Two kinds of Moorish
Granada Travel Blog› entry 37 of 43 › view all entries
I know you all know the first kind . . . .I have been talking about food for over 2 months now and I am sure it has made a few of you think about the moorish offerings here in Spain.
Now I am about to talk about the other kind of Moorish . . . .that of the Arabic culture which abounds here in the South. I have been in Granada for 2 days after a lovely five hour bus ride.
The final 2 hours were through nothing but olive groves. Let me say that again - NOTHING but olive groves for as far as the eye can see. The earth was barren and white except for the knarled old trees hugging closer to the ground than you would expect. It was not boring at all - it was totally mesmerising and I wondered what it would look like at harvest time.
Who has visited Granada? You will of course know that the main reason to come here is to visit the Alhambra, the Moorish monuments that make Granada the tourist mecca that it is. I have heard every accent I recognise since arriving and seen more tourists than the rest of Spain put together. This, and my dislike of ´touristy´places has not detracted from my wonderful experience of spending a day wandering the site and nights viewing the lit up castle and palaces from the nearby viewpoint on the opposing hill (Albaycin).
I have searched for a place to start to explain Alhambra (consisting of a fortress, two main palaces and a summer palace and gardens);it is difficult so I will just write and see what develops with my memory.
The first day I arrived in late afternoon so decided to find my way up the Albaycin hill; a twisting labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets and laneways, many too narrow for anything but pedestrians or motos. I finally stumbled upon the Mirador (viewpoint) for the Alhambra. Every evening throngs either bus or walk up to this spot to watch the sun set on the fortress and palace walls turning them golden and then a rich red colour. As nights set, the light are turned on and the Alhambra glows out of the darkness. It is really a place for romantics and magicians.
My first walk up was at 7.00pm was stiffling and it has remained hot since my arrival, never dipping below 30C at night and approaching 40C in the day. Granada was the capital of the last Moorish Kingdom in Spain from the 13th to 15th Centuries and the site itself dates back to before the 8th Century.
To visit the monuments requires the stamina of a bull and the patience of a lamb. I was warned to get to the ticket office by 8.30am to buy one of the 1000 daily tickets available. Most tickets are pre-sold through hotels or online and only the foolhardy buy on the day! I thought that being a Sunday, I would be safe arriving at 8.15 as most people sleep until 10.00 at least. What a fool I was! I trudged up the incredibly steep pathway, 800 twisting metres from the main town below, to the ticket office.
I was greeted with a queue of Disney proportions, about 800 people, and took my place with crossed fingers in the hope that it was fast moving. Big Mistake! It was so slow that two and a half hours and a second queue later I finally reached the credit card machine to purchase my ticket. I was unlucky and received a nominated time of 2.00pm to view the palaces which now meant 3 hours to kill in the ´free´areas or a trudge back down the mountain to return.
I decided to stay and visited the information desk which had NO information on Alhambra but gave me a city map and bus map of Granada! (very useful). I was directed another 300m downhill to the main entry and started my visit.
The first open place to visit was the Palace of Carlos V, consisting of a great circular 2-storey atrium fanning out to surrounding rooms, most hidden by huge carved wooden doors. I listened in (inconspicuously) to an English speaking guide and learned that most of the columns in the Palace have a lead disc placed at the top and the bottom to serve as an anti-earthquake device. Isn´t it amazing to think of the technology that was developed back then and re-invented centuries later!
I was disappointed that the museum was closed - it houses many of the Palace artefacts and the famous Lion statues.
I cooled off in the wonderful gardens of the Summer Palace, about a fifteen minute walk from the Alhambra in a place with a strange name: Generalife.
It was still a wait until my appointed time and the over-zealous staff would not even let me through fifteen minutes before the appointed time. Their electronic ticket zappers had me marked as an illegal until 2.00pm!
I discovered a Parador close to the Palace and sheltered in the Terrace café (surprisingly nearly empty although thousands of people visiting?) for a lovely slice of shade and a hotel-style bocadillo and wine. It was very luxurious and I resisted leaving the air-conditioned lounge for a further few minutes.
Finally, I emerged into the heat again and made my way to the Casa Real (Palace Nazaries, Royal Palace). After another 20 minute queued wait in the sun (the lamb´s patience was wearing thin) I finally made it inside. The wait was certainly worth it.
This palace is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture, interior design and sculpture I have ever seen. It rivalled and surpassed the carving I have seen in India. Every available surface was either carved (wood or white marble), laid with intricate Arabic tile designs, or painted in the jewell hues of azul blue, turquoise, or ochre that we always associate with the desert. My eyes were darting everywhere: through window spaces to intricate garden layouts below; along dark corridors; into tiny spaces in walls that would have housed large pieces of pottery or floral arrangements; up to the intricate carved and domed ceilings; around mysterious corners, and out to marvellous patios with fish-filled ponds.
I finished my long day by climbing the around, across and up the narrow stairwells within the fortress. The highest point gives a wonderful 360 degree view of Granada and surrounds and was a little piece of heaven with the slight breeze attempting to lift the magnificent flags on the top turret. I breathed the warm air and imagined all the wars that had taken place here; Romans, Moors, Christians . . . .how many feet had trodden on this very spot through hundreds and hundreds of years.
I felt so lucky to have this experience and hope that my little description relays some of the pleasure I took from this Moorish adventure. I know that I will have to return to the mirador one more time with this feeling in my belly.
I am now hatching a travel plan for the next week so stay tuned. Another day in Granada to play in the shops. I had a little shopping accident today with shoes! and I have NO room in my pack but I do have a wonderful plan. Every day I have been here, homeless people have asked me for money. Tomorrow at breakfast I will gift my sleeping bag to the first one who comes up to me. We will both be happy!