On 16 October 1862, the boat brought Hans Christian Andersen and his friend, the influential Danish lawyer Jonas Collins, to the port of Malaga. Their visit to the city coincided with the forthcoming visit of Spain's Queen Isabel II. The great expectation was in the air in Malaga. The cathedral was being hung with lamps. They erected temporary fountains attached to tin tubes hanging from the trees. The October preparations for a royal visit were especially remembered by Andersen later, in the book A Visit to Spain (Viaje por España).

The writer even mentioned English beer served at the hotel restaurant. Apparently, the restaurant let him sit with a mug of beer and watch street life, the sea and the people

The Catedral de la Encarnacion de Malaga was described by him as 'an immense ark in the middle of a petrified sea, white with foam.' The magnificent building stuck out for him as a great marble mountain over the city. Andersen stayed at a hotel, located just a hundred metres from the Cathedral. The Hotel La Fonda de Oriente was one of the best hotels of that time, opened in Malaga in 1845 by the Swiss Carlos Brunetti and the Frenchman Pedro Gassend. It was decorated in the French style as well. Incidentally, the original building of the hotel doesn't exist but the building in Alameda Principal Number 8 has a memory board saying that the Danish writer stayed just there. (The board was placed 35 years ago – in October 1987 - by Danish residents living on the Costa del Sol).

"Nowhere did I find myself like in Malaga... I didn't feel like I was in a foreign country..."

The hotel staff consisted of some of French and German nationality, that were highly qualified. Later, Andersen wrote that the hotel was 'well located', and its staff 'spoke Spanish, French and German.' Additionally, the writer even mentioned English beer served at the hotel restaurant. Apparently, the restaurant let him sit with a mug of beer and watch street life, the sea and the people. It is thought that just in Malaga Andersen fell in love with the sea and mostly the people. Later he wrote in the book: “...and something even more important: friendly people... nowhere did I find myself like in Malaga... I didn't feel like I was in a foreign country. I am not only referring to compatriots or people who had a direct relationship with my country; all the Spaniards I met here were very kind and attentive to me.”

'Here I feel at home'

In Malaga Hans Christian Andersen spent lots of time wandering the streets, fruit and vegetable gardens around, soaking up the atmosphere - the city's Moorish past as well as the city's British presence. The Danish fairy-tale writer was particularly enthusiastic about the English Cemetery. The first Protestant cemetery in Spain was visited by him twice because it transmitted a strange power to him. Its marvellous garden was especially highlighted by the famous writer and compared with paradise.

The Danish writer stressed that Malaga has everything what is important in life. Later he wrote: "In no other Spanish city have I come to feel so happy and so at home as in Malaga. I found my own way of life, nature, the open sea, everything that is vital and indispensable to me, I found here... The party atmosphere was everywhere; one felt rejuvenated by the sun and the lush nature of southern Spain. Everyone seemed to be in an excellent mood, as if life was just showing its bright side; joy and youthfulness reigned everywhere. Malaga, beautiful city, here I feel at home, I thought jubilantly.”

From Malaga Hans Christian Andersen travelled to Granada to see the Alhambra and returned on 22 October. The writer was delighted that he felt at home in Malaga when he returned from the city of the Alhambra describing his emotions in the following words: “The sun broke through; the sea stretched out bright and blue, the white houses with flat roofs, the imposing cathedral of Malaga and the lofty Moorish fortress were silhouetted against the sea and the sky. It was like coming home: everything was familiar, and we were welcomed at the hotel like old friends.”

His most renowned quote 'In none of the Spanish cities have I been so happy, so entirely at home, as here in Malaga' is etched into the base of the bronze statue located in the Plaza de la Marina

It is thought that Hans Christian Andersen lived as a nomad. Andersen often ventured out from his native Denmark to explore much further afield though and never settled in what most people called a real home. But in Malaga he felt like at home. His most renowned quote 'In none of the Spanish towns have I been so happy, so entirely at home, as here in Malaga' is etched into the base of the bronze statue by José María Córdoba located in Plaza de la Marina. On 29 October 1862 the writer left Malaga for Gibraltar and then to Tangiers, Cádiz, Seville, Córdoba, Madrid, Toledo, Burgos and San Sebastián finishing his Spanish visit on 23 December. In his diary Hans Christian Andersen wrote that it would be an honour for him to come back to this charming city at the sea though he never visited Malaga again.