Sunday, April 10, 2011


We decided to take an overnight trip to Granada. It is only 1.5 hours away but it seemed like an awfully long day trip and there was a lot to do in town. In planning, I realized that you had to make a reservation to get into the Alhambra (the reason so many visit) and that the place was almost fully booked all month because of the Easter celebrations. The only time available was the next day!

So off we went. We spent a day walking through the town and a morning visiting the Alhambra. Granada is famous because it was the last stronghold of the Moors. Ferdinand and Isabel were on a rampage to make Spain a unified shrine to Catholicism. In fact, their zest for Christian domination was such that they would have lit the world if they could.

It all began when Ferdinand, King of Aragon, married Isabel, queen of Castile, thereby uniting two major provinces of the Iberian Peninsula. They shared a passion for Christ and a passion for power. They wanted to unite the whole of the peninsula and set about driving out the Moors. Sadly, this passion for saving souls gave the footing for the Holy Inquisition to gain a stranglehold on Spain, spreading more fear and suspicion than love and eternal life. In the ensuing years, they succeeded in pushing out the Muslims and Jews and creating a Catholic country, albeit a rather subdued Catholic country.

When Boabdil, King of Granada left, Ferdinand and Isabel moved in. They set up shop right in his beloved Nasrid Palace. Then they brought down the town mosque and built one heck of a huge cathedral right over top. We like to call it the “Ha Ha” Cathedral. It dominates the landscape. You can see in the picture above how big it is compared to the rest of the buildings around it. Inside it is big enough to contain a forest and it has its own weather, I think. The temperature is several degrees colder in the cathedral than on the street. The focus of the cathedral is on Mary as the newly converted Muslims who stayed had an easier time praying to her because she is in the Koran (Muslim bible). Inside the cathedral they still have a huge pictorial work displaying Saint James swinging his sword atop a horse while a Moor writhes beneath the horse’s hooves. That had to chafe at the new converts.

Ferdinand and Isabel then decreed that everyone should eat pork because Muslims and Jews can’t eat pig meat. To show you were following the correct faith, you ate pork. Even today you can find more pork dishes than anything else. The grocery store has a whole aisle devoted to ham hocks. This move helped to prevent Muslims and Jews from returning to Spain as well. There are some 700,000 Muslims living in Spain today and 5 million living in France. I guess it worked.

One other interesting tidbit about the Alhambra is that this is where Ferdinand and Isabel received Christopher Columbus and agreed to his terms for sailing west to discover the east. We saw the room where this happened; a perfect cube of a room, perhaps appropriate for a sailor about to prove the earth was a sphere. I thought it was interesting also that Rick Steves said that most people didn’t believe the earth was flat at this point but simply thought it was far bigger than Columbus had calculated.

Beside the huge cathedral is the final resting place for Ferdinand and Isabel. They may have gone about things in a frightening manner but they are credited with uniting Spain. Their bodies lay entombed in a chapel next to their grandson and his wife. I wonder how they feel about that. Philip the Fair died before his wife, Juana the Mad. Juana was so overcome with grief that she had his body set out in her bedroom and kissed him goodnight each evening for TWO YEARS. I believe this may have been when “the Mad” was attached to her name. I wonder if this is why the bodies of Spanish royalty now have to “ripen” for 90 days before they can be entombed in the El Escorial pantheon.

We also spent some time wandering around the streets. We saw an old caravanserai, the last of the original fourteen camel watering holes. When travelers would come to Granada, they’d stop at these places to sleep, sell their wares and swap stories. This place was completely hidden by more modern buildings surrounding it. Not far from the caravanserai was the Alcaiceria (muslim market in the style of souks). The streets were very narrow and the multiple shops sold mostly the same tourist junk but it was fun winding our way through it. Way back when, it was created as a silk market and had armed guards. Silk was a very important product controlled by the sultan. We didn’t see any silk but we did see the Roma ladies who push rosemary at you in the hopes they’ll con you out of a few coins by telling your fortune. We didn’t fall for it. It was tame compared to the Egyptian souks and the poor gypsies didn’t stand a chance.

We explored Sacromonte, an area of Granada that has mostly Roma people. This is one of the only places in Spain whree the Roma have a neighbourhood they live in rather than being integrated into the city. The people of Granada think the Roma isolate themselves. At the entrance to the district there is a statue of Chorrohumo, a famous Roma man who used to give tours. The word "chorro" is a slang term for "thief" so it is kind of a play on words in Spanish. Not sure how the Roma feel about that one. There were also lots of Flamenco bars but we had already decided to go to a show in Sevilla, capital of Flamenco.

Now, Granada and the Alhambra was an interesting place but perhaps the MOST interesting was when we had lunch on the street. We sat eating our sandwiches when a woman strolled past with her pubic hair flowing over the top of her low-rise pants. Well, it was either that or some small, dark animal was fighting its way out. Rhys and I were the only two privileged enough for THAT eye-full and we both looked at each other in “was that what I think it was” horror before bursting into gales of laughter. You'll be pleased to know we didn't get a picture of THAT one for you. Just when you think you’ve seen it all.

1 comments: said...

great pictures of Julia and you...looks like you're back in Greece...Neat that you could swim in the water! Love Mom