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Published: December 27th 2007
This Gothic masterpiece in the main square is built on a grand scale.
Southern Spain is a magical part of the world, dear reader, but situated precariously close to North Africa. Historically this has proven to be a problem for the Spanish, as Muslims conquered almost the entire Spanish peninsula by the year 714, and continued to rule Andalucia for the next 800 years. The enduring Muslim legacy of the Moors lives on in the architecture and culture of the major cities in Southern Spain, which have gone on in recent times to become major tourist attractions for Muslims and Christians alike.
I left Madrid as the great European adventure rolls on, and planned to take the train south to Andalucia, heading towards Cordoba. To my surprise there weren't any tickets available on that day, but after catching the local train to the bus terminal it proved to be a blessing in disguise. For some reason the difference between train and bus tickets is extreme in Spain, so for the rest of my trip I'll be riding the bus. I purchased a ticket for a third of the price of a train ticket, and the bus journeyed to Cordoba in comfort and style. The cities of Andalucia in southern Spain are famous for
Alhambra perched over Granada
Looking up on the vast complex on a beautiful Christmas morning.
their beauty and their Muslim monuments, and Cordoba kicked off the adventure with aplomb. The monuments are a magnet for Muslim travellers, who come in their droves to witness first hand the great heritage left by the Moors in this part of Spain.
The Mezquita is the main tourist attraction in Cordoba and the Instalacion Juvenil hostel is only a couple of blocks from the vast monument. It's unusual because it was originally built by the Muslims, but in later centuries a Christian cathedral was built inside the walls of the Mezquita. This makes the structure a special tourist attraction, and the different styles over the centuries add to it's appeal. On the second night in Cordoba I was lucky watch the latest instalment of "el classico", showcasing the intense rivalry between the two great football teams in Spain, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. The game was played at a packed Nou Camp stadium where Barca had not lost for three years, but on this occasion they went down to a determined and committed Real 1-0. The pub was absolutely jammed with excited Spanish fans, and it was a great experience to be the only foreigner sharing in the
Fountain in the walls of Alhambra
There are many interesting paths to explore around Alhambra.
electric atmosphere created by this Spanish sporting rivalry. I enjoyed the game along with the crowd, and managed to get to the bar through the crush for a few beers during the course of the evening.
From Cordoba I caught a bus further south and on to Granada. The city centre is absolutely superb, and as pretty as a picture. Granada is at the foot of the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains, and features the magnificent Muslim Alhambra perched on a hilltop overlooking the town. It's a vast complex and could be described as a fortified town in itself. My visit to Granada was on Christmas day and unfortunately the inside of Alhambra was closed for the day, but I had an excellent time strolling around outside the walls, and taking to some of the trails around the complex. Granada is one of the most gorgeous cities I've visited on this trip, and Europeans always seem to excel in making their cities look superb, with Christmas lighting everywhere at this time of year. The guests in the hostel were relaxed and friendly, and I had an enjoyable Christmas day in Granada. The Spanish love to get dressed up to
The Muslim monument is just across the square from Seville cathedral, as if they are in a competition for religious grandeur!
get out and about, and Christmas day in Granada was no exception. The streets in the city centre were heaving with revellers, and the pulsating atmosphere is what makes Spain so enjoyable to visit. There's always a great vibe when you step out anywhere in the country.
The final city on my magical Andalucian travel adventure is Seville, from where I'm posting this journal. Andalucia is the traditional home of Flamenco dancing, and while walking along the main boulevard on the way to my hostel I came across an impromptu street performance. The singers, the musicians, and the dancers in a quality Flamenco troupe perform with an almost unearthly passion, and it makes for a very dramatic performance ... Ole! I found my hostel after a few inevitable wrong turns, as it's rare to have a drama free hostel search on arrival in a new city in Spain. There are good people sharing my dorm, and on the first night I went out to a Tapas bar with a guy and a girl from Poland. I love Tapas bars, and believe the Spanish have a great tradition with these bars. My impression of Australian pubs is that they're mainly
an outlet for drinking, although they do often have good quality restaurants. But in Spain, food and alcohol always go together, and I don't think the Spanish could even comprehend one without the other. So you chat with friends at the bar over a beer, and order Tapas on small dishes at your leisure. The atmosphere is great with ever attentive Tapas bar staff ready to attend to your every need, and it's great fun going to a Spanish Tapas bar for an evening out with friends.
And so my two weeks in Spain is drawing to a close in the country that gave to the world paella, sangria and tapas. Spain feels vibrant and alive, and the locals always want to get out and about. The Spanish enjoy the good things in life; good food, fine wine, and good company. Life is always exciting in a country that lives on passion; whether it's the drama enacted in the bullring, or a quality flamenco performance, perhaps witnessing an animated conversation between friends, or the brilliant and original street performers. Because the Spanish are always on the go the country is so stimulating, and to venture out alone for a stroll means a traveller cannot help but be caught up in the passion of magical Spain. Here's a thought that springs to mind, basically all of you should be here now!
I drink to make other people more interesting." George Jean Nathan
As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now
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