It is already nearly two weeks since I left Andalucia, and I’ve been mulling over what to say over that time. Again, everything I saw deserves and has received more detailed, more analytical responses than I am able to do here. This is after all primarily a blog about books, and you would be forgiven for thinking that I had left all my books behind. I didn’t.
In the time I was in Andalucia, I could be nothing but a tourist. At times, I found myself thinking of Lucy Honeychurch in Forster’s A Room With a View professing quite strongly to the Reverend Mr. Eager that she is a tourist in Italy. I was a tourist in Spain. There was no time to be anything but a tourist. I looked, I wondered, I bought a purple skirt. My friend bought baggy pants. Will we ever have the weather to actually wear them? We let the art, architecture, and atmosphere flow over us.
So what will stay with me? The monuments, of course: the Alhambra, Granada’s Cathedral, the arches of the old mosque now the cathedral in Cordoba, another Cathedral and the Alcazar in Seville. And then there are the wheat fields, the apparently unending olive groves, and the acres of sunflowers.
But it’s the intangible, the apparently lost that will remain with me longest: the layers of history. Church bells may now ring in the former minarets, and tortured saints may gaze skyward where once the faithful prostrated themselves to a different version of the deity, yet all the triumphant gold from the new world cannot hide the fabric or silence the echoes of the Islamic past. Neither can they erase the memory of the Sephardim, who came to Iberia perhaps with the Phoenicians, but certainly with the Romans, before the Visigoths, before the Moors.
The past is not lost. In the heat of the afternoon, the ring doves murmur still the old stories. In the evening, the swifts still soar above the gardens of the sultan, and still the blackbird sings.