Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Granada, Spain: The Wonders of Two Cities

We are back in Andalusia, the Spanish region where we began our journey.  We are making a loop, and it won't be long until we close the circle.  We visited Cordoba and stood among the columns and arches of the Mezquita de Córdoba.  In Granada I walked through the illuminated rooms of the Nasrid Palace of Alhambra late one night.  These are two of the most wonderful places we have seen in all of our three tours through Europe.

In Cordoba, the Roman Bridge over the Guadalquivir River leads to the gates of the Mezquita de Córdoba.  For 2000 years it was the only bridge in the city.

The outside of the Mezquita de Córdoba is impenetrable, except after paying your 8 euros at the ticket office.

Every Sunday the Mezquita de Córdoba is open early, at 8 am instead of 10 am.  We were there right at opening, and we had the space almost to ourselves for the first hour.  It was built as a mosque in the 10th century and expanded several times.

The vertical views are as inspiring as the horizontal.
The wood mudejar wood ceilings have been beautifully restored.

Examples of beams in not-so-good condition were mounted for display in the courtyard.

Christian rule returned to Cordoba in 1236, and in the 16th century the building was converted to a Catholic church and a nave plopped down right in the middle of the mosque.  This is one of two organs installed in the church.

The carved mahogany of the choir was astounding in quantity and detail.

Another Moorish window for the collection.

Sundays must be a day to dress up in traditional garb in the city, because we saw all ages in these colorful  dresses throughout Cordoba.
It took three  days of biking to get from Cordoba to Granada, across terrain that definitely was not flat.  The white hill towns of Andalusia nestled among olive groves is the typical landscape.
Castillo de Alcalá la Real

Olive trees, everywhere.

The last grade dropping into Granada.  The valley location of the city traps air pollution, so the view of the Sierra Nevada mountains can only be faintly seen through the haze.
When I remember Granada, I remember ice cream.  It was a hot day when we arrived, and John stayed outside with the bikes while I shopped for groceries.  He must have looked hot or underfed or both, because a man exiting the store with a box of ice cream delights noticed John noticing him and his box.  The man reached in and gave John a cone and walked away.  John was poised to take a bite but remembered it might not be the best thing for his continuing lactose intolerance issues. So all that cold creamy chocolate goodness was all mine!

We stayed in an AirBnB apartment for two nights, right in the heart of downtown Granada.  It was located in a narrow alley across the street fromn the most popular ice cream joint in the city - Los Italianos.  Let me tell you, the second ice cream cone in as many days was delightful!
The street below our apartment started getting busy about 2pm and did not let up until late into the night.  The noise from happy people eating ice cream was so loud we had to keep the windows shut!
The Alhambra is the big attraction in Granada.  It is a palace complex with gardens and grand buildings.

The Palacio de Carlos V was a big hulking square building from the outside, with a surprisingly lovely round patio in the interior.

City views from the hill where the Alhambra is located were superb.
Of the multiple buildings that make up the Alhambra, the one that is star attraction is the Palacios Nazaríes.  The number of tickets sold to enter this building are limited and quickly sell out online.  We managed to get only one entry ticket to visit in the afternoon.  Additional tickets are sold the day of entry, so we left our little apartment before dawn to go stand in line.  There were many people ahead of us, some that looked like they were there most of the night.  By the time we got to the ticket window all that were left were tickets to enter at 10pm.  So John took the day shift, and while he was already snug in bed and sleeping, I ventured out into the illuminated city to see the palace.  It was a magical experience to see the intricate plasterwork highlighted by oblique light, not unlike how it must have been in the time of oil lamps.

John was able to capture images of the Palacios Nazaríes with the benefit of natural light.

It was a warm evening, and people were out eating and drinking as I walked for my night tour.

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