Monday, 18 November 2013

On the road to Madrid

On the road to Madrid

We left Granada on the first leg of our journey North, first to Madrid and then on to Paris and finally London, this over a period of 2 days by train, we change trains in Madrid and in Paris.
We will be in London for 2 days and then fly home to Canada.

 Granada city views

In Granada we saw basically over 2 days the great fortress of the Alhambra, though it would require 3 or 4 days to see it properly, this is how big it is. The Alhambra (Red Fortress) is a citadel a complex of Palaces and courtyards, gardens and a Medina (city) which formely housed the well to do of the Arabic era. We discovered yesterday that Napoleon B. who had a series of unsuccesful wars in Spain blasted the Medina and looted whatever he could get his hands on. Luckily for us the Palaces where not damaged. I am happy that we decided to visit the Palace of the Nazarie Dynasty by night, this is the Palace with the great courtyard and fountain of the Lions. So beautiful and grandiose is this palace that the conquering Spanish Kings decided to keep it as is and use it for their own Royal Residence, in an age when the rule was to destroy anything that was conquered and replace it with something else. The Nazarie Palace is built along precepts found in the Koran which gives instructions on how a palace should be planned, along what can be described as humanist principles. Next to it Charles V built his own palace around 1526 in the Paladian style, which is beautiful but, we are told, the style imported from Italy was misunderstood by people at the time because it was so very different. The Nazarie Palace reminded me of the Fatimid Style I often saw in Cairo in Palaces and Mosques. See the website for the Alhambra

The gardens are also spectacular, more so than that of the Alcazar in Seville, we spent several hours exploring them and admiring the fountains and water works which irrigate the many levels and terrasses. The views also of the mountains and the snow covered Sierra Nevada is beautiful.

The Alhambra complex is above Granada and you will need to go by taxi to reach it or you can walk up to it but it is a long walk from the centre of the City. Despite the fact that Catholicism replaced Islam in the XIVth Century, there was a great deal of accommodation and harmony in society. Not all Muslims left after the decline and defeat of Moorish Kings, life went on. Many because they were learned found work at the Court of the Catholic Kings.

We did not see much more of Granada, except for a visit to the great Cathedral and the Royal Chapel.
In the Royal Chapel are buried in gigantic Carrara Marble Mausoleum facing the main Altar Queen Isabella I and her husband King Ferdinand of Aragon, she was elevated by the Pope as ''Helpful Servant of God'' on the road to Sainthood in 1874, mostly for her work to Christianise the New World.
The Royal Chapel also has her Silver Crown, Sceptre and Sword of State. So large is this chapel that I thought it was the Cathedral, no it is next door. A small plaza faces part of the front of the Cathedral, the rest is very close to other buildings, as it would have been in the Middle-Ages. The Cathedral has numerous chapels all around it and everything about it is gigantic. One rather strange thing or strange to me given that it is not my country's history are two plaques on either side of the Altar with the names of priests who died in defence of Fascism and died victims of communism during the Civil War 1936-39.

Granada has other Monasteries and great park avenues like the Paseo del Salon and Paseo Darro named after the river that crosses the city, great restaurants and good shopping. Would love to return to visit more of the city, the people are very nice and courteous and life is unhurried.

Throughout our travels in Spain, we did see everywhere signs of the economic crisis, the number of apartments or commercial space for sale or rent is surprising. Prices are low in order to attract more shoppers. Unemployement is high amongst the young and the economic crisis has created political instability. The fear is that authoritarianism could return and secession movements like the one in Andalucia could be boosted. Though I cannot see that happening today given that Spain is a modern and well educated country.

As we travel by rail today, we did the first leg from Granada to Antequera slowly. The high speed train does not yet reach Granada but the system is under construction and well underway. Once we arrive at Antequera our train entered a garage and there we changed locomotives for a high speed one, a process that took about 20 minutes. Now we are flying towards Cordoba at speeds of 150Km.

In our travel in Spain and in reading the newspapers, I note how opinion pieces and editorials are common journalism, discussions on a variety of topics from the arts to politics accompanied by artful drawings instead of caricatures is how a serious newspaper presents and defines itself to its readership.
The readers are seen as educated and wanting to engage in a debate of ideas, the slant is different from what we would encounter back home. News is not sensational entertainment, even the sport news, which is mostly about soccer, tends to be serious.

Short train stop in the large and modern Station of Cordoba. The surrounding area has changed from Mountainous to plains ( it rains mostly in the...) to hilly with a mix of pine and brush and of course more olive trees. Modern highways everywhere and those great big modern power generating wind mills on top of hills, not as romantic as the old windmills of Don Quichote.

In Madrid, we have a few hours between trains so we may go to the Prado Museum. We will have dinner on the hotel-train from Madrid tonight. We will arrive tomorrow in Paris around 11:45am at the Gare d'Austerlitz.

Restaurant car on the Madrid-Paris Train.


  1. I have heard of the Prado; is it any good?

    1. Not as good as my Museum, the National Gallery of Canada.