Granada a history and romantic town in Andalucia Part 2 of 2.

The Realejo the Jewish Quarter.

This district was originally called Garnata, the city’s Jewish quarter for centuries before the Inquisition’s reign of terror, when all Jews – and also, Muslims – were systematically interrogated, tortured and, if they were lucky, expelled from Spain. It is home to some of Granada’s finest luthiers – guitar makers – and you can watch the best being made at Bellido in Plaza Realejo. Owned by one of the most-respected guitar-making families in Spain whose instruments can sell for several thousand euros.

Ceramics, parquetry, tulle embroidery, lace, copper and polychrome works are other crafts practised here, and throughout the city. Many of the houses were built round yards – corralas – where the neighbours still enjoy hanging out to pass the time of day. The university’s language faculty is here too, so there is a lot of student activity in the bars, restaurants and internet café’s around the district’s atmospheric main square, Campo del Principe.

Granada’s old Quarter.

The city’s religious and commercial centre since the 14th century offers great shopping for arts, crafts and souvenirs in the narrow alleys of the Alcaiceria, a flea market selling everything from flamenco dresses and barouche slippers to jewellery, candlesticks and inlaid caskets. Nearby, the Corral de Carbon, formerly the most important hostelry in Muslim Granada and new a crafts centre, is remarkable for its beautiful façade exemplifying outstanding Nasrid architecture.

The Royal Chapel - Capilla Real.

But don’t get too distracted – you simply must see the vast Renaissance cathedral and, adjoining it, the Capilla Real, Granada’s most impressive Christian building. Flamboyant late-Gothic in style, the Royal Chapel was built as a mausoleum for the city’s liberators, the Catholic monarchs Fernando and Isabel. Their tombs, and those of their daughter Joana the Mad and her husband Felipe the Handsome are probably empty, as Napoleon’s troops desecrated the chapel in 1812, but the altar retablo and elaborate sculptured effigies of the monarchs are still magnificent. In the sacristy are the sword of Fernando, the crown of Isabel and her outstanding collection of medieval Flemish paintings.

The cathedral contains works by Alonso Cano, who is buried in the crypt and s St. Francis by El Greco. The main west façade, designed by Cano and Diego de Siloe, still carries a provocative inscription honouring Primo de Rivera, founder, of the fascist Falange Party, added in Franco’s time and never removed.

Plaza de Bib-Rambla Square.

One block south is the pretty Bib-Rambla Square, full of florist’s stalls and restaurants. The further south you walk, the bigger and more ubiquitous the shops and stores, phasing from bijoux local boutiques to chain stores like Zara, Mango, El Corte Ingles, indoor shopping malls such as the Centro Commercial Neptuno and the greatest concentration of nightlife in the themed bars and clubs lining Calle Pedro Antonio de Alarcon.

University Quarter.

Walking north from the cathedral, the mood changes again. The University of Granada, rated among the most prestigious in Spain, brings tighter some 60,000 students from Spain and all over the world, and the interaction of different cultures makes for a vibrant atmosphere. The original university building flanking Plaza Universidad, built by Carlos V, houses the Law faculty and no one minds if you step under Baroque portal to view the beautiful inner courtyard.

Adjacent is the 16th century university college of San Bartolome y Santiago, with its elegant patio and price-subsidised student’s cafeteria which they are happy to share with visitors. Further north, the hospital real, one of the first lunatic asylums in Europe, contains the university library.

The district is custodian to two other outstanding buildings; the hospital de San Juan de Dios, built in 1552 as a refuge for foundlings, has two beautiful patios and a Baroque church whose golden Churrigueresque altar retablo was designed by Guerrero; and the 16th century Convento de San Jeronimo, with Renaissance cloisters and a wonderfully restored church by Diego de Siloe containing 18th century frescoes.

Carthusian monasteries- La Cartuja.

Take a bus from here to the northern outskirts of the town to view the grandest and most outrageously decorated of all the country’s lavish Carthusian monasteries- La Cartuja. Founded in 1516, the building is noted for its heights of Churrigueresque-inspired Baroque extravagance that make it a worthy rival to the Alhambra. The church it of staggering wealth, surmounted by an altar of twisted and coloured marble described by one Spanish writer as “a motionless architectural earthquake”.

The sagrario drips with marble, jasper and porphyry; the sacristy pulls out more stops with a painted cupola and strange sculptures influenced by the art of the Aztec and Mayan civilizations; and there are Bocanegra paintings and fine sculptures by Jose de Mora.

The Science Park, Granada’s newest attractions.

In contrast, one of Granada’s newest attractions, the Science Park, is a great visit for all the family. It offers a hands-on journey though the mysteries of the universe that is well-worth the bus ride. The 30,000 M2 Park, opened in 1995, contains more than 270 interactive attractions including two exhibition buildings, a planetarium, tropical butterfly house, and observation and astronomy garden.

Sybaritic Pleasures in Granada.

Granada is one of the few remaining cities in Spain where a tapa is still traditionally included in the price of your drink –the Granada Guide, which you can download free to your mobile for a 30-cent call (send the message “granadawap” to 5110), lists six tapas trails but, for people-watching, the bars and restaurants in the city centre provide the best front of house viewing.

The cuisine reflects the city’s melting pot of cultures; among the usual international choice, expect to find good Arabic and kosher restaurants, while even the gypsies of Sacromonte have their own recipe for tortilla – not for the faint-hearted as it is made with marrow, brains and bulls testicles.

The traditional Olla de San Anton.

The cold winter climate, ushered in with the first snows on the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, lends itself to heavy dishes such as the traditional Olla de San Anton, a pork stew from which few parts of the pig are exempt –ears, tail, fat, blood, trotters, offal and all, accompanied by dry beans, rice and fennel.

The climate of coastal Granada keeps the city well supplied with subtropical fruit like cherimoya, avocados, mangoes and custard apples while any meal should be rounded off with a shot of Rom from Motril, of surprisingly good quality given that it is made so far from the Caribbean.

After dinner head to the university district which turns into one giant disco on weekends – partying until the wee small hours is something the local have elevated to a fine art. The classic night out on the town ends at six or seven in the morning with breakfast of churros con chocolate.

Fiesta fever in Granada.

Three of the years religious fiestas are considered essential in Granada’s ; Holy week, the Crosses of May processions, and Corpus Christi in June which for 56 years now, has been followed by one of Spain’s most prestigious musical events; the international Festival if Music and Dance, whose honorary president is Queen Sofia. Held in emblematic settings all over the city, it attracts the crème de la crème of performers and orchestras – both in the Generalife gardens.

Not to be outdone, jazz fans celebrate their own festival in November and, since 1980, have been bringing legends such as Milles Davis, Oscar Peterson and Dizzy Gillespie to the city. There is also a jazz on the Costa festival during mid-July, while the capital’s tango Festival will celebrate its 17th edition next March.

Granada is today in a new phase of development with the Granada airport who is more and more building out and open new line with England and the rest of Europe for more tourism. The city is building a new huge shopping centre and new developments of apartment, townhouses and villas, many luxury villas on the mountainside of Sierra Nevada.
In conclusion, by all means visit the Alhambra but don’t let your exploration of Granada begin and end there or, like the great Nasrid ruler Boabdil, you will have much to regret.

 

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