After a gorgeous, winding drive through the mountains from where I was staying in the Costa Blanca, finding the Refugio de Cervantes Bomb Shelter Museum in Alcoy took me another hour or so. The delay was due to its humble signposting, and by “humble” I mean a simple sign on a gate next to a building I couldn’t see at all because of the high stone wall it was hiding behind.
But never mind. Alcoy, despite its big-city air, is a breathtaking-looking town, and as I searched I got glimpses of its layout. Perched along two separate very deep river gorges (or perhaps it’s one river that takes a sharp turn), it makes for surprising views as you cross extremely high bridges from one side of the city to the other. Unfortunately, driving alone, I wasn’t able to get any photos, but Alcoy looks like it’s worth a stop.
Down below those startlingly high bridges is a river, and it looks like some of the older parts of the city are downhill. One of the mistaken stops I made as I searched, for example, was at a building right on the almost-dry river, which turned out to be a museum of firefighting. Judging by some signposting I spotted, there’s a medieval section to wander as well. I’ll have to go back.
The Refugio de Cervantes Bomb Shelter Museum
Anyway, once I finally found a parking space and asked directions, I arrived at the Refugio de Cervantes Museum. I was surprised, after paying my one euro admission charge, when the man at the desk grabbed a ring of keys and said “Follow me.”
Walking out of the building and down a short path, we arrived at a door in a wall (photo above). I would never have even noticed this myself. Unlocking the door, he switched on a series of lights and pointed me on my way. I had the museum to myself.
Alcoy, as an important manufacturing center for the Spanish government, became a target of intensive bombings by fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War, practicing their carpet-bombing tactics for use later. Alcoy, in response, built a series of bomb shelters as refuges for its civilian population. Refugio de Cervantes was one of them.
This is not an extensive museum. A series of tunnels with “rooms” branching off them contain displays explaining the strategic importance of Alcoy, the history of the bombings themselves, and give a glimpse of what life must have been like in these tunnels. Some residents simply moved into the tunnels to live for a time.
Unfortunately only a general flyer is available in English, but the piped-in music from the period, the photos and the audio-visual displays, make it all fairly clear what happened there.
While it will only take a half-hour of your time, the museum is worth a visit if you’re in the area. It’s right on the Cervantes Park: go there, park in the surrounding area along the street and ask someone to point the way, to save yourself time.
Other things to see in Alcoy, besides the panoramic views over either gorge:
- Archeological Museum Camil Visedo, in a 16th century Renaissance-style palace.
- Na Valora’s Tower, a 13th century watchtower.
- The Museum of the Festival of Moors and Christians
- MUBOMA: The Fire Service Museum, housed in a repurposed industrial building
- Sant Jordi’s Bridge, built in 1931 in art deco style
- And lots of turn-of-the-20th-century architecture: industrial buildings, workers’ homes, churches, etc. This route will show you modernist architecture while this one focuses on industrial architecture.
Have you ever been to Alcoy? If so, please add your impressions and suggestions!