When I last abandoned you I was just back home in Granada but still juggling legal paperwork. Last week I went one morning to OdX (my shorthand for the Oficina de Extranjería) on a whim, just in case the twenty day processing time had passed. I had no idea how to count business or bureaucrat days in Spain, but I had nothing else to do that day so I hopped on the 33 bus and was there in about twenty minutes.
The early morning line to get through security had bled off and I had to wait for only four or five people to clear the screening. I showed my “come back in twenty days” letter to my old friend at the reception desk and he pointed at the “take a number” machine. Oh, great. Wonder if they will call my number before the five o’clock closing hour.
B58 said the ticket that spat out of the machine. I went into the waiting area to the left, found a seat that wasn’t near squalling children or amidst loud family groups. I pulled my appointment ticket out, because I can’t remember what I read 90 seconds ago, looked up at the countdown monitors and saw B55 was now being served. I rechecked my ticket and sure enough I was third in line after the current winner. That never happens.
In very little time my number came up and I made my way to Mesa 2, where sat the very same decision lady that I had seen three times previously. I handed her my letter and offered her my passport. She took the letter and waved off the passport. She pulled my card from a rectangular lock box on her desk and I jumped for joy inside my skin. It’s here, miracle of miracles.
Like the previous visit when I got the approval letter, I had to give them fingerprints on an electronic scanner. Like the previous visit, the scanner detected no prints on my fingers. Decision lady reached over and mashed down on my fingers, then retrieved a wet wipe and some tissues, cleaned the glass plate and my finger tips and repeated the process. This worked the previous time, but no joy on this cold morning. I blame the weather and not that I am a walking corpse. She walked away without saying a word to me.
She came back a few minutes later with a younger man with a Junta de Andaclucia ID badge dangling from his neck. He sat down, tapped on the keyboard, motioned for me to put my fingers on the glass. A happy noise emerged from the machine. Repeat with my left hand and the same happy noise emitted. He reached over, picked up my Tarjeta de Residencia and handed it to me and walked away.
Decision lady sat back down at her desk and stared at me. I shrugged my shoulders and tried to say, “What now?” With her hands she dismissed me, shoo, shoo.
Six months of trekking to the OdX at least one dozen times and that was it. I was a bit befuddled that it was over and the whole thing took less than one hour, including the bus ride. I turned left out the office door toward town but not toward the nearest bus stop. I had nothing else planned that day and all I knew was that I didn’t want just to go sit in my apartment, so I started walking home.
The first landmark that I passed was Jardines del Triunfo. This is one of the nicest of hundreds of plazas in Granada, sloping uphill from Avenida de la Constitucion to a tall column with a spiked lady atop backed by a row of fountains.
There was an earlier Jardines del Triunfo that tied into the Alhambra fortifications but it had a couple of negative memories associated with it. First, it was built atop the old Muslim burial grounds, so that was a bit of a thumb in the eye to the previous regime, and second, when the French ruled this area in the very early 1800s it was the execution ground for the captured patriotic Spanish resistance.
A less bad memory is that the current Triunfo sits where the previous Plaza de Toros stood until 1940.
In both the previous photos there is a large stone building in the immediate background with a short tower protruding. This is the Hopital Real, the Royal Hospital. That building dates to 1504, 1511 or 1526, depending on which source you consult.
This is now part of the University of Granada (UGR), enrollment 80,000, founded at the same time Hopital was constructed. Hopital currently serves as the home of the university library and the seat of the University Rector. Pretty good condition for a 500 year-old structure that is in continuous, daily use.
From here I continued vaguely toward home and reached the Puerta Elvira. This was one of the official entrances to and tax collection offices for the city and is just a little older than UGR and Hopital. It was built in the 11th century.
My shots of the front of the gate are at the lab being processed, but here are shots of the rehabilitation work in progress just behind the gate:
This is a one thousand year old structure in a land of frequent, although moderate, seismic activity and the walls are are still vertical and the corners are square. This was constructed roughly 300 years after the vanguard Berbers conquered Granada.
Puerta Elvira is the entrance into the lower Albaicin, the old Muslim quarter of Granada. This is where you lived if you were part of the ruling administration but weren’t high enough ranked to live in the Palace complex. The cobblestone streets are steep, never straight, very uneven and lined with historic jewels and curiosities. Just across Rio Darro is El Realejo, the Jewish quarter that sits on the hillside directly beneath the walls of the Alhambra, and ominously beneath the walls of the Alcazaba, the fortress first sited here by Julius Caesar and expanded and fortified by the Muslims.
I had to go back and check my notes, but I did find this in Albaicin and not Realejo.
Islamic lettering and crescents appear in the window area, but the door handles form a star of David when the doors are closed and two other Jewish stars appear above. Was this a medieval Interfaith center?
After continuing my climb into the Albaicin I reached Placeta de San Miguel Bajo, in the shadow of yet another church bell tower and ringed by cafes. The sun was out, I had a resident card to celebrate and my legs and lungs ached from the climb, so I grabbed a table outside and ordered a beer confident that a tapa would follow. While I rooted around in my backpack for the book tucked away I noticed that I had a dining companion.
This feller has learned that humans in his neighborhood are suckers who often have food to share. He was surrounded by strangers but calmly slunk from table to table and accepted chin scratches, trusting that enough of us would toss a tidbit aside to get him through the day.
The day went downhill from here . . . not in a bad way, but I headed back downhill from this sunny respite and met friends for coffee and cakes down in the center city. From there we tottered over to Plaza del Carmen for the Christmas lighting ceremony. The Plaza was packed well before the ceremony was scheduled to start. Three of us bailed out to a nice dinner at a cafe that is normally too crowded ever to get a table, but because so many people were celebrating the beginning of Natividad, we few, we hungry were seated and supped on the best beef in town. Our other two members, Jim and Jiab, danced the night away like the newlyweds they once were.
Another day in paradise.
[And living in paradise compels me to confess that this is actually a composite of more than one day’s rambling around town, but it was easier for both of us this way.]