The railways in the southern part of Spain have not been in operation many years, and nothing moves rapidly in the Iberian peninsula. But the deliberate travelling in Andalusia is not so much regretted as in the monotonous scenery of the North. From Cadiz to Utrera we retraced our footsteps, and thence rode through a fertile and pleasant country to Marchena, an ancient town, which was given by Ferdinand V. to the family of Ponce de Leon in 1509. He did not find the fountain of immortal youth in Florida, but he owned what is extremely practical in Spain, a spring of sulphur water, which is highly esteemed for the cure of skin diseases. Here the railway from Cordova comes in, and runs on to Osuna. The town stands on a high hill, which is crowned with a castle and the Colegiata. At each station there are little crowds of peasants in picturesque costumes, who have come to see the train, and women who offer fresh water for sale. The scenery grows wilder, and the road climbs in concentric curves through hills, often cultivated with olive orchards and fields of grain. Then it descends to Bobadilla, an important railway junction. The main line from Madrid to Malaga must pass through this place. The railroad to Granada begins here; and the new railroad, which will make it easy to go through the wild scenery of the Ronda route, and journey by Algeciras to Gibraltar, starts from the same place. We had been told that the chances of going wrong at this station, where everybody has to change trains, were great; and we had some amusement in seeing the fluttering and excitement of a “personally conducted ” band of Germans, who were eager to get good seats in the train. It seemed as if some totally depraved spirit delighted to mislead them, as they climbed in and out, in and out, of all the trains, and finally, in an exhausted condition, were hustled by the conductor into all sorts of carriages, separated and objurgant, but right at last. We found a very nice little interpreter, who knew the French language, and who for a few pesetas so arranged things for us that without anxiety we lunched and rested, and at the right time found our parcels nicely stowed in a clean carriage. We left him bowing profoundly on the platform, as we steamed off to Granada.
A few miles from Bobadilla, we came to Antequera, which was a Roman stronghold, and where there are remains of a palace and a theatre, and also, what is more conducive to present prosperity, a manufactory of woollen cloths and blankets which have a great reputation as “fast colors.” An hour after leaving Bobadilla, the beautiful snow-covered range of the Sierra Nevada came into view, and the scenery became grand. The railroad wound its way through the hills, sometimes crossing deep gorges and curving around mountain slopes; and as sunset was tinting the mountains with the deep purple of the heart’sease and pouring a flood of red gold upon the snowwhite summits on the horizon line, we drew up at Loja, a prosperous town in a narrow valley, through which the Xenil runs, and where it is joined by the dashing waters of the Manzanil. The abundant waters which rise in and flow through this green vale produce an exuberant fertility. Everything grows here in abundance, from fruits to the silkworms, which feed upon the mulberry and yield a fine fibre.
Eight miles further on is the railway station for the estates of the Duke of Wellington. It seems strange to an Amerian traveller to find in Spain such a permanent memorial to the prowess of a foreign warrior. But here, among other properties belonging to the estate, is one vast field of four thousand acres, where eight hundred laborers are employed in raising grain; another estate consists of five thousand acres, which contain two of the finest olive plantations in Spain, producing twenty thousand gallons of oil yearly, while the two vineyards on the same estate yield more than this number of gallons of wine per annum. The property was worth about fifteen thousand dollars a year when it was given to the Duke of Wellington in 1814. For years it was neglected, but since 1864 it has been cultivated and improved, and its income is now more than fifty thousand dollars a year.
Ford says that the vast corn-field called “Soto de Roma,” was an appanage of the kings of Granada, and was granted May 23, 1492, by Ferdinand to his lieutenant at that siege, the uncle of the celebrated Senor de Alarcon, to whom were committed as prisoners both Francois I. and Clement VII. The Soto, on the failure of the Alarcon family, was resumed by the Crown, and henceforth given to court favorites. Charles III. gave it to an Irish gentleman, Richard Wall, who occupied the Casa Real in 1776, after having put it in perfect order. When he died, the minion Godoy received it from Charles IV.; then came the French invasion, and Joseph Bonaparte appropriated the property. The victory of Salamanca ousted Joseph, and the Cortes granted the estate to the Iron Duke. He never allowed anything to slip from his firm grasp, and though Ferdinand VII. was loath to confirm the grants of the Cortes, he could not annul this one, which was held by the right of possession as well as of legislative decree, in fee simple and unentailed.
As the twilight came on, we pushed up the valley of the Xenil, past Atarfe, near the ancient city of Illiberis, where a great council was held by Spanish bishops in A.D. 303, and where five thousand Moors, in 1319, defeated the Infantes Pedro and Juan, who advanced with armies whose living “numbers covered the earth.” Alas, for their boasting! these armies were put to rout, and the earth was not only covered, but filled with the dead bodies of more than fifty thousand slain, while the prince Pedro was skinned and stuffed, and put over the city gate as a warning to mouthing warriors.
Santa Fe was the last town before we reached Granada. Here the capitulation of Granada was signed, and hence, also, Columbus started to discover the New World. Ford is very sarcastic in his remarks upon Santa Fe. “The deed of capitulation was dated at this town of sacred faith as if in mockery of the Punic perfidy with which every stipulation was subsequently broken,” and Columbus “found, when success had rewarded his toils, every pledge previously agreed upon scandalously disregarded.”
We reached Granada at nine in the evening, and were turned out into the worst crowd that I remember to have seen in Spain. It was impossible to advance or recede, to hear or to make oneself heard. The numerous runners for various hotels seemed each to have half a hundred drummers and followers and satellites, and all were determined to secure the unlucky travellers as their prey. At last, by the aid of a stout umbrella and a piece of baggage that could not be “surrounded,” I gained a melancholy vehicle with barred windows, and very much “down in front,” the forward wheels being very small, and the hind wheels very large. A few other victorious comrades climbed into this prison on wheels, and the villainous-looking driver began to swear at the four mules which were hitched to the bowsprit of the curious ark. Blows followed oaths, and in due time the team was in full gallop, the driver, assisted now by a lieutenant, swearing and beating and yelling, the clumsy vehicle plunging and swaying and clattering through narrow streets and around sharp corners, till suddenly the noise ceased as we passed through a gateway and struck a smooth avenue beneath tall and branching trees, where dashing waters only broke the stillness. A few moments of this restful driving up the hill beneath the trees brought us to the open place where the two hotels, “Los Siete Suelos” and “Washington Irving,” offered us hospitality in the most romantic place in the world – the Alhambra of the Moors in Spain.