Sunday, October 4
Having seen and hiked everything there was to see and hike in Ronda, we took off for the Cueva de la Pileta which is a cave discovered in the early 1900’s by a farmer looking for bat guano for his fields.
The cave contains prehistoric drawings, the earliest of which were drawn between 30,000 and 32,000 years ago. The tour size is limited and no pictures are allowed in the cave. The drawings depict horse heads, cows, a goat here and there and some marks that the archeologists believe were for keeping track of the full moons. The natural cave was beautiful with multi-colored walls and stalactites and stalagmites all over the place, some of which twinkled from the minerals that had formed them. Some of the rooms were large and impressive.
From the cave we drove to the white walled hill towns of Grazalema and Zahara. Grazalema was having a Bandlolereo festival and this very small town was overflowing with revelers. There was only one street on which one could drive and only a few streets where one could park, but we managed to find space on a street that was at least an 18 % grade and then wandered through the festival. We were front and center when the good folks (everyone in costume), caught one of the bandits and hung him despite the protestations of his girlfriend.
Nothing like a public hanging. About the only things worth doing in Graz were eating and drinking and games for the kids.
We left after the hanging and drove to the next white walled hill town of Zahara perched on the top of a hill with the obligatory castle and church up there as well. We hiked up to the imposing castle ruins including the top of the tower with its commanding view of the town and valley below then visited the church.
From the tower, you could see a few of the other hill towns nestled in the crook of a hill or two with the castle and church above.
From Zahara we drove to the city of Antequera where we found lodging with free parking.
Monday, October 5 Antequera
It rained all morning. Antequara is not in the guide books, but it is a modified “hill” town. Modified in that it is a small city, not a town, the walls are not uniformly white and the hill it sits on is quite small. It does, of course, have a castle and a church that are on the highest points. True to form, and an
afraid we were going to miss something, we toured both. Nothing especially unusual, but interesting nevertheless. Rain stopped and at the suggestion of the tourist information lady, we drove 12 k. to El Torcal National Park. The park has a very different and interesting landscape. The rock structures of this 3800′ above sea level place, once under water, are somewhat like the hoodoos in Utah with the color of the rock at Zion National Park. Tthe wind and water have warn away the softer layers of this sedimentary rock and left the harder layers to form gray rock structures that resemble thin bagels stacked one on top of another.
The trails were very muddy so we only hiked a short distance of what could have been a 2 hour loop. Muddy sandals and all we started to return to the city when Maggie spied some wild goats prancing and basking among the rock structures. Picture time for about a half hour as Ed tried to get close to some of the 8 goats that we saw. See for yourself.
We had planned to take a bike ride this morning but canceled because it was raining. We drove the 110 k to Granada and arrived at 11:30 a.m. We had no trouble getting out of Antequera or finding our hotel in Granada. Granada is a lot bigger than we imagined. Our hotel is on the outskirts of the old section about a 20 minute walk to the main square, Plaza Mayor.
We left the car in the hotel’s garage and the bikes in the hotel’s conference room and walked to the Visitor Center in the old city where we picked up our Granada Pass, and from there we walked to the Cathedral.
It is huge. It is the second biggest in Spain behind the Cathedral in Seville. It is also beautiful with some outstanding art and sculpture and church music books that are beautifully decorated like the Illustrated Manuscripts. They are on display around the church chancel (behind the alter.)
The church is unique among the ones we have visited in that the traditional choir which flanks the pulpit in other Catholic Churches has been removed in order to give the masses a better view and more participation in the services.
After church, we hopped one of the tourist “trains” for an hour long ride around the historic heart of Granada. The trip came with the Granada card. It was a very bumpy ride. The audio guide was difficult to hear because of the noise of the tires on the cobblestones. The one good thing about the train was that it dropped us off in the Moorish section at the best viewing site of the Alhambra at sunset when the red walls are bathed in the setting sun. Unfortunately a cloud had other ideas so the walls were a much muted red. Still a gorgeous spot and a good view of some of the mountains that surround Granada. All in all a very good day.
Wednesday, October 7
We started the day at the Royal Chapel built by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Christopher Columbus fame. They were so happy about winning the battle for Granada and conquering the Moors (Muslims who had occupied and Moorized the city for 400 hundred years) that they just had to build another church in celebration. It is beautiful and a must see when in Granada, but pictures are not allowed. Among the many treasures, including the arm of John the Baptist which is under lock and key and not visible to the ordinary rabble, are a mostly gold leaf alter piece that must be 25′ wide and 40′ tall with carvings throughout and the graves of Freddie and Isyee.
From there we went to one of the many monasteries in Spain whose admission was included in our Granada card. Pictures were allowed so feast your eyes on some of the outstanding views and treasures in this small, on a side street away from the main thoroughfares, chapel.
There are probably more monasteries and convents in Granada then in all of the U.S. (We have not done any due diligence to verify this estimate.)
We decided to visit the Arab (ie: Moorish) section of the city again since we did not really wander through it when we went to view the sunset there yesterday. It is a warren of narrow streets that “T” and dead and are not hospitable to wide or long vehicles
and the unwary pedestrian. The section is very old and fortunately for the tourist has resisted any significant change. From there we stumbled upon the Arab Baths which is one of the World Heritage sites (“WHS”)
and got to see them and a granary and a home on the same ticket. The Moorish influence is alive and well in Granada although many of the iconic structures were modified and Christianized after 1492.
Thursday, October 8 Granada
Up early to make sure that we got to the Alhambra for our 9 a.m. admission time. The guide book says they are very strict. A twenty minute walk to the bus stop and then 10 minute bus ride on the C3 to the Alhambra that sits on a big hill. Huge lines to get tickets, but since we had ours, we walked right in. The Alhambra is the last residence of the Moorish Kings who ruled in Spain until the late 1400’s when Ferdinand and Isabel’s armies finally chased them out. They and later monarchs realized the beauty and religious significance of the decorations in the Alhambra, the Moorish palace and changed very little. The ceilings are of many different designs and are wood.
They have been restored and shine and are really beautiful.
Most of the walls are decorated with repeating patterns of tile and decorations pressed into wet plaster some of which were painted. Most of the patterns have some religious significance. There are also verses from the Karan.
The Muslims did not include pictures as they are forbidden in the Koran, but the Christian monarchs made up for that in their time with both paintings and tapestries. There are many, many fountains and water courses from which the fountains are fed and by which the overflow is drained. The fountains are calm and peaceful not making a lot of noise.
The gardens which are much more modern, 19th century, are mostly geometric with each tree and plant having been placed by the designers.
The Alcazar or fortress is a part of the complex, but has not been preserved to the extent of the palace. In its time it was huge with many buildings and fortifications.
After about 5 hours wandering around we headed for the cave dwellings of the Roma’s on the opposite slope. This “museum” consists of 11 caves that are really hollowed out areas within the rock. None were elaborate. They are all painted white with each dedicated to a different type of handiwork such as blacksmithing, weaving, etc.
There was very little about the Roma’s who started this community of cave houses. We spent the time after dinner trying to find places to stay for Saturday night, which was the only night through Monday that we did not have a place to stay. It was a long and tedious process due to the fact that this is a long holiday weekend in Spain. All of Spain celebrates Monday as a holiday and seemingly the people take the opportunity to travel and occupy the available rooms. We did find a place about 80 k. north of Madrid which worked out well for us as we were driving from Granada north to Segovia and had a reservation there, but nothing between Segovia and Burgos where we will drop the car and begin our ride to Barcelona.
Friday, October 9
Drove more than 400 K. from Seville to Segovia, north and west of Madrid. The weather and high speed road were good all the way. Took a couple of pictures of the aqueduct built by the Romans in the first century