My program here in Spain with CIEE not only gives me the opportunity to live in another country; I really get to learn about it, too. We take excursion trips to royal palaces in Sevilla and to the Cathedral and neighborhoods all rich with Andalusian history. (Sevilla is the capital of Andalusia, the southern province of Spain). We also have the wonderful opportunity of travel. Last weekend we went to the town surrounded by the mountain range Sierra Nevada-- Granada.
It. Was. Amazing. Breathtaking. Like a fairytale. I want my house to be in the style of the Carmenes of Albaicín. I want blue ceramics and white walls and beautiful flowers overhanging balconies. I love Granada. The cathedral in the center, the apartment buildings with architectural decorations painted on, the Moroccan marketplace and the Arabian teashop were all incredible. The pomegranates everywhere were so cute and fun! The sunrise over the Sierra Nevada’s was phenomenal. The view of and from the Alhambra was unreal. Not only was it rich in beauty, but also it was rich in culture.
I should explain:
Granada was the last city in Spain occupied by Muslim rule. It was conquered by the Christian rule by Fernando and Isabel in 1492. It was the most important battle for Fernando and Isabel in the final conquest for all of Spain. Each city they conquered was a gem and Granada, the Moorish pearl.
After their conquest of Granada, Muslims (Moriscos) and Jews were allowed to stay under the treaty of Granada and lived in the neighborhood in the mountains, Albaicín. Each house or apartment building is called a Carmen and they follow the rules of architecture of a Muslim palace or even mosque. “Regular on the outside, with all the beauty within.” This is also how Muslims viewed how a person should be: deeper than that of surface beauty.
(If this is the regular, and the inside is beauty…. The inside must be ridiculous)
Because of their pride in the conquest of Granada, Fernando and Isabel decided to stay there forever, as their final resting ground. They are buried in the Capilla Real alongside their daughter, Juana, their son-in-law, Filipe, and grandson.
When we went inside the Capilla Real, the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Granada, the first thing you notice is the giant iron gate in front of the burial room. The gate is made and shaped by hand with only iron, fire, and hammer. The gate serves as symbolic protection of the tombs of Fernando and Isabel. When we entered the room, I noticed that there were two separate statues that were distinctly different. They were both of “plataresco” design and incorporated historical, religious, and mythological symbols.
Isabel was one of the first queens in her time to have equal power as her male counterpart. People believed Isabel to be very intelligent and witty. A little joke by the sculptor is that her head is portrayed as weighing heavier than that of Fernando. Perhaps to symbolize intelligence, or self-absorption… no one knows!
In my opinion, Isabel was badass. She was a strong-willed woman who loved to express her power. Let me explain. Granada= pomegranate. In the crest of Spain, the bottom portion is a pomegranate to represent the conquest of Granada. Isabel wore pomegranates even in her crown. The royal crown of Isabel of Spain….has pomegranates on it. The scepter of Spain of Fernando and Isabel… pomegranates on that as well. Girl liked to flaunt her victories.
(Excuse my google image, as the royal chapel did not allow photography).
After we visited the final resting place of Fernando and Isabel, we took a tour through the Moroccan market place and saw the Alhambra from a distance (picture above). Our tour guide told us we would go there the next day, as it is a 5k walk from one end of it to the other! We then went to a teashop where we ordered almond pastries and of course, tea. I had vanilla-orange tea, in honor of the bitter orange of Sevilla. The ambiance was quite relaxing and the tea, delicious.
Early the next morning we took a bus into the mountains and visited the Alhambra, which originally was the royal palace for the Muslim kings. It was constructed at the beginning of the 13th century. The last Muslim king to live in the palace was Muhammad XII, and in 1492 Isabel and Fernando took over Granada and thus, the Alhambra. Isabel and Fernando conducted restorations, but left the palace in its original design with original architecture. The detail is amazing.
This is a view from one of the windows; you can see the detailed designs about the windows, and of course the beautiful view of the town. The gardens here were almost as large as the building itself and filled with beautiful flowers, roses, and fountains. I have to go back.
On the bus ride back to Sevilla, I realized that the thing that I loved most about Granada was not the history and the views, but that it was a vacation. Coming back to Sevilla felt like I was going home. Spain keeps taking me by surprise, and I like it.