Iberian Odyssey 4: Granada – Grand Jewel of Andalusia

John and I boarded a Talgo Inter-City train at Atocha Station and cruised down to Granada in 3.5 hours, hitting speeds in excess of 170 mph. At first glance after emerging from the central station, Granada appeared a bit tired and small compared to super-cities Barcelona and Madrid. Granada’s Old Town, we would discover, after settling into our hotel smack in the heart of it, was exceptional.

The Alhambra

Granada, population 112,003 and 917,445 metro-wide, is a city in southern Spain’s Andalusia region, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s known for grand examples of medieval architecture dating to the Moorish occupation, especially the Alhambra (above photo).

This sprawling hilltop fortress complex encompasses royal palaces, serene patios and reflecting pools from the Nasrid dynasty (Google). Most tourists to Granada visit the Alhambra and its worth the effort and time. The below diagram illustrates the locations of the palaces and gardens.

By 1492, the Jews of Spain had been forcibly converted, expelled, or killed. The Alhambra decree then turned on the Muslims to forcibly convert, expel, or kill them too.

The Catholic kings regained total power at the cost of driving out two vital communities that contributed greatly to the nation’s well-being and ushered in a long period of decline. Spain, after Franco the dictator, has become an open, tolerant and surprisingly diverse and affluent society.

The aim of building the huge Cathedral of Granada was to glorify God and the Catholic faith to the Spanish people.

The imposing and handsome front doors of the cathedral’s entrance are made of wood.

Our hotel was across the street from this park and outdoor café.

The rest of park is a green leafy oasis in the cobblestone world of Old Town. Flocks of birds fill the trees to eat their little green and round fruits.

Old Granada is full of visual delights. One strolls the walking street, suddenly looks up

and beholds a beautiful cathedral tower.

Granada’s plazas are full of cafes that serve fine food. Be careful, though, because the tents are shared by different restaurant groups of varying degrees of attentiveness. That night it was our misfortune to sit in a space that was poorly managed. The serving group adjacent to us were terrific to their diners. That was our only unpleasant dining experience in twelve days though the food was pretty good.

A closer look at the walking street and attractive outdoor cafes.

The statue celebrates the classic 19th Century Andalusian man of the land and his faithful donkey.

The next morning, we boarded the Talgo for a fifty-mile ride to Antequera to switch trains for another fifty-mile ride into Malaga. This was our last train ride as we picked up the Audi from Europe Auto office in the station.

Fifty years ago, I spent a night in Malaga to catch a ferry to Tangier, Morocco. Malaga, back then, was an unattractive industrial port city with a beautiful cathedral. At night, tourists fled to Torremolinos, a modern beach town that I recall that was shockingly popular with tall, pretty Swedish females.

Fifty years later, I discovered a new Malaga, a very attractive beach resort built on inexpensive UK, Dutch, German and Scandinavian package deals for tourists. I regret that I did not take my camera that evening to photograph Malaga’s lovely Old Town with its walking streets and good restaurants. The next morning, we were off to drive the rest of the Costa del Sol and on to Faro, Portugal, where we would spend the next two days.

Please forgive me sweet Malaga for not developing a web page. Take heart that it was rewarding to re-visit Malaga and learn that the city has gotten much better with age.