By Larry and Joan Dolinski
Continued from update #17
Granada boasts the Alhambre, which is the single most visited attraction in Spain, and, excluding London & Paris, possibly he most visited place in Europe. It is the best preserved Moorish (Moslem) palace in the world and dates from the middle ages. It is contained within a wall measuring two kilometers in length and contains a fortress, palaces (one built by Charles V, grandson of Ferdinand & Isabel), an aristocratic town, a country home, and acres upon acres of beautiful gardens. Granada was the last Arab Kingdom in Spain. Charles V, whom I just mentioned and who had made many contributions to the Alhambre had control of one of the largest empires ever assembled. In addition to the enormous territory he had inherited from Ferdinand & Isabela, there was inherited, through the other grandparents, the essence of the Hapsburg Empire. To that was annexed much of the Portuguese Empire through his wife (a member of Portugal's royal family) ... and we think that mergers and acquisitions are a modern phenomenon! Granada, along with Toledo and possibly one or two other Spanish cities, boasts something that has been most elusive for most of the millennium, namely a very high level of cooperation and mutual respect among the Jewish, Moslem, and Christian civilizations. This desirable state of affairs peaked in the 2nd half of the 14th century. One can see architectural evidence of this among the structures of the Alhambre.
As luck would have it, we timed our visit to coincide with a spectacular once a year festival called "Dia de la Cruz" (Day of the Crucifixion). We have never seen a city so absorbed in the activity of celebration. The streets were filled with people, many in native (Gypsy) costume...even the children. The women wore lovely dresses, the men were attired in short jackets, tight button pants, boots and flat hard-brim hats. Many people were on horseback. In every square (in a city full of squares) there was a huge cross made of flowers, music, dancing, and singing, both by special performing groups and also spontaneously by the gathered public.
Onward to Cordoba, then Seville.Cordoba has its share of great edifices and wondrous history. In the 10th century it was considered one of the greatest cities in the western world. The heart of Cordoba is the old Jewish Quarter; here its main square is a 14th century synagogue (the only other medieval synagogues in Spain are in Toledo). Nearby is an inspiring statue of Maimonodies, who was a rabbi, philosopher, doctor, naturalist, poet, scientist, etc., etc. People come to touch the book he is holding for inspiration and good luck. Nearby the Jewish Quarter is the Mezquita, the Great Mosque of Cordoba, originally built in the first century. Later (16th century) a cathedral was built within the mosque. Today the gigantic structure (mosque + cathedral) covers acres. To give some idea of its immensity, the roof of the mosque portion is supported by 850 columns and the effect is dazzling.
Seville added yet another dimension of wonder to our visit in Spain. Besides doing our usual dose of wandering among the ancient maze of streets, we made a visit to a bullring between events (none of our small group wanted to witness the gore and "cruelty" of an unfair fight with a foregone conclusion so we made it a short visit). We went on to attend an evening of flamenco dancing at a supper club in the old city. The highlight of Seville was the long visit we made to the Alcazares. This was the royal residence of Spanish monarchs for centuries and the place from which Isabela I dispatched navigators to explore the new world; it is still used for the royal family today. Of all the incredible treasures Joan and I have been privileged to see in Spain, we rate this palace and its gardens the best of all.
Continued on Update #19
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