With the students otherwise occupied, I had the chance to travel and visited three cities in Andalucia, Southern Spain, last weekend: Sevilla, Cordoba, and Grenada. In typical American whirlwind fashion, I spent one day in each city, traveling by plane, train, bus, tram, and my tired feet. I’m sure I did not do any of these beautiful cities justice, especially because I did not take advantage of the night life, but I’m happy to report that I was able to hit the major sites in each one. I headquartered in Sevilla, in a nice hosteria in the Barrio Santa Cruz, and traveled by train to the other two destinations for day trips.
The history of this area is reflected in the architecture of all three cities. The Moors ruled Spain for 700 years; during much of this time, civilization flourished and Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived a relatively peaceful co-existance. Moorish architecture is particularly evident in the south, which is close to North Africa and which was a stronghold of Islamic culture. When the “reconquista” of the Catholic monarchy eventually took over the Iberian peninsula, Muslims and Jews were required to convert or leave, which many did. Interestingly enough, it was 1492 when the last Moorish king surrendered to Ferdinand and Isabella, and when the “Reyes Catolicos” signed the Alhambra decree expelling all Jews from the country, followed soon by the Inquisition. What I thought was interesting was that the historic (and most charming) districts in each city had at one time been either the Jewish Quarter (Cordoba and Sevilla) or the Muslim Quarter (Grenada). There are both historic remnants and current signs of life of all three major religions in each city.
I must have taken hundreds of photos, but I’ll limit my entries here to just a sample for each city. First, Sevilla:
Now onto Cordoba, a mere 45-minute bullet train ride from Sevilla. Cordoba once served as a regional capital for both Roman and Moorish sites, and is home to the Mesquita, a mosque dating from 784, as well as a maze of streets known as the Jewish Quarter.
I’ve saved the best for last, at least in terms of my impressions: Granada. It took a 3-hour milk train run out and back from Sevilla, but it was totally worth it. I know some of you reading this blog have been to Granada, but if not, I’d encourage consideration of this spot for bucket lists. Above all else, the Alhambra fortress , the last stronghold of the Moorish kingdom in Spain, almost defies description. Senor Rick had warned four times in his guidebook that no one without reservations would be admitted to the palace in Alhambra, so I was prepared to be disappointed and just view the outside. Instead, because it’s the low season for tourists, I was able to get right in and see the whole enchilada. Wow. On top of that, rising into the hills is yet another charming neighborhood, the Albayzin, a former Moorish quarter, with the breathtaking San Nicolas viewpoint. A cathedral, street vendors, street musicians, a diverse collection of people, great food, and lots of colorful plazas add to the city’s charm.