Vitor or vitores (cheers)

Cheers on the facade of the Royal Chapel of Granada

• On the facade of the Royal Chapel we can see some curious and ancient graffiti: the student cheers
• It is a tradition that in Spanish universities when a student graduated they celebrated it in a very curious way.
• He painted his name with a mixture of almagra (clay soil), paprika, olive oil, and bull’s blood.
• Where? On the walls of the university itself or adjacent buildings, were the graffiti of the time; the symbol of triumph or victory that was put on was called “vitor” (cheers) and came from the Latin term “VICTOR”
• This was written in the form of an anagram in which the entire word with its letters was composed in a single figure, imaginatively and conveniently arranged.
• As you can see on the façade, the letter “C” for VICTOR is turned upside down at the bottom, in the shape of a “moon”
• Putting someone “On the horns of the moon” meant exalting him, praising him for some achievement and is derived from this type of anagram.

Gran Via of Granada, XIX century

Aspect of the Gran Vía de Colón street in the 19th century

• It is a straight avenue flanked by numerous modernist and art deco style buildings.

• The people of Granada called it the Gran Vía of Sugar, because it was partially financed with the profits from the sugar beet trade that was grown in the Vega de Granada

• Granada had its golden age thanks to beets.

• At the end of the 19th century, coinciding with a serious crisis in hemp and flax and as a consequence of the loss of the American colonies from where sugar was imported, some brilliant people like D. Juan López Rubio, carried out trials to adapt the cultivation of beet and eventually became the creator of the sugar industry in the fertile plain of Granada.

• The Royal Society of Friends of the Country was created, which distributed seeds to 48 towns, giving advances to those who requested it.

• That encouraged farmers, causing a euphoria that led to the planting of the entire Vega and the construction of 13 factories, making Granada the first beet producer in Spain.

• Thus began an era of prosperity in the city of Granada linked to the exploitation of sugar beet, whose most important legacy is this beautiful avenue: the “Gran Vía of Sugar”.

The peculiar death of Ferdinand II of Aragon

Medina del Campo, November 26th, 1.504

Nothing we have achieved together will be lost, I swear … I will keep a memory of the immense love that I have always felt for you and for Castile

This is how Ferdinand said goodbye to Isabela just before he passed away, however, Isabela’s death meant for the King the greatest work that could come to him in this life … the mission of keeping the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon united.

Unfortunate marriages, deaths and illnesses … were some of the misfortunes that describe the lives of the children of Isabela and Ferdinand and ended up diverting the future of the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon.

Misfortune after misfortune in the lives of the children of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabela always tried to prevent a foreign king taking over the crown of Castile and that her daughter Joanna, married to Philip “The Handsome”, was used by a sick love that dominated her.

The illness of Queen Isabela I of Castile progressed very rapidly and in her will, she named her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon regent of Castile until Charles, her grandson, reached the age of majority to govern, but the lack of support among the nobility of Castile and the arrival of Philip “The Handsome” (Habsburg house) left the Castilian court in a very delicate situation, so Ferdinand reacted and tried to break the promise he swore to Isabela.

Joanna I of Castile, had once again demonstrated her incapacity for government, and her attitude was so anomalous that until her last days, her family sincerely feared that she was possessed by devil.

Joanna’s symptoms of dementia led Philip “The Handsome” to take direct charge of the Kingdom of Castile, alleging the mental incapacity of his wife.

This inability of Joanna I of Castile faced Ferdinand and Philip.

Joanna I of Castile

But the reign of Philip “The Handsome” was very brief, he was the first king of the Austrian dynasty, he settled in Castile to reign and died before becoming king of Aragon. In the town of Castile it did not take long to suspect that Fernando had poisoned his son-in-law, but historians and modern research point out that the most possible cause was The Plague, a disease that had appeared in Burgos a few months earlier.

Joanna, during her husband’s funeral procession, showed that her mental health had suffered even more and Ferdinand locked up his daughter in the Convent of Tordesillas, and he assumed the regency until 1507.

Joanna never reigned, but maintained until today, the title of Queen of Castile, the true sovereign.

Ferdinand, despite the love he kept for Isabela, remarried a year after the death of the Queen, on October 19th, 1505 to neutralize the French threat looking for an heir and thus protect his legacy, Aragon, Naples and Sicily. Ferdinand, 53, married Germaine of Foix, 18 years old, niece of the French King Louis XII.

Germaine of Foix

In the pacts with the King of France, the King granted his niece the dynastic rights of the Kingdom of Naples and granted Ferdinand and the couple’s descendants the symbolic title of King of Jerusalem. In exchange, the Catholic King promised to name heir of the throne to their descendant, thus removing the Austrians from government.

This marriage created doubts among the nobles of Castile and the Habsburg dynasty, a traditional enemy of the French Monarchy, since they interpreted it as a maneuver by Ferdinand the Catholic to prevent the son of Philip “The Handsome”, Charles I, from inheriting the Crown of Aragon and thus separating what had cost so much to unite: the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon.

The important thing was that, as a result of this new marriage, a boy child had to be born. However, Ferdinand’s advanced age was not going to make it easy …

Ferdinand turned to natural medicine and found the cantharides, a green beetle that once dead, dried and reduced to powder, was used in infusion as a vasodilator substance, whose effects are very similar to those produced by «viagra». The abuse of this aphrodisiac substance had a bad end causing serious episodes of congestion to the monarch, which led to a cerebral hemorrhage and without any offspring with Germana.

Cantharides is a very abundant medium-sized beetle in the Mediterranean region

The king died on January 23, 1516, at 63 years of age, in Madrigalejo (Cáceres) being his last words:

“Forgive me Isabela … Because I wanted to break the promise I made you … but God with great judgment has not allowed me”

Perhaps a new heir would have changed history, but the truth is that after so many games and pacts between Castile and Aragon, the one who finally ruled was Charles, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Do you want to know how Charles became King and Emperor?

Best 12 destinations for a holiday in Andalucia

1. Granada

Views of Granada with Sierra Nevada in the background

Obviously we start with Granada, how could it be otherwise 😉, because it also has enough attractions to consider spending more than one night in the city.

The world-famous Alhambra is the most visited monument in Spain and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In high season tickets tend to sell out easily, so it is advisable to book well in advance and pay close attention to the time of access to Nasrid Palaces because you have to access this area with a margin of 30 minutes above the time indicated on our ticket will not deny access …

But, as I say, Granada has much more to offer and these are other of its attractions:

  • The Albaicin neighborhood (although I like the “Albayzin” spelling better) and its cobbled streets with numerous viewpoints to sit, talk and admire the views of the city and the Alhambra.
  • The Sacromonte is a time tunnel. Walking through this neighborhood at noon, on a sunny autumn day, is one of the most pleasant sensations I can remember.
  • The Cathedral and the Royal Chapel, in addition to showing us their splendid architecture, remind us of the importance that Granada always had for the Catholic Monarchs, as a symbol of the culmination of their Reconquest.
  • The Alpujarras and the Tropical Coast. They are two perfect getaways to spend a day away from the madding crowd and relax in the mountains or the sea … because both are an hour’s drive from the capital.

2. Sevilla

The Giralda in Seville

It is the capital of Andalucia and is full of neighborhoods, parks and monuments to walk around and discover. It is always said that “Seville has a special color” paraphrasing a famous flamenco song … and it is in fact a charming city, without a doubt …

The sites not to be missed, when visiting Seville, are:

  • The Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and has been declared an Asset of Outstanding Universal Value. It contains an impressive collection of works of art with special mention to the Main Altarpiece, which is the largest in Christendom.
  • The Giralda is the bell tower of the Cathedral and one of the most privileged watchtowers of Seville to photograph the historic center of the city from a bird’s eye view. It is an Almohad tower, inspired by those of Rabat or Marrakech.
  • The Alcazar is the residence of the king during his visits to the Andalusian capital. It is the most visited monument in the city and was chosen for its unique beauty as the setting for the famous “Game of Thrones” series.
  • The Santa Cruz neighborhood is the ideal place to make a stop to eat at any of the many restaurants that we will find. In addition, the neighborhood is full of souvenir shops and cafes.
  • In the Maria Luisa Park we can have a rest while we take a pleasant walk and it also has an area with aquatic birds that is highly recommended if we travel with children.
  • And finally, before sunset, the finishing touch will be the Plaza de España. It symbolizes the embrace of Spain to Latin America and has also been the scene of such famous films as Lawrence of Arabia or The Attack of the Clones.

3. Córdoba

Cordoba’s mosque

It was the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate in the period of maximum political, cultural and commercial splendor of Al-Andalus. And this has evidently left a very important historical and monumental legacy in the city of Córdoba.

These are the places of greatest interest when visiting:

  • The Cathedral of Córdoba is simply impressive. Its hall, with 856 columns and 365 red and white horseshoe arches, is undoubtedly a world-renowned symbol of the city.
  • The Alcazar of the Christian Kings is also a must-see to stroll through its magnificent gardens while we learn about its many uses throughout history: Residence of the Catholic Monarchs, headquarters of the Inquisition, prison, …
  • The Jewish Quarter and its flower-filled patios are the perfect walk to end the morning with lunch at one of its taverns or restaurants. We recommend trying the Cordovan flamenquín as well as its famous salmorejo.
  • In the afternoon we can take a walk to the other side of the Roman Bridge to take some spectacular photos with the sunset from this other perspective.

4. Malaga

Views of Malaga from Gibralfaro Castle

Malaga is the perfect city to combine a day of sun and culture. Because in addition to being a famous beach destination in Andalusia, it also has numerous museums and very remarkable historical monuments.

  • The Picasso Museum is open daily and has about 300 works by this genius from Malaga who wanted part of his work to be in his hometown.
  • The Pompidou Center in Malaga is one of the headquarters in France. The cube in which it is located is already very interesting at an architectural level, but it also has a multidisciplinary exhibition that is most interesting.
  • The Carmen Thyssen Museum is a unique opportunity to contemplate paintings by Goya, Fortuny, Picasso … as well as strolling through the 16th century building that houses the museum.
  • On a monumental level, you must not miss the Cathedral, which is one of the Renaissance jewels of Andalucia, as well as the Gibralfaro Castle, which was once the most important fortress in Malaga and which offers impressive views of the city and its port.

5. The Caminito del Rey

Caminito del Rey’s canyon in Malaga

Without leaving the city of Malaga, we can take this natural route that is one of the most spectacular in Andalusia and that was also restored and put back into service in 2015.

It became one of the most dangerous mountain trails in the world back in 2000, until it was renovated and it is now completely safe. Being able to make visits with a mountain guide lasting about three hours through this gorge at more than 100 meters high.

Of course … you have to think about it because once the tour has started there is no going back because it is one-way! The route extends for 3 km and the walkway is 1 meter wide.

An adventure for those who want to enjoy and improve themselves!

6. Nerja Caves

Caves of Nerja in Maro (Malaga)

This is without a doubt a perfect experience for families with children.

In addition to visiting the town of Nerja (my favorite on the Costa del Sol) we will have the opportunity to go up to Maro and visit this cave classified as an Asset of Cultural Interest since 2006, which has numerous cave paintings and the largest stalactite in the world with a height 33 meters.

The cave was discovered by chance in the year 1959 by a group of young people from the town who came to the area to hunt bats.

The walk inside the cave lasts about 45 minutes and in summer it is the most pleasant … because the temperature inside does not exceed 21 degrees.

It is advisable to book your tickets in advance because there are usually queues to enter, although you can also buy them directly at the ticket offices upon arrival.

7. Sierra Nevada y las Alpujarras

Capileira -Alpujarras-

During the winter, the ski resort has 105 km of ski slopes available and in summer it becomes an ideal getaway to take refuge from the heat of Granada and spend a day in the mountains visiting Sierra Nevada and the villages of the Alpujarras.

Sierra Nevada is the highest mountain range in Spain, with more than twenty peaks above 3,000 meters. It is never too hot in this mountainous region (even in summer) and, above all, it is the perfect place to enjoy the more authentic and less touristy side of Andalusia. The towns of the Alpujarras are famous for their picturesque character and have maintained their Moorish aesthetic over time.

It is a perfect location for hiking in the mountains and practicing adventure sports such as climbing, paragliding, mountain biking or horse riding.

Nature, crafts and gastronomy … a perfect combination for this experience to become a guaranteed success!

8. Ubeda y Baeza

Santiago’s Hospital in Ubeda

Two beautiful towns that often escape the usual tourist route that only includes the Granada-Seville-Córdoba triangle.

We recommend visiting Ubeda and Baeza (province of Jaén), because they are two sites declared World Heritage by UNESCO, with an exceptional Renaissance legacy and that offer a beautiful walk through their streets full of history and architecture on all four sides.

Located between infinite olive groves and located only 8 km apart, the two towns have maintained all their charm over the centuries and are quite different from the rest of the traditional Andalusian white villages.

These are the most prominent places in Úbeda:

  • The Sacred Chapel of El Salvador: a true jewel of the Spanish Renaissance
  • The Palace of Vazquez de Molina, today City Hall
  • The Palace of Dean Ortega, built in the 16th century
  • The Basilica of Santa Maria de los Reales Alcazares

And the must-sees in Baeza:

  • Visit the cathedral of Baeza
  • Discover the Jabalquinto palace
  • Go see the church of San Juan
  • Walk through the Plaza del Populo

9. The Tabernas desert

Tabernas desert, Almeria

We move to the province of Almería, where the largest arid desert in Europe is located.

With less than 250 mm of rain per year and average temperatures above 17º, visiting Tabernas is the closest thing to stepping on the lunar surface …

A breathtaking landscape due to its aridity and desolation, which has been the scene of numerous films, especially the so-called Spaghetti Western, such as “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” or “A Handful of Dollars”. Other famous films such as “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Indiana Jones” were also shot there.

In Tabernas, you must visit Fort Bravo (also called Texas Hollywwod). It was one of the towns built to serve as the setting for an American West movie, and it remained as it is afterward. You can visit the salon and even watch a duel between the sheriff and a bandit!

To learn more about it, we can organize a private visit to the Tabernas desert with an expert guide in the area who will instruct you about its characteristic flora and fauna, mainly with regard to the birds and reptiles that inhabit it.

10. Cabo de Gata and Natural Park in Nijar

Beach of the Dead in Cabo de Gata

We should not leave the province of Almería without first visiting its two famous natural parks.

The Cabo de Gata Natural Park is the largest coastal and terrestrial protected area in the entire Mediterranean region. Of volcanic origin, it offers various types of landscapes ranging from beautiful beaches and coves to wilder desert-style landscapes.

Some of the activities that we can do in this unique natural setting:

  • Hiking one of the many marked trails
  • Scuba diving
  • Boat
  • Bathing in one of its famous beaches of fine sand and crystal clear water such as Las Salinas or Los Muertos
  • Birdwatching (mainly flamingos) in Las Salinas
  • Explore the small fishing villages of Las Negras or San José, which are also the ideal place to enjoy an excellent lunch with local products from the sea and the land …

11. Marbella

Puerto Banus, Marbella

If you like exclusivity, then Marbella is the perfect place for you!

This luxury destination located on the Costa del Sol has everything you dream of: 27 km of beaches, prestigious villas, top brand shops, cafes and luxury nightclubs. Marbella is a very famous party destination for tourists who want to observe and experience the so-called “jet-set” up close.

To take a look at all this luxury, you can go to the marina of Puerto Banús where some of the most luxurious yachts in the world are docked, some of which we can rent for an average price of 300€ for two hours rental.

During the summer, celebrities from all over the world visit Marbella to enjoy the beaches and nightlife.

In addition to all this glitz and glamor, Marbella also has a charming historic center with white houses typical of the Andalusian coast.

If you choose to enjoy an afternoon on the beach, the best is Cabopino or Dunas de Artola. It is protected from the wind and has shallow and crystal clear waters.

12. Gibraltar

Promenade of Gibraltar

And the last suggestion is for those who would like to visit a piece of the UK in southern Andalucia …

A two-hour drive from Malaga and we reach the border that separates Spain from Gibraltar.

Suddenly we will feel like in the south of England, with signs in English, the typical red telephone boxes and English style buses and of course English pubs. Gibraltar also has its own currency: the Gibraltar pound, equivalent to the British pound so you will have to change your Euros upon arrival.

A must do in Gibraltar is the Rock Tour. It can be reached on foot, by car or by cable car and these are the most outstanding attractions:

  • Cave of San Miguel: It was used as a hospital during World War II. Today, you can attend sound and light shows.
  • The famous monkeys! There are more than 200 monkeys walking freely on the rock. Be careful with your belongings and do not bring food.
  • The Great Siege tunnels carved into the rock.
  • The Castle of the Moors, built in the 13th century by the Meriní dynasty, of Berber origin.

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