Thursday, March 17, 2016

Granada and the Alhambra

We slept in this morning!  At 10 we met in the hotel lobby, and headed up to the Alhambra.  The complex is perched on a hill overlooking the town of Granada.  It's quite a climb up the hill to the fortress/palace.

The place is spectacular.  I'm sure its even better in the summer when all the roses are blooming and the trees have leaves.  But at least it wasn't 107F today.  
We started in the Generalife, the summer palace of the emirs built in the early 1300s.  

Then through gardens full of flowers, with water brought in a 5 mi long aqueduct from the nearby mountains filling fountains, to the palace begun by Charles V, but never finished.

 My favorite part was the last palace, that of the Nasrids.  The plaster work is exquisite, and some of the old fresco paint remains.  It must have been very colorful originally.

Isabella and Ferdinand lived here in 1492, when Columbus finally talked them into giving him money for his trip to the Indies.  It was abandoned, neglected, and then destroyed by Napoleon in the Peninsular Wars.  Soon afterward the people began its restoration.  Many Romantic poets and writers visited and wrote about its beauty.  In 1984 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Another beautiful city, with Roman ruins, the Mezquita, and great food.  I spent a long time in the Mosque-Cathedral.
According to Wikipedia
The [Mezquita-Catedral] was originally built by the Visigoths as the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins. When Muslims conquered Spain in 711, the church was first divided into Muslim and Christian halves. This sharing arrangement of the site lasted until 784, when the Christian half was purchased by the Emir 'Abd al-Rahman I, who then proceeded to demolish the entire structure and build the grand mosque of Cordoba on its ground.

The mosque was converted to a church after the Reconquista, when a cathedral was built in the interior.
We also toured a synagogue (now a museum).

There are Roman ruins from a 1st century BC temple.

And in general a beautiful city with an historic past.  It is the highest navigable part of the Guadalquivir River, so the Romans chose it as the site of a fortress.  They built a bridge spanning the river.

The old city walls, and some of its gates, are still standing.  We walked miles through narrow streets, shopped, and ate wonderful food.  Me and one of the girls managed to get lost (pretty easy in the narrow, unmarked streets) but eventually we made it back to the hotel.

It is hard for me to imagine living in a place with such a long past.  Texas is so recent - Austin is less than 250 years old.  Cordoba is more than 2000.  

Granada, Day 1

We started out this morning visiting the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, the site of various fortresses since the time of the Visigoths. Parts of the current structure were first built on the site in 1328 by Alphonso XI.  It has been renovated over the ensuing years, and only a wall, the donjon, and a tower are original to that time.  Columbus met here with Queen Isabella to ask for money to finance his expedition to the Indies.  It was an important site for torture during the Inquisition.

We then took a 3 hour bus ride through miles of olive groves up to Granada.  I slept, so there are no pictures.  We checked into the hotel, went out for tapas, then took a walking tour of the Albaicin.  This neighborhood was the Arab quarter, established when Moors were driven out of other cities during the Reconquista, when Spanish Christians retook the land from the Moors who had ruled it for 700 years, and the Jews who had lived here since long before that.  Winding narrow streets, whitewashed houses, balconies, and apparently cheap housing.  There are beautiful views of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains, which today are still covered with their winter snow.

The rest of the group went to a Flamenco performance tonight, but I took a break. We are here 2 nights, so I took advantage to wash some clothes, write, and read my book.  Tomorrow morning we are off to the Alhambra, and later we go to an olive plantation, to learn how the oil is made.  There will be a tasting, too.  Another busy day I am looking forward to.
More pictures are here.