Although we spent over two months in Spain, much of what we did wasn’t blog worthy. (And, as you well know, my standards for what is blog worthy don’t even come close to Elaine’s standards for what is sponge worthy . . . . .) For the most part, we just hung out. We saw friends, we ate, we walked, and we almost forgot about covid for a little while. But, we did see quite a few things that are worth a brief mention, even if they aren’t individually worth entire blog posts. So, here goes.
One of the most impressive things we saw was the Alhambra in Granada. The Alhambra is a palace, fortress, ruins of a Moorish city, and gardens, all wrapped up into one historical site. The complex, which sits on top of a hill (trust us, take the bus up and walk down), was started way back in the 13th century by Muhammad I Ibn al-Ahmar. As with most of the historically Muslim buildings in Spain, it was eventually taken over by Christians and, in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Wait. Wrong story. Well, kind of the same story.
Anyway, in 1492, the Moorish King Boabdil surrendered Granada to the Spanish forces of Ferdinand and Isabel. Shortly thereafter, Columbus was invited to the Alhambra and given permission to explore the “new” world. We know how that turned out. And, the Christian takeover of Granada didn’t turn out so well for the Moors either. By 1502, Spain had ordered all Muslims to convert to Christianity and in 1609 the last Moors were expelled from Spain. Anyway, the Alhambra (which is, of course, a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is well worth a visit (but make sure to reserve well in advance).
In Malaga, we visited the Castillo de Gibralfaro. Not shockingly, the castle sits on a hill overlooking Malaga. We stupidly walked all the way to the top. Although there were some nice views along the way, I really don’t recommend doing that. Apparently, there were fortifications on this site as early as something like 770 B.C., which were significantly rebuilt/expanded in the 10th and 14th centuries.
In 1487, the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella laid siege to the castle for three months. The Moors only gave up when they ran out of food. There honestly isn’t much left of the castle these days, but there are some really nice views.
Right next door to the Castillo de Gibralfaro is the Alcazaba. Of course, you can’t get there directly. No, that would be too easy. Instead, you have to go down the hill and then part way back up the hill. Fun, fun. The Alcazaba in Malaga isn’t particularly impressive, and it was crawling with cruise ship tourists, but it is worth a stop.
In Cordoba, we loved exploring the Mezquita, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the outside, it pretty much looks like your average European church.
But the inside is a different story and makes clear that the Mezquita was not always a church.
Rather, the Mezquita started life as a mosque (although there may have been a Visogoth church on the site first but historians seem to be in disagreement about that). The original mosque was built in the 8th century and doubled in size in the 9th and 10th centuries. King Ferdinand III of Castile and Leon (not to be confused with the Ferdinand II of Aragon who married Isabella) conquered Cordoba in 1236, after which the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. In the 16th century, a very garish Christian chapel was plopped down in the middle of the mosque.
Today, you can likewise see a very garish display of obscene wealth inside the Mezquita (called a museum) that makes one wonder why the church doesn’t do more to support the poor.
Cordoba also has its own Alcazar, the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos.
The best part of this particular Alcazar is the amazing gardens. We were there in fall so not much was blooming, but they were still spectacular and I can only imagine how fantastic they must be in spring and summer.
We, of course, couldn’t go back to Seville without revisiting the Royal Alcazar of Seville.
We first visited the Alcazar in Seville back in 2019 and absolutely fell in love with it. Honestly, I think it is our favorite sight in Spain (at least amongst the sights we have visited so far). The building is gorgeous and there are peacocks roaming in the gardens. The Alcazar is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it is also the oldest palace in Europe still used by members of the royal family.
Spain sure does have a lot to see, and we have barely scratched the surface.