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Granada is another city we'd visited before, on the same two-year-previous trip on which we'd last visited Madrid. But while we'd spent a number of days in Madrid on that trip, we'd only spent a few hours in Granada, visiting it as a day trip from Seville centered around an exploration of the Alhambra, Granada's principal tourist attraction. We'd learned on that trip that a day trip from Seville to Granada isn't very practical, as the three-hour train trip (each way!) doesn't leave enough time to properly look around in Granada. So this time we were going to spend a couple of nights, giving us a full day (plus a few extra hours) in the city. While this gave us a chance to see some things we hadn't seen before, we did also revisit the Alhambra. I'll try not to repeat too much of what I covered in the Alhambra pages from the first go-round, either about the Alhambra or about Granada in general.

This doesn't mean I won't add some additional history. There's always additional history. Like starting around the middle of the 15th Century, when the Iberian Peninsula was divided into several kingdoms, the three largest being Portugal (to the west), Castile (the largest, occupying a big central chunk of the peninsula) and Aragon (to the east). Just to make things confusing, the kings of Castile and Aragon were both called John II. In 1451, Castile's John and his wife, Isabella of Portugal, welcomed a new daughter whom they also called Isabella. Nobody was too excited about the new Isabella as far as royal succession, as she had an older (by 26 years) half-brother named Henry (the heir presumptive), and in 1453 she acquired a new brother named Alfonso (the heir presumptive to the heir presumptive). The picture became somewhat simpler when John died in 1454, making his eldest son King Henry IV of Castile. But things got complicated again when Henry's wife, Joan of Portugal, gave birth to a daughter named Joanna.

In the meantime, Aragon's John II and his wife, Juana Enríquez, had also produced offspring, a son named Ferdinand, born in 1452. When Ferdinand and Isabella were 5 and 6 years old, John and Henry, interested in an alliance and anxious to show off their friendship, betrothed their children to each other. But this didn't last long, as changing circumstances made both John and Henry more interested in forming different alliances, and Henry in particular shopped Isabella around among various royal families in search of a suitably strategic match. While this was going on, a group of noblemen, unhappy with Henry's rule, backed his son Alfonso to replace him, eventually resulting in an armed conflict in 1467. To calm things down, Henry agreed to name Alfonso as his heir, rather than his daughter Joanna. All well and good, until Alfonso died in 1468. The nobles suspected wrongdoing and got behind Isabella being named as the new heir. To keep things from blowing up again, Henry agreed to this, and also promised not to marry Isabella off against her will. But Henry couldn't help himself and looked into setting Isabella up in both Portugal and France, until Isabella decided she'd set up her own marriage and secretly negotiated with Aragon's John II about a marriage with Ferdinand. All the details were worked out – a dispensation from the Pope was needed, as Isabella and Ferdinand were second cousins, and a prenuptial agreement was drawn up specifying co-rule when either party succeeded to his or her respective throne. At the appointed time, Isabella departed from Henry's court on the pretext of going to visit Alfonso's tomb in Ávila, and Ferdinand sneaked across Castile disguised as a servant, and they met in the city of Valladolid, where they were married on October 19, 1469. A few years later, when Henry died in 1474, Ferdinand and Isabella became King and Queen of Castile, and when John died in 1479, they also became King and Queen of Aragon.

So – nice story, but what's all this have to do with Granada? In addition to being monarchs of a large territory, Ferdinand and Isabella were very religious. Isabella in particular was a very devout Catholic, and is often referred to as "Isabella the Catholic" (Isabel la Católica). So when they looked at a map and saw, to the south, the fairly large Emirate of Granada, they saw both territory to be conquered and an area ripe for conversion from what they felt to be a false religion. The slow-motion Reconquista of the peninsula from the Islamic Moors who had conquered it in 710 A.D. lacked only the territory of Granada to be complete. Granada had managed to hold out the longest through a combination of fortified cities, defensible terrain, shrewd alliances and paying of tribute to the appropriate places. But with Ferdinand and Isabella, luck was running out for Granada's ruling Nasrid dynasty, and in particular for their ruler in 1482, Muhammad XII (known to the Spaniards as Boabdil). It was in this year that Ferdinand and Isabella recruited soldiers from several European countries and brought in the latest in weaponry and began to systematically reconquer the Emirate. The process took ten years, during some of which Boabdil was a prisoner of the Spaniards. But the Spaniards could not be stopped, and in late 1491, Boabdil (who had been released by the Spaniards in 1487) was forced to surrender to them.

1492 was an eventful year for Ferdinand, Isabella and Granada. It began with the official turnover of Granada's capital city on the 2nd of January and the departure of its Moorish leaders and followers to northern Africa. The Treaty of Granada was implemented, which promised humane treatment of the Muslims who remained (and this was in fact what transpired – for awhile). Ferdinand and Isabella found the palaces of the Alhambra to their liking, and took up residence for a time. And it was during this time that Ferdinand and Isabella, possibly feeling magnanimous after their victory, granted a favor to a Genoan sailor who had been pestering them since 1486 with a crazy idea about reaching the Indies by sailing west instead of east. Royal advisors had advised the king and queen that the sailor, named Columbus, had grossly underestimated the distance, and was doomed to perish from starvation, thirst, scurvy, or all three. And of course they were right, but fortunately for Columbus, there was a surprise continent in the way. Nevertheless, the king and queen, after some Alhambra discussions, granted the necessary funding, and the voyage proceeded later in the year (not sure if anything came of it). And finally, on March 31 Ferdinand and Isabella (mainly Isabella, probably at the urging of the recently arrived cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros from Toledo) issued something called the Alhambra Decree, which commanded all Jews in Castile and Aragon and their territorial possessions to either convert to Christianity or leave. Cisneros also began mistreating Muslims who refused to convert, and when this eventually led to a revolt, the revolt was used as a pretext to apply the same treatment to the Muslims that had been applied to the Jews (i.e. so much for the Treaty of Granada). The Spanish Inquisition, which had been established by Ferdinand and Isabella earlier to investigate insincere conversions of Jews to Christianity, became an enforcement mechanism, later extended to other forms of heresy. And the rest is history (well, really, all of this is history).

Back in the present day, we found ourselves in Madrid, with a desire to get to Granada. To accomplish this, we boarded a train at the Atocha station which took us southward for four hours. On the way we had a good look at the Spanish countryside, which had some interesting terrain and occasional small towns filled with what looked like densely-packed, whitewashed houses. Some of the towns had castles perched on adjacent hills.


Southern Spain

Southern Spain
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Town with Peak
Town with Peak
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Castle Above Whitewashed Town
Castle Above Whitewashed Town
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On arrival in Granada, we caught a taxi from the station to our hotel, the Hotel Monjas del Carmen, not far from the Plaza Isabel la Católica.

Hotel Monjas del Carmen (night photo)

Hotel Monjas del Carmen (night photo)
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After checking in and resting a little, we headed in the direction of the cathedral, where the old town could be found. We found a passageway that ran alongside the cathedral and took it, noting some of the interesting businesses, buildings and decorations.

Jamones Castellano
Jamones Castellano
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Cortefiel Building
Cortefiel Building
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Statue of Isabella and Columbus, Plaza Isabel La Católica
Statue of Isabella and Columbus, Plaza Isabel La Católica
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Passageway in Old Town
Passageway in Old Town
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Balconies
Balconies
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Wall Decoration
Wall Decoration
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The passageway emptied into an open area called the Plaza de Bib-Rambla, where we found shops and restaurants.

Lamppost, Plaza de Bib-Rambla
Lamppost, Plaza de Bib-Rambla
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Fountain, Plaza de Bib-Rambla
Fountain, Plaza de Bib-Rambla
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After getting some lunch, we looked around the area, interested in seeing what there was to see in and around the cathedral.

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