On May 12, 2006 Bill Tebbs and I drove to Washington's Dulles Airport to engage in much mistaken identity hilarity with some employees of a Chinese food outlet before boarding a tightly packed plane to London's Heathrow where we changed planes to continue on to Madrid, Spain and then to the recently renamed Federico García Lorca Airport outside of Granada. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of four rivers, the Beiro, the Darro, the Genil and the Monachil. After further adventures catching a bus and some confusion over our sexual proclivities at the hotel, Bill settled in to recover from jet lag and I scouted out the immediate neighborhood for any available hoots.
It wasn't long before I stumbled upon the Granada Cathedral of Incarnation. There’s something about cathedrals that make you just stand there in awe, dwarfed by the stunning architecture full of details. Hidden behind buildings and overlooking a tiny square, the Granada cathedral is easy to miss and doesn’t really stand out in the open like the Notre-Dame in Paris. Unlike most cathedrals in Spain, construction of this cathedral had to await the conquest of the last Arab Kingdom: the Nasrid kingdom of Granada in 1492. Queen Isabella immediately ordered the building of a new cathedral that was to be located on the site of one the city’s main mosques. At the time, the original architect was Enrique Egas, who was part of the Old Gothic school. Egas put down the foundation of the cathedral in Gothic style, but he was soon replaced by the architect Diego de Siloé, who convinced the King to change the design from Gothic to the Renaissance style. He found the perfect way of combining a Renaissance dome with a Gothic floor plan. The cathedral took 181 years to “complete”, with work starting in 1518 and ending in 1703 (the project was paused for a few years in the early stages).
Next day we walked past the Granada Cathedral then made our way to the Plaza Nuevo before making an abortive attempt to visit the Alhambra. Barely suffering from our climb to the Alhambra, we made our way back down the hill to the Plaza Nuevo before exploring the byways of old Granada on our way to a paella lunch near the cathedral before returning to the airport to meet Cousin Kathie upon her arrival from Philadelphia.
The 1492 surrender of the Islamic Emirate of Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella is one of the most significant events in Granada's history as it marks the completion of the Reconquista of Al-Andalus. The terms of the surrender, expressed in the Alhambra Decree treaty, explicitly allowed the city's Muslim inhabitants to continue unmolested in the practice of their faith and customs, known as Mudéjar. By 1499, however, Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros grew frustrated with the slow pace of the efforts of Granada's first Archbishop, Fernando de Talavera, to convert non-Christians to Christianity and undertook a program of forced Christian baptisms, creating the Converso (convert) class for Muslims and Jews. Cisneros's new tactics, which were a direct violation of the terms of the treaty, provoked an armed Muslim revolt centered in the rural Alpujarras region southwest of the city.
Responding to the rebellion of 1501, the Castilian Crown rescinded the Alhambra Decree treaty, and mandated that Granada's Muslims must convert or emigrate. Under the 1492 Alhambra Decree, Spain's Jewish population, unlike the Muslims, had already been forced to convert under threat of expulsion or even execution, becoming Marranos (meaning "pigs" in Spanish), or Catholics of Jewish descent. Many of the elite Muslim class subsequently emigrated to Norh Africa. The majority of the Granada's Mudéjar Muslims stayed to convert, however, becoming Moriscos, or Catholics of Moorish descent ("Moor" being equivalent to Muslim). Both populations of conversos were subject to persecution, execution, or exile, and each had cells that practiced their original religion in secrecy.
The fall of Granada has a significant place among the important events that mark the latter half of the Spanish 16th century. Spain, now without any major internal territorial conflict, embarked on a great phase of exploration and colonization around the globe. In the same year the sailing expedition of Christopher Columbus resulted in what is usually claimed to be the first European sighting of the New World. The resources of the Americas enriched the crown and the country, allowing Isabella I and Ferdinand II to consolidate their rule as Catholic Monarchs of the united kingdoms. Subsequent conquests, and the Spanish colonization of the Americas by the maritime expeditions they commissioned, created the vast Spanish Empire: for a time the largest in the world.
After we retrieved our trusty rental car we drove South toward the Mediterranean along a valley into the Sierra Nevada and then off on side road to Lanjaron, where the road twisted into an unresolved series of hair-pin bends on its high climbing way through Orgiva before ascending to Capitaunas, Pampaneira, Bubión, Capileira, Trevélez and the other high mountain villages of Las Alpujarras.
Orgiva was given to the dethroned Moorish King, Boabdil, after he lost Granada to the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. Later it played a very important role in the war between the the expelled Moors and the Catholics, when Abén Humeya organised an uprising against Phillip ll. The Moriscos were eventually and finally expelled in 1609. Thereafter, Órgiva, in common with the rest of the Alpujarra, was quickly forgotten and left to languish in economic decline.
Pampaneira is a small village – with a population of around 300 – centered on a square dominated by a 16th-century Mudéjar church, the Iglesia de Santa Cruz, with a wooden coffered ceiling and a couple of gilded altarpieces dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. The church is flanked by several bars and handicraft shops.
Bubion dates back to Roman times but is perhaps more famous for its Moorish origins. Hence the classic architecture of the village, identical to Berber originals in the Atlas mountains of Northern Africa. Characterised by flat roofs and prominent chimney pots, the houses spill down the steep mountainside, connected by little walkways and by just one, narrow, winding, cobbled street. We wisely decided to leave our rental car in a lot off the main road rather than risk our lives and limbs by attempting to maneuver it down to the location of our cottage at the lower end of this little street.
05/14/06 - After dinner and a good night's rest we tested our walking skills the next mornng with a slow walk up the steep hill to Capileira, the second highest village in Spain, moulded onto the mountainscape 1,435 metres above sea level. Its old streets, too narrow for cars, entwine and criss-cross their way a full hundred meters down the Poqueira Ravine. It's a great maze of ancient dwellings with their cats and geraniums, hens and goats, nooks and crannies, fountains and sudden, dramatic views. After lunch in the village, Kathie and Bill walked back down the road to Bubion and I climbed up to the sharply incised upper rim of the gorge to take pictures of the three villages below.
5/15/06 - We drove to Capileira for brunch and then Bill and I set off to cross the Poqueira below the town so that we could follow a trail along the far side of the ravine to reach its northern extreme where we hoped to view the beginning of our path for climbing to the top of Mulhacen. Arriving in the ruins of an ancient town at the head of the ravine, we then made a long hike back to Capileira for well deserved beers before walking back down the hill to Bubion.
5/16/06 - By next morning we were curious about the geography between Las Alpujarras and the northern coast of the Mediterranean so we ventured a treacherous drive across the mountains to the coast at Castell de Ferro. Then we skirted the beach community of Calahonda and made our way westward along the coast past Motril to Salobrena and Heredura before returning to Motril to stock up on provisions.
5/17/06 - We drove to Pitres as a base point for a walk through Portugos, Atalbeitar, Ferreirola, Mecina and a return to Pitres. We then drove on to Busquistar for a couple of beers at a friendly bar before returning to Bubion for dinner.
5/18/06 - With the intention of visiting Malaga, Bill and I drove south to the coast and then West along the coast past Salobrena and Heredura to Nerja, Velez-Malaga, and the crowded streets of Malaga before reversing to return to Bubion. The next day we again passed through Pitres, Portugos, and Busquistar to climb even higher into the mountains to the town of Trevelez. Located at a height of 1486 meters, the town of Trevélez is the highest recognised municipality in Spain. It lies at the confluence of the Río Trevélez with a smaller stream, to the southwest of Mulhacén, the highest peak of the Sierra Nevada mountains and of the Iberian peninsula. Trevélez is famous for the quality of its air-cured hams, a speciality throughout the Alpujarras but particularly associated with the town because of the cold climate due to its altitude.
5/22/06 - We drove back to Granada Airport to pick up Linda and Kim and then introduce them to the joys of climbing up the winding road to Bubion and then down the winding slippery cobblestones to Seis Donyas on its lower extreme. They unwind the next day with a visit to the coastal towns and then aid us in determining our approach to climbing the the much desired Mulhacén. We decide to share a minibus to the base of the mountain with a group of seasoned British climbers.
5/26/06 - Leaving Bubion together Bill and I return to the airport for our flight home and Kathie, Kim, and Linda drive to a hotel on the hill near the Alhambra for a visit scheduled for the following day. They were lucky to have their path blocked by a religious parade.
Images of Greece 1989