Monday, 18 November 2013

Granada Free Tour

As with every place we go to I attended a free tour here in Granada, too. Before I launch into it, however, let me tell you a little history of the town. Granada was under Muslim influence for a very long time and it was the last stronghold of the moors when Ferdinand and Izabella reconquered Spain. Due to this the Moorish influence is very strong in the architecture.

It all started in Plaza de Santa Ana at the foot of the Alhambra, where the Iglesia de Santa Ana can be found. This church was originally a mosque called Almanzra but in 1501 they transformed it into a Catholic place for prayers. Can you see the three balls on top? You can find these on top of mosques in varied numbers. As to what they might represent there are many theories. The point here is that in order to insult the Muslims they didn’t just take the balls off but pushed a cross on top of them saying that Islam is inferior to Catholicism.

Right next to the Iglesia there’s a lovely fountain. There are many fountains in the historic parts of the town as the Muslims were very clean people and had to wash five times a day and before stepping into the mosques. The water flowing out is always drinkable and very tasty.

Right next to the church flows the River Darro. The river begins in the surrounding mountains where years and years ago there was a gold mine. It is empty of gold by now but the people of Granada believe that during storms and long rains the mud that flows down from the mountain could contain little nuggets of gold and even today you can find some elderly people who sit on the sides of the river after the rain trying their luck.

It seems that the builders of the city recycled everything they could put their hands on. From the gravestones of the Jewish cemetery (we saw examples for that in Barcelona, too) to those old fashioned wash basins where grandmothers and their mothers used to wash their clothes. You can find these broken up and embedded in the streets. Here next to the river there are many with lines carved in them, these had come from washing basins.

Here’s a door that’s called the ‘mother-in-law door’. Can you guess, why?

The city of Granada was very well defended. You can see examples for this in the old city walls (there were six of them) or in the varied sized steps in the Albayzín. With the first glimpse it’s not obvious why but when you think about it, the soldiers, who were wearing full armour and weapons, couldn’t just run up on the stairs, they actually had to pay attention to where they stepped effectively slowing them down.

Another part of the defence was the door itself. As you can see, many houses here have huge wooden doors that contain a smaller door. They only opened the big ones when animals or a cart needed to go through, they used the small one for everyday use. The height of if was such that the person who wanted to go in had to bow and put his head in first. Providing the perfect opportunity to the person on the other side to chop their head off.

I finish off with a story about the surnames of the people. According to history when the Catholic kings took over the town they expelled the Jewish and the Muslims…or they offered them a chance to stay if they convert to Catholicism and pay lots of money. All those people who stayed got a new Christian name. They weren’t very creative and used animals and plants and other everyday things as surnames. Therefore if your Spanish friend has a plant’s name in their surnames there’s a high chance that their ancestors were Muslim of Jewish.

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