September 19, 2021

Dateline – Granada, Spain

Granada, as it’s in a mountain valley near the Sierra Nevada range, was deliciously cool this morning as the mountain winds descended overnight. I actually needed a pullover for the first time this trip. It rapidly warmed up and was in the 80s by noon, but without the humidity of the coastal areas. Our guide met us this morning and we headed off to the Alhambra. One of the nice things about Tauck Tours is they arrange everything in advance so there is no waiting in line. The Alhambra is one of the most visited sites in Europe and access is strictly limited to keep the flow of visitors down to protect 13th and 14th century buildings and interiors. Tickets often have to be reserved months in advance. However, through whatever magic, we were able to walk right in through the magnificent gate of justice and spent the next two and a half hours in the halls, courts and gardens of the sultans of Granada, the last of the Muslim kingdoms on the Iberian peninsula, lasting from the mid 1200s after the fall of Seville to the Christians through a negotiated settlement and withdrawal to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. The fortified palace the Sultans built for themselves on the crest of the hill with its intricate Islamic decorations, beautifully hydraulically engineered fountains (still using the original plumbing system), and acres of courtyard and terraced gardens was never attacked in war. Napoleon, on leaving the city late in the Peninsular wars ordered that it be blown up to deprive the Spanish of a stronghold, but the French were only able to damage the east end of the complex due to some enterprising Spanish soldiers who cut the fuses to the munitions placed in the west end.

It’s a site that must be seen and that I cannot adequately describe. (Pictures appended, per usual in a separate post). Washington Irving did in the early 19th century in his Tales from the Alhambra, the literary work that put Granada on the cultural map after some years as a backwater. I haven’t read it (or much other Irving except The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle) so I’ll have to take our guides word for it that he got it right, even though apparently the majority of his tales were pure fantasy with no historical truth behind them. I’ll settle for the fact that some of the Dorne sequences from Game of Thrones were shot there. What I’ve learned from this trip is how little I really know about Portugese/Spanish history. I know some of the general outlines and a few dates but that’s about it. American World History tends to focus much more on the British and the French. I’ll have to do some reading. If anyone is aware of any works that make Iberian history palatable, point me to them.

After the tour, a walk down the hill through a woodland park to the center of Granada proper. Most of the downtown area is late 19th century neo-Renaissance of no particular distinction, but coming off of the central commercial district are older residential neighborhoods dating back to Moorish times that could easily be in Marrakesh. Whitewashed walls, a rabbit warren of narrow streets and alleys, small little interlinked shops in the manner of an Arab bazaar filled with cheap stuff that seems mainly imported from India (I did not purchase). The cathedral is an amalgam of gothic, renaissance, and baroque built smack in the middle of a residential/commercial district and without a surrounding plaza making it very difficult to get back from it to get a good look. There were a number of other interesting looking old churches, some converted mosques from pre-1942. A few hours of wandering was enough so I took a taxi back up the hill so I wouldn’t have to climb. My nearly 60 year old knees are noticing the amount of walking I’ve been doing. A brief nap and then dinner and a show at the hotel. Dinner -a spicy pork roast. The show – a small revue of traditional flamenco music and dance styles. It was well done but I couldn’t help but think of Ya Ya in Strictly Ballroom saying ‘You dance the Paso Doble?’

Covid news of the day… The FDA has more or less made its rulings on booster shots clear. If you’ve had either Pfizer or Moderna and you are either over 65 or have some sort of immune compromise, get a booster. If you don’t fall into those categories, you don’t need to. Of course, getting a booster won’t hurt you there just isn’t good science that it’s of enough benefit to justify a recommendation. Those who got J and J are somewhat in limbo. The science regarding boosters just hasn’t been done with the same rigor as with the first two so there are a lot of unknowns. There are no formal recommendations yet. However, a booster, either of J and J or of either of the other two, again, is likely not to hurt and may be of some benefit, at least of more benefit than gargling betadine.

Alabama case counts are coming down, fortunately, but the death rate is going up, up 175% over the last two weeks. This is right on schedule. Remember that cases spike first, hospitalizations spike two or three weeks after cases and deaths spike two or three weeks after hospitalizations. The big increase was through the month of August so mid September is exactly when we should begin seeing mortality statistics increase. I just can’t help but feel sorry for the survivors of the recently deceased. Knowing a thing or two about grief and how it changes your world, there are a lot of people in for some very rough times over the next few years, and it’s all so unnecessary. Meanwhile, here in Spain, case counts continue to fall, vaccinations continue to rise and people don’t fuss about having to prove vaccination status or wearing masks. I’m going to miss that attitude when I return home this next week.

We’re up early tomorrow and on to Cordoba. I promise to wash my hands, wear my mask as needed and keep my distance as much as possible.LikeCommentShare

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