Granada, Madrid

Granada is famous primarily for the Alhambra, the great Moorish fortress that now includes a museum of the Spanish Renaissance–the period during which the Catholicism of Queen Isabella (and the Inquisition of Torquemada) pushed out the Islamic power structure and redefined the culture. Or so I am told. When we arrived for a two-day stay, we learned that there was a three-day backlog for admission tickets, and we never got in.

Even so, Granada is a delightful place to visit. We walk the ancient cobblestone streets (from our B&B, only walking is possible, with 120 steps down to the plaza), admiring the views and the architecture. Every few hours, stop for a sangria (or wine or beer) and the free tapas that come with every drink, in most places. Every sangria is unique, so is every tapa. Along the tourist-oriented streets, many of the shops have Arabic or Moroccan themes. The Moorish culture is no longer dominant, but it has not vanished.

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A Granada street artist starts a custom calligraphy for us

The train from Granada to Madrid travels at up to 300 km/hr. We have three days there, staying in an old neighborhood near the center. Again, many walking streets rarely used by cars.

Now we are successful at the primary intent of our visit here, seeing great art. At the Prado, beset by crowds, we are inspired by Rubens “Diana and Callisto.” Seeing only reproductions, I never thought Rubens was especially interesting, but in the presence of the actual painting, the emotions of the subjects truly leap off the canvas and engage the heart.

The Reina Sophia, surprisingly, was not nearly as crowded (except the Guernica room, which is too small), so we could get up close and personal with Picasso, Dali and Miró. I am especially taken with a piece I’ve never heard of, “The Grand Prophet” by Gargallo. Sculpted in 1933, it seemed indeed prophetic to me, with its embodiment of machine parts in a graceful and powerful warrior.

No review of Spain is complete without praise for the railroad system. In the main station in Madrid, a vast tropical garden, complete with turtle islands. And their idea of a fast-food cafeteria is not what Americans would expect.

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