Granada: Additional Wandering, Archaeological Museum, and More
Today in Granada I took in a few little attractions (little in size, not necessarily in interestingness) and did some more wandering around. One of those small, but very interesting sights was the Archaeological Museum. Stay tuned for that.
But before I discuss the Archaeological Museum, I have something to say about my wandering of today. It’s nothing momentous, and likely not even the least bit interesting to you, but it’s my travel journal and I’ll write it in that order if I want to.
Then I have some words about Moorish baths because, with the exception of my wandering, which weaved its way throughout the day, I wrote this post in the chronological order in which I visited the sights. The Moorish baths came before the museum. But the Archaeological Museum will be right after that. I promise.
Today’s wandering was a bit (but only a bit) less aimless than yesterday’s wandering.
In my attempt to be a slightly more aimfull, to coin a word, I learned that a portion of the old section of Granada that I wandered through yesterday is the Albayzín. I learned that this morning when I tried to plot out my day. To do so, I consulted Rick Steves’ Spain tour book. He recommended, among other things, exploring the Albayzín. Upon reading his description of the Albayzín, I realized that’s where I was yesterday. Or, at least, part of where I was yesterday.
My hotel, the spot where I took yesterday’s pictures of Alhambra in the distance, and the restaurant where I ate dinner last night are all in the Albayzín. The spot where I took the distant shot of Alhambra is called San Nicolás Viewpoint (Mirador de San Nicolás). So, now I know. And now you do too.
Today’s adventure took me, among other places, up to the Sacromonte district. The buildings of Sacromonte hug a hillside. (I call it a hillside, but, in truth, I’m not sure whether it’s a tall hill or a short mountain.)
Above the residential/commercial parts of Sacromonte, I found the steps up to the Cave Museum of Sacromonte (see below).
Today’s wanderings took in some interesting streets, squares, but also landscape vistas. I’ve scattered pictures of just a few of today’s interesting scenes around this section of this post.
Oh, by the way, yesterday I mentioned that I feared that precipitation would make the sloped stone steps in what I now know is the Albayzin slippery enough as to precipitate life-threatening falls. Today, it drizzled off and on all day. It was more off than on, and a few blue patches made an appearance late in the day, but the streets were wet enough at times to test my fear from yesterday.
The verdict? The steps were indeed slippery, but not as bad as I feared. My feet started to slide precariously a couple of times, but I am Canadian. Why is that the least bit relevant here? Being Canadian, I’ve done my share of walking on snowy and icy sidewalks. True, Toronto is much flatter than the Albayzin, but my experience with wintery conditions gave me the innate skills necessary to regain my footing easily, without taking a tumble. That training may be the only redeeming feature of living through winters in a northern climate.
Then again, I saw some other people quickly right themselves as they started to lose their footing. So, unless they were Canadian too, maybe it’s a more widely held talent than I thought.
The Moorish Baths (Hammam El Bañuelo) are ruins from the 11th century. The structure contains a few rooms. I wouldn’t have been able to tell the purpose of each room from just looking at it. And I didn’t see any signs providing that information. But, according to Rick Steves’ Spain book, the rooms include the house of the keeper and a foyer, a cold room, a warm room where Moorish folk got massages, and a hot room. The latter was a steam room.
According to Steves, unlike the Romans, the Muslim Moors just splashed water on themselves rather than soaking themselves in the pool.
Thinking about this, I realized that I wouldn’t have survived in those times and in that culture. I require a shower every morning. Understand, it’s not that I want one. I need one. No exceptions. I don’t do drugs. I do showers.
As if the lack of daily showers weren’t enough, back in the 11th century, people were hundreds of years away from being able to see the film Casablanca, let alone any of the Star Wars movies. And none of them ever got to read Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. How was life even worth living for them?
In the introduction to this post, I enticed you with a promise to tell you about the Archaeological Museum of Granada. Here it is. The English translation of the museum’s full name is Archaeological and Ethnological Museum of Granada. (In spanish it’s Museo Arqueológico y Etnológico de Granada.)
As I mentioned in the introduction, the museum is small. Part of that is because it’s not a huge building to start with and there’s an open court yard in the centre of it. Another reason is the museum recently underwent renovations. So far, only the ground floor has reopened. Although, it appears to be only two storeys in total, so it still won’t be huge when it fully reopens.
It might be small, but it’s nevertheless mighty. They put their best artifacts on display in the ground-floor space that’s open.
A fossilized molar behind a magnifying glass most astounded me. It’s not just any molar. That’s not to say it came from someone special—although, at the time, he or she and his or her family might have disagreed about the lack of specialness. What amazed me was it’s age. It came from a hominid who lived in about 1,400,000 BCE.
I didn’t know this, but apparently, the earliest evidence of a human presence in Europe, which dates from more than 1.4 million years ago, was found in what is now the Granada region.
Of course, not everything in the museum is that old. The museum also displays a bone fragment from a member of the Homo sapiens neanderthalensis species. That dates from only somewhere around 75,000 to 70,000 BCE.
There are also exhibits of jewelry, jugs, tools, utensils, pottery, statues, column capitals, and more that date from just a couple millennia BCE, up to as recent as the 15th century CE.
Not bad for a small museum, eh?
(For some unknown reason, that I don’t think is related in any way to today’s activities, I’m feeling my Judeo-atheist roots particularly strongly today. Hence, I used BCE (before Common Era) and CE (Common Era) rather than BC and AD above.)
The Cave Museum of Sacromonte
I huffed and puffed my way up the streets to the top of where people currently live in the Sacromonte district. Then I huffed and puffed some more to climb a number of steep steps to visit the Cave Museum of Sacromonte.
The first thing you need to know, and I didn’t know until I got there, is that these caves are not natural. They’re not the caves used by cavemen and cavewomen of prehistoric and cartoon fame. People excavated them as living quarters somewhat more recently. When I say “more recently,” I admittedly say that as someone who’s not a student of ancient history or geology. Such scholars might not consider it to be so recent, But still, they’re old by the average person’s standards.
Today, the caves of Sacromonte serve as a museum that describes cave life, both here and elsewhere in the world, as well as the local flora and fauna of Sacromonte. Spanish and English text posted in the various caves in the museum provide considerable information on those topics.
One thing I couldn’t find either at the site or in Rick Steves’ Spain book is any mention of when the caves were constructed. For once I wasn’t my usual disgustingly indolent traveler self. I Googled it.
Wikipedia says the origin of the Sacromonte caves is not clear, but the assumption is that their construction began in the 16th century, after the expulsion of Jewish and Muslim populations caused some of them to adopt the culture of the Roma.
Then again, it’s Wikipedia. You decide if you trust it. But, for what it’s worth, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella signed the order for the expulsion of Jews in 1492. If Wikipedia is accurate, I don’t know where they lived during the few years between then and the very start of the 16th century, let alone during the excavation of the caves.
According to information at the site, they started to equip the caves with modern conveniences in the 19th and 20th centuries. According to Rick Steves’ book, a thriving community of Roma lived in the caves that are now the Sacromonte Cave Museum as recently as the 1950s.
Residential and Commercial Sacromonte Caves
As I understand it, some of the homes lower down on the hill, which aren’t part of the museum, are also at least partly caves. Though, it’s hard to tell. I think some of the what look like small homes and businesses abutting the hill are actually built in front of caves that extend the structures back into the hill.
Apropos of nothing about the caves, there’s another great view of Alhambra from up at the Cave Museum, this time from a different angle than the pictures I took from San Nicolás Viewpoint yesterday. That’s a picture of it to the right.
When I am traveling these days, to occupy the time between courses and to slow down my eating, which is usually way too fast when I eat alone, I adopted a habit of working on this blog on my phone during dinner.
Well more than a decade ago now, I wrote a weekly column of allegedly humorous rants about what I saw as people’s abuse of modern technologies. I send the editor of those columns notifications of these posts. So she might be reading this. (If so, sorry about the Canadian spellings.)
One of the things I ranted about was people who met friends in, say, coffeeshops and spent the whole time on their phones communicating with other people who were elsewhere. Back when I wrote the rants, smartphones were only in their infancy (the first iPhone came out during the couple of years I wrote them), so it was mainly talking and texting then.
This evening, I had dinner in a not particularly large restaurant. For most of the time I was there, patrons occupied only seven tables, including mine. Five tables had couples sitting at them. Two, including mine, were occupied by just one person.
At one point, I looked up from typing this post on my phone. At three of the couples’ tables, both of the people were interacting silently and engrossingly with their phones. I and the other person dining alone were too, but we’re excused, as I’ll explain later.
People, stop that. Stop that now.
Be with the person you’re with. Unless, of course, you hate the person you’re with. In which case, carry on. Or stop getting together with that person altogether. You decide, but those are the only acceptable options.
As I said, I excuse myself and the other gentleman. My peeve has never been with the technology. I am less disruptive of other people’s meals than even people having appropriately hushed conversations with their dinner companions. And I’m a lot less disruptive than loudmouth jerks talking and laughing obscenely loudly with their buddies.
My peeve is about people ignoring the people they’re with to engross themselves with their technologies. I’m not doing that when I’m eating alone.
Well, the one saving grace these days is that, with smartphones, people can silently do whatever it is they’re doing on their phones. Back when I wrote those earlier rants, before smartphones took off, people mostly talked on their phones. So, there’s that.
Wouldn’t you know it? A few minutes after I typed the bit about people doing things silently on their smartphones, someone two tables over decided to play a video on her phone. At one point she showed it to the man she was with, but she mostly watched alone. The volume was up and she wasn’t using earbuds. And she didn’t stop at just one video.
Understand, this was a nice, moderately upscale, quiet* restaurant with great food.
People, people, people. I may have to give up on you.
(*The restaurant was quiet except for the flamenco theatre below it. The theatre started a show when I was about halfway through my meal. The stomping was audible in the restaurant.)
Living in those cave houses must have been malodorous and claustrophobic. I needed a shower just reading about them. And I’ll bet their residents went a little mad from every noise bouncing and echoing and caroming from every yard surface. Maybe Juana the Mad had a stint living in a cave-dwelling with a flamenco artist before rising to royalty?