A museum dedicated to a dark time in Europe’s past and flamenco dancing, a dramatic Spanish tradition
Whilst in the Andalucian city of Granada a local attraction had caught our attention; a museum of the Spanish Inquisition. I could not help but be reminded of the Monty Python sketch – after all, “nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition”. The museum itself was small and filled with a multitude of torture and execution accoutrements – and not a cushion or comfy chair to be found! It was a true testament to the creativity of the medieval Spaniards to see the range of ways they found to inflict pain on those unfortunate to come to the attention of the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition. The tribunal was set-up in 1478 by the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II and Isabella I and was intended to maintain the catholic orthodoxy of those who converted from Judaism and Islam to Catholicism but was expanded to purge Jews and Muslims from Spain. Amazingly, it was not until 1834 that it was finally abolished and during that time 150,000 people were charged with crimes, with 3000 to 5000 being executed. As we toured around the exhibits and read the descriptions of the various methods of torture and punishment, which usually involved some form of mutilation, often of genitalia, we winced many times.
Afterwards, we decided to get some more pictures of the Alhambra from the Mirador de San Nicolas, the best viewpoint in Granada. To get there we had to climb our way through the winding streets of the Albaicin. This is the oldest district in Grenada and is a UNESCO World Heritage site, it was originally occupied during by the Iberians and Romans, but its major expansion happened during the reigns of the Emirs of Granada. The Moorish influence can clearly be seen in the winding narrow streets, which formed a part of the defence of the city of Grenada. The Romans preferred straight streets; probably because they thought they were invincible and no one would dare attack them. The climb up to the Mirador was steep, made all the harder in the hot afternoon sun, but it was totally worth it. The views across the Alhambra and the distant Sierra Nevada mountains were stunning. The ideal photo opportunity!
The rest of the day was spent “just chilling”, but Karen and I decided to fit in one more cultural experience to end our visit to Granada. Just across from our hotel was a very small theatre specializing in flamenco, called the Casa del Arte, which seated a maximum of 30 people. It made for a very intimate experience! I had seen flamenco a few years back, but it did not prepare me for what I was about to see. The stage was tiny, but they managed to squeeze on a guitarist, a singer and the dancers. The singing I can best describe as frenetic but that would not adequately cover the explosive exuberance of the singer – in fact, it was quite scary the way she contorted her face and expressed saliva in every direction. If the singing was high energy it palled into insignificance compared to the dancing. There were two dancers one lady and one man. The lady entered looking immaculately groomed, but by the end of set her hair was everywhere and she was dripping with sweat and our ears were ringing from the loud stomping of her feet on the stage. We had a short guitar interlude before the male dancer pounced on us. Flamenco is a rhythmic dance, but the movements are rapid and sharp, and if I tried it I would probably pull every muscle in my body. They must have been exhausted after they had finished the performance. By the time it was all over we were worn-out and shell-shocked – it was difficult to say whether it had been enjoyable, but we were glad we had done it.