I returned to Granada exactly one fortnight after I had first arrived there. On the first day I wandered the streets again to re-orient myself. I visited the Basilica of St John of God, a poignant visit, because it was after my first visit there that I received a phone call informing me that my brother John had died a short while previously.
I visited the nearby Monastery of St Jerome and, like in many other ancient churches, was astonished at the height of the dome and the sheer uplift to transcendence that it represents, to think that over the past many centuries literally hundreds of monks have lived and worshipped here. What inspired their lives? What inspired them to build this place of worship? The only answer that makes sense is the pursuit of God.
In the evening I met with a representative of the Granada branch of the Friends of the Camino of Santiago. He provided me with a credencial, a sort of “passport” for the Camino, which the pilgrim presents at churches and hostels along the way to be stamped to provide evidence of his journey. He was alarmed that my chosen guide book was five years old, so downloaded to my i-pad a more recent guide. The following morning I took the credencial to the Convent which marks the beginning of the Camino which is run by an enclosed order of Sisters. They put a stamp into it, my very first for the pilgrimage ahead!
On that first day I also booked a ticket to visit the Alhambra, the ancient Muslim establishment on the hill overlooking the city. I had hoped to do the visit in the morning so I would be free in the afternoon, but as there was no vacancy, I accepted the afternoon/evening schedule.
The next day when I woke it was raining. I wandered around a bit to fill in the time then in the early afternoon headed up the hill. Luckily, the rain stopped around that time (someone is looking after me!), so I was able to wander through the site in comfort.
The Alhambra certainly is spectacular. The gardens and water features were “familiar”. It seems to be a feature of Muslim style. Some of it is sheer practicality, the cooling and soothing effect of water, especially for those who live in hot climes. Other dimensions are more spiritual, based on Quranic verses that speak of running streams in heaven, which the artisans reproduce on earth so that it is a mirror image of heaven.
The buildings were quite grand too, most from the Muslim era, but some from the Christian re-conquest. Most of the buildings served as palaces for one of other dynasty of rulers/royal families.
Most spectacular of all was a scheduled visit to the Nasrid palaces in the late afternoon. They certainly had “wow” factor. The calligraphic decorations, the wood panelling in ceilings and doors, the water features – the Muslim rulers of Spain certainly knew how to create a stylish mode of living to impress their subjects and visitors from other realms.