From Madrid we made our way south to Granada. It was a quick stopping point on our way to Tarifa, Spain, where a short ferry ride connects Europe to North Africa.
Beginning in the 8th century, the Moors (a term which refers collectively to the Muslim tribes of North Africa) had made the opposite journey, sans ferry, invading and then ruling over parts of Spain and Europe. They brought with them advanced mathematics, science, agriculture, architecture, and art. They also built the Alhambra, an immense palace/fortress complex, and current #1 tourist attraction in Granada. Around 1000 AD the Christians began reconquering the Iberian peninsula, gradually pushing the Muslims out of Europe. Granada was the last Islamic stronghold and it fell in 1492.
Although predominantly built by the Moors, the Alhambra was also occupied, renovated, and expanded by its subsequent European rulers. Thus, Granada’s history is written in the architecture of the Alhambra: from its mathematical designs and fountains of the Islamic buildings, to the Roman influences present in the Palace of Charles V, and finally to the baroque style of St. Mary’s Church.
The Alhambra is massive and you get a workout trying to see the whole thing. We weren’t helped by the fact that we had to double our mileage after discovering that the cafe where we were trying to warm up (on the far side of the Alhambra) only took cash.
It was thirty minutes until the Alhambra closed. We rushed to the front gate and exchanged our audio guides for the cash deposit we’d left earlier and immediately headed back to take care of our tab. We paid hurriedly and started back for the entrance, but the friendly cafe owner stopped us. Her customers were allowed to stay as late as they liked, she told us, and invited us back in for a complimentary coffee.
We had taken a bus up to the Alhambra, but we were re-energized by the injection of caffeine and decided to walk back. Descending towards town, we found ourselves on a well-lit wooded path with sculptures and even the spectacular remnants of an ancient city gate.
We continued into the city, taking a break in front of the impressive Granada Cathedral. We were initially disappointed that the doors were locked, but we found a side door that was open, and we slipped in for a quick look.
And that was that. We picked up some snacks and headed to bed semi-early, trying to rest up before the long journey to AFRICA the following day.
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