Hello dear family and friends. I know it has been AGES since I have written, and for that I am sorry. My hiatus does not reflect a lack of intention, but rather my busy, hectic life the past few weeks. But let's see...I'll begin my harried catch up with my trip to Andalucía.
Andalucía is the region in Southern Spain. It is known for the hot climate, remains of the Arabic influence, and flamenco, among a number of other things. I planned a quick trip to Sevilla, Cordoba, and Granada. I took a night bus that left Salamanca at 1:00AM. I thought this was the best use of my time, but in retrospect, sleeping on the bus left me weary for the rest of my trip. And because I saw three cities in three days, it is difficult for me to sort out the trip in my mind! I was still able to enjoy the sights, though.
In Sevilla I enjoyed the Cathedral, one of the largest in the world, built on the site of a Muslim mosque. Attached to the cathedral is La Giralda, what was once a minaret and now serves as the bell tower, and offers incredible views of the city. Instead of stairs, the hike up La Giralda is on an incline, because horses were used to reach the top when it was used as a minaret. Considering its height is 343 feet, I was thankful, even though I was not on horseback.
After the cathedral I toured Alcázar, the old Moorish Palace, which changed hands over the years. Construction began in 1181 and lasted 500 years and is a combination of Mudéjar and Renaissance styles. It is indescribable, as I quickly found Muslim architecture and decoration to be.
Exhausted from the trip, I bought a sandwich and sat in the square facing the cathedral, just relaxing and people watching. There was quite a bit to see, because filming for a movie is being done in Sevilla right now, and I think I heard the movie has Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. I didn't see the stars, just a few car stunts. After regaining some energy, I ate dinner and took in a flamenco show.
The show was different than I expected (though I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting), but impressive nonetheless. We were entertained by a guitarist and vocalist before a female dancer came into the room. Her flowing skirt made quite the spectacle, but I was blown away by the male dancer-his feet looked like a blur as they moved so quickly. It was a dramatic show, which I think is typical of the art.
I shared my hostel room with mosquitoes, and woke up with a swollen eyelid due to a generous bug. But then I was on to Córdoba!
I spent the least amount of time in Córdoba (literally just a few hours) while I toured the famous Mosque (La Mezquita). The mosque, built upon an old Christian Visigothic church (which was built in 600AD) came into being as a Muslim place of worship in 784AD. In 1236 the mosque was taken into Christian custody and converted into a cathedral. It was not converted, though, so much as added to: the chapel was literally built in the center of the original mosque. The result is an incredible combination of two very different architectural styles. It is something to see, and I don't really know how to describe it well. Hopefully my pictures will help you understand, thought they do not begin to do it justice.
I climbed aboard another bus, destination: Granada, which may be my favorite of the three cities. It was certainly the hottest!
Granada's claim to fame is La Alhambra, the Moorish palace and fortress. It is the most well-known example of Islamic architecture in Spain. Construction was finished during the 14th century. Granada was one of the last cities occupied and defended by the Muslims. More than a palace, it is a complex of strongholds, living areas, and beautiful gardens. Again, I cannot begin to describe the complexity and detail of the architecture in these buildings. And the setting, atop a mountain, offers incredible vistas of the region.
I climbed a hill opposite La Alhambra to watch the sunset on the area and saw the buildings and mountains glow red as the sun slipped away. Incredible.
An interesting fact I learned later: Napoleon attempted to bomb La Alhambra during his reign. There was a malfunction with the bombs, and the area was safe. Residents say it was a miracle it was not destroyed.
The next morning I spent touring the rest of the city: the cathedral, royal chapel, and just enjoying the sunshine. And then I began my trek back to Salamanca!
One day I hope to return to the south of Spain...it is a beautiful area.
Make sure you look at my Picasa page to see more pictures from my trip!