May 1, 2018
I left home on April 1st, and now it is May 1st – amazing! I am kind of getting tired of wearing the same clothes…. And, I wish that I would not have intentionally left my tennis shoes in London – even though they were on their last legs, so to speak… I never did clean the last lot of mud off my Solomons that I wore on the Camino because I haven’t been in a place with enough time and enough sun or newspaper to dry them. They are wrapped up in the bottom section of my backpack with my sleep sack and down quilt, first aid supplies and cold weather gear. So, I have been wearing my Keen flip-flops. Even though they have a wonderfully supportive foot bed, with the crazy cobblestone, tile, steep hills, substantial steps and all other kinds of terrain, they (and my feet) are, uh, being put through their paces!
And as for that cold-weather gear, I almost pulled it out because it was quite chilly in Granada. In fact I did call the raincoat into service for its warmth. There’s a mountain range not too far away where they actually have skiing! And honestly, I think I could really feel it in the air! I could see their snow covered peaks when I was visiting Alhambra. I discovered Monday, that the mountain range is called the Sierra Nevada (I kid you not!) and “it is the highest mountain range in Western Europe, after the Alps. It’s highest point is the 3,479m Mulhacén peak, and it is classified as the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Natural Park and National Park because of its botany, scenery and environmental importance”. I got that information in a brochure at my hotel as well as the following:
“For more than 1000 years, the integration of Man in the difficult terrain of the southern slope of the Sierra Nevada has created a unique landscape. The interaction between different cultures such as the Andalusian Muslim, Mozarabic and later Castilian, has made La Alpujarra a remarkable area, with its architecture, terraces for agriculture, its water channels to take advantage of the melting snow in the Sierra Nevada, its rich and varied gastronomy, its customs and traditions. The water from Lanjarón, ham from Trevélez, delicious flower honey, wines, rugs, fabrics, wickerwork and ceramics are just some of its treasures. This totally unique region has now begun the application process for classification as a UNESCO world heritage site.”
“A few kilometers from the city of Granada, on the far west side of the mountains, is the most southerly ski station in Europe, a paradise for lovers of snow sports. Sierra Nevada is possibly the ski resort which offers the greatest variety of activities and quality sports, combined with cultural, environmental, gastronomic, educational, business and leisure services. It has more than 124 pistes covering over 100 kms, the greatest skiable slope (1,200m) in Spain, fantastic quality snow and areas for all abilities, ranging from those who want to get the adrenaline flowing to beginners who have come to learn. The Sulayr superpark, a benchmark for lovers of Freestyle and Snowboarding, and the chance to ski and snowboard at night, with 5.8 kms of illuminated runs, makes the Sierra Nevada a favorite ski resort for younger people.”
And I apologize as more may be too much, but for those interested in a tad more regional geographic history and tourism perspective, here is yet more from the hotel brochure: “In contrast, the north slope of the Sierra Nevada gives us a completely different view. In the Marquesado del Zenete and Guadix and the Altiplano, Baza and Huéscar the landscape is of a reddish soil and fertile valleys, with an impressive historical archaeological heritage. The strategic crossing of ways was the reason these lands were inhabited in prehistory. Rome, Islam and later Christianity left their legacy on its villages, some of which are extraordinarily beautiful and valuable. However, one of the principal features of this area is, without a doubt, it’s cave houses. As these have been excavated from the rock their thermal isolation makes them warm in the winter and cool in summer. They are charming and simple, and more and more caves are now available as tourist accommodation. As a result, an increasing number of people are becoming enamored of this type of property.”
Back to the present – Labor Day in Spain! Today I had no specific agenda, timeframe or destination. So I just meandered up and down the narrow streets as my spirit directed. I encountered cute little apartments, enjoyed some street music and stumbled on some great viewing points with expansive vistas of the townscape. I could also hear loud voices and assumed it must be related to the holiday.
I went into a few churches including San Juan de Dios and the Monasterio San Jeronimo. The main Cathedral was not open until 3:00. Yesterday when I happened by, the lines were long, of course. It was supposed to rain today at 3:00, I was feeling a lull in my sightseeing desires and to be shamefully honest, I have been inside SO MANY Amazing and Beautiful churches during both of my Caminos and visits to Spain, countless with MASSIVE amounts of gold and most of them with no admission charge – that frankly I have become quite jaundiced about whether or not I go into another – famous, highly touted or not. The adoration, worship and respect for God is so palpable and Crazy Over The Top, the artistry incredible and the investment of time and money obvious, and I certainly appreciate all that. I believe in my own heart that God would prefer a personal relationship with each of us instead of these displays of wealth, yet there is no denying the history represented within (and without) these beautiful cathedrals. So on that note, here I’ll share from the brochure given to me at my hotel:
“Granada Cathedral was built by Queen Isabella immediately after the conquest of Granada on the site of the Mosque. This cathedral is a masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance style. Cathedral of Granada has impressive facades and a stunning interior with a grand altar and several chapels. It is the 4th largest Cathedral in the world.
Carlos V, always respectful to the memory of his ancestors, made sure that the Cathedral was built in accordance with desires of the Catholic kings. The first stone of the Cathedral of Granada was laid in 1523 on the site of the ancient mosque. Its architect was Enrique Egas, master of the Old Gothic School. These works, concentrating on the foundations, lasted five years.
Egas was replaced by Diego of Siloam, another Spanish artist trained in Italy. His first decision was to change the Gothic style of Granada Cathedral to the Renaissance style. He persuade the King to change the style, which was possible because what built Egas was only the foundation.” And from another resource: “And herein lies the skill of Siloe, to build a Renaissance cathedral on Gothic foundations.
Granada Cathedral has many chapels of different ages and styles, the most interesting being the chapel of Nuestra Senora de la Antigua. The Cathedral of Granada was left incomplete in its facade. Of the two towers planned, only one was built one and its height had to be lowered because the foundations for a Gothic cathedral could not resist the heavy mass of the tower.” (lovegranada.com)
So I did not go into the Cathedral but rather snapped a few photos from the outside and listened to a troubadour. Then I kept wandering and finally found myself at the perfect viewing spot in a sidewalk as the Labor Day parade marched by with flags and voices raised together.
I continued down some of the bigger (but still narrow) tourist thronged streets, clinging to walls with them all when the many taxies and busses (gulp) drove by and found myself the local pastry delight – Pionono. Quite tasty, but there is just way too much focus on sweets and breads in Europe it seems to me!!!
I didn’t make it there, but Granada is home to a large university and of its approximately 300,000 in population, roughly 75,000 are students!
I hung out back at the hotel – which is itself housed in a converted historical building, avoided the rain, made my own delicious tapas and called my Granada exploration “Bueno”.