“It’s not that important of a cathedral according to our guidebook.” I state as we approach the entry of the Granada cathedral complex. I step through main door and look up. Wow. As my eyes finally rise to the top of the arch that seemed like a football in height. The side arches were as tall as a basket ball court. There was gold everywhere including on the two large pipe organs in each side of the nave, where the congregation sits. Large paintings were covering the walls several stories high. In awe I whisper, “I guess we really do know where the gold of the new world went.” And I realized that some of the less important sights in Spain would be main attractions in the United States.
Leaving the cathedral we continue on our walking path to find the Alcaiceria, which was a silk market in the Moorish quarter. We entered the arched entryway to find ourselves in a marketplace that was a feast for the eyes: fabrics, purses and light fixtures of all colors. The jewelry and other home decorations, it all was a shoppers dream. Shopkeepers were on the entry of each stall ready to make a deal. It was a delightful way to see the local crafts from the region.
Nearby the area, we are approached by several gypsy women holding out bunches of herbs and wanting to give blessing on our way to the old caravanserai. This was a stopover point on the silk road where merchants could rest their camels and spend the night. I am sure there was a bit of trading going on here as well. This particular place was used more recently to store coal after the Reconquista.
Our favorite stop in this medieval city was the Alhambra. The Alhambra was a Moorish place named for a red headed sultan who first lived here. This was a great place to visit to see an earlier civilization and the place they built. We hired a guide for this visit and it was interesting to learn of the social customs and history of the people who called this place home.
The arched doorways ornate with tile, small columns, tile floors and cedar ceilings with intricate designs are some of the memorable detail work in the palace. Written in Arabic throughout the complex over and over on the walls, “God is the only Victor” ensures that the people of this time do not forget their focus.
When foreign guests arrived from a long journey the first thing they would receive is water before having a meeting with the sultan. Water was an important and generous gift in this hot and dry climate. The water system was built before the palace. It is a system based on gravity from the mountains using the aqueduct techniques similar to those used in Roman times. All the water runs down the mountain and runs through the gardens and inside the palace. There were streams and fountains and pools of water throughout the palace wherever one looked. The gravity from the slope powers the fountains we see throughout the Alhambra. Different irrigation system flows the used water out of the Alhambra.
The garden was my favorite area to roam. I loved the garden fountains and was amazed at the height the water achieved without a mechanical pump. There were specific areas for the production of food but gardens inside the Generalife walls were only for flowers and green vegetation, a place to enjoy life away from the palace.
In the evening, we watched the sunset on the Alhambra from the Mirador de San Nicolas. As darkness overcame the earth the lights illuminated the Alhambra in all its glory.
Upon leaving Granada I must mention the 650 year old hotel we were privileged to stay at for a short time on our journey. The Santa Isabela la Real was restored to its original glory as a medieval mansion. I loved the thick wood shutters that could open on each side or as small window doors in each of the four corners. When the shutters were closed all light was removed from the room even during mid day and even better any noise was halted on the outside. The staff was beyond helpful and this was just a pleasant oasis.