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October 11, 12, 2022
When the Sultans of the Nasrid Emirate built the Alhambra in the 13th century, little did they know that it would become a treasure of Spanish architecture today. This Granada landmark is one of the great tourist draws of Europe and a grand adventure. The Standly’s, Krahn’s and Paluch’s discovered the tranquil beauty that Kathy and I discovered in a previous trip. The snow-covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada range behind the Alhambra were utilized to bring ice cold water to refrigerate the palace where nary a drop of water was wasted as it created pools and fountains and irrigated gardens while slowly descending down the slopes of the massive palace grounds. It is a marvel of ancient engineering and is a showcase of Moorish wall and ceiling carvings. After the Reconquista ended the 700 year rule of the Moors in Spain in 1692, the Alhambra became a royal palace of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and it was from here that their interaction with Columbus led to the European discovery of the “new” world.
Granada’s Roman Catholic Cathedral is also magnificent. The second largest in Europe, its use of gold highlights throughout the light-filled space is marvelous. The gold pipe organ cases (four) reaching toward the high ceilings were stellar.
We enjoyed eating at area restaurants where tapas were popular. By this time on our journey through Spain, we have a judging system of which restaurants in which cities have the best individual tapas plates—i.e. garlic shrimp or fried camembert. That is fun as we all have our favorites and debate the merits of the individual small plates.
An amazing side note: 5,000 plus miles from home we have run into young friends and had delightful conversations. First, we ran into Rock Graham in Seville on a busy side street near the cathedral. He called out, “Pastor Graumann!” What a surprise! Visiting Spain for a wedding, he said he heard my voice, which was unmistakable to him. He commented later, “I met the pastor who baptized and confirmed me over 5,000 miles from home.” A few days later in Granada, in the cathedral, there was a tap on my shoulder and Hunter Gatewood was quick to give Kathy and me a hug. Our shock at seeing him only increased as Nick and Matt Wanner appeared. All were excellent students at Salem Lutheran School back in the day. The three young men were on a trip to Europe. We had a grand visit as the Paluch’s and Standly’s also knew the young men. We had a marvelous visit catching up. These accidental encounters in Seville and Granada were a highlight for us, and we know their parents are very proud of the young men their sons have become!
I heard the guide say several times that we were going to visit “Sexy Woman.” Kathy and I were curious to know what that might be. When we arrived, the sign read, “Sacsayhuaman.” All of our fellow travelers, who had also harbored a silent inquisity about where we were being taken, were in awe as the bus carried us to a major Inca Fortress on the hills above the Inca Imperial Capital of Cusco, Peru. “Sacsayhuaman” was impressive. The foundations of the ruins still remain–huge stones weighing up to 1,000 tons. Twenty-thousand workers labored years to build the Fortress–quarrying, cutting, transporting (on sleds pulled by human hands) and setting the stones in beautiful precision. Such ingenuity and persistence!
The day began with a Cusco city tour to the archeological site of the Temple of the Sun. Covered in pure gold, it was an instant attraction to the invading Spanish conquistadores, who took all the Inca gold (22 carat) and silver (pure) that they could find and had it shipped to Spain. The temples were often torn down to use the stones in other construction, and colonial cathedrals were built on top of the remains. An earthquake exposed the Temple of the Sun’s foundations, and now it is a protected site.
We arrived in Cusco on the major holiday in Peru, Corpus Christi. Huge parades had brought ornate, larger than life-sized statues of the Virgin Mary from churches in the area to the city cathedral. When we toured the cathedral, the statues were on display. We admired the altars clad in 22 carat gold. “Look, but don’t touch, and no pictures.” We gazed in wonderment at the massive painting of “The Lord’s Supper” by a Peruvian artist as he used the inspiration of Leonardo daVinci’s famous painting, but personalized it for a Peruvian audience using tortillas for the bread and roasted guinea pig for the meat in the Passover meal. Judas was portrayed as Fernando Pizarro, the invading Spanish conquistador.
Outside was a big party! Thousands of people–young and old–were parading in native Indian costume (do not think North American Indian–there is no comparison in dress or music) with bands playing native music. It was beautiful and an explosion of color. You really did want to dance along.
We had another evening of “dinner and a show.” Kathy and I had mountain trout, and we both thought is the best trout we have ever eaten–and we have eaten trout around the world! The music and dancers showcased the Peruvian art forms over time. It was fast-paced, colorful and entertaining.We have met some outstanding folks on this trip. I have a special fondness for two widows from Florida who were New York transplants. They could be my older sisters. They are not only cute but funny! They both have a joy for life and, although alone, they found each other and risked traveling together. What a hoot! They do not cook any longer and Marcia told me Charlotte doesn’t even own pans. I tease them about this and, when they went to the cooking class, I told Charlotte that I was going to be watching closely. She responded that I would have to eat her food! Marcia said that would be the end of my trip. Well, I’m still standing. WEG
P.S. We could not post this blog yesterday. So, it is a day late. Today, we flew into Juliaca and then drove to Lake Titicaca, taking most of the day. This short note will suffice for today’s blog. There will be pictures and descriptions of the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world in tomorrow’s blog as we get back on schedule.