Day 5: Granada
Granada, in the south, is where one can come across the longest lasting Muslim influence in Spain—almost eight centuries. Said influence finds its ultimate expression in the Alhambra (pictured above, in banner, and in inset photos).
The palace complex, immortalized by Washington Irving in his Tales of the Alhambra, was built under Nasrid rulers, the last Moorish dynasty of the Iberian Peninsula. Albaicín—a neighborhood of Granada with its cobbled streets, Moorish villas and once the location of more than 30 mosques—is one more example of this Muslim influence.
Another highlight of Granada is the visit of the Royal Chapel where are buried Queen Isabella I of Castile and Leon and King Ferdinand II of Aragon; the Catholic Monarchs who would initiate the unification process of Spain as well as sponsor Christopher Columbus’ voyages to the Americas.
In Granada we went and visited the Alhambra. This was truly the one place that I wanted to visit. From reading about and presenting on the Alhambra it caught my interest. This palace, which was constructed in the 14th century, was built for the Moorish rulers. After the Spanish conquest of Granada it was taken over by the army of Ferdinand and Isabella. This palace had beautiful gardens as well as water fountains that you could not imagine the beauty of it without seeing it yourself. This also had such beautiful Muslim craftsmanship that you had to appreciate. It was a long day because of walking so much throughout the Alhambra but it was well worth the walking to be able to see this palace.
We also visited the Albaicín in Granada. This is the oldest part of Granada and to see the Medieval Moorish winding narrow streets was wonderful. We were able to see the Alhambra from the Albaicín at night and it was a beautiful view.
Today we went to The Alhambra. This is the most magical place I have ever seen. Its rich gardens and exquisite architecture from the Muslim in the middle ages will leave you without breath. This is a place of reflection. With thirteen hectares, this place is well kept and well preserved by its people. Back in the fourteenth century it was the most elegant palace in the region.
The group took three hours to tour this place. The palace has a quota of visits per day. If you do not have an appointment with your tour guide, you may not go in on your own. This kind of place made me want to know more about the history and culture of the Alhambra.
I went to bed late and then woke up early to a horrible screeching noise. What kind of bird makes that crazy noise!? The local youths had partied all night across the street until almost 5 a.m. The horrible, screeching noise was a traffic officer directing traffic at the corner with his furious arm movements and whistle. The cool morning air helped to wake me up before I went to breakfast at the hotel next door. I was grumpy this morning (no big surprise-I’m grumpy every morning).
Rachel and I go to the bank because her card will not work in any of the ATMs. The Spanish bank was unable to help; they thought there was something wrong with the magnetic strip on her card. Her American bank offered little assistance and we had to find a solution for her amongst our group.
We are packed onto the bus for a quick ride to the Alhambra. The Alhambra only allows a limited amount of visitors every day and if you are late for your tour, you just don’t get in. People wait months to get tickets to visit this treasure of Granada. I really loved Toledo and I was afraid that I would not truly appreciate the beauty of the Alhambra.
My tour of the Alhambra was led by Gabriela.
Completed in the late 14th century, the Alhambra was built to represent heaven on Earth for the Nasrid emirate. Alhambra means “red one”. Made from red clay, it was whitewashed when it was constructed; the Moors considered it to be “a pearl set in emeralds”. The Alhambra is a palace-city. Utilizing the melted snows from the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Sultan’s Canal freed the palaces from being dependent upon water brought up from the Albaicín.
Granada was the last region of Spain to be reconquered by the Christians in 1492. King Ferdinand II and Isabella were so impressed by the beauty of the Alhambra that it was not damaged (their grandchildren had no qualms about ripping up the place, though).
We entered through the Generalife Gardens (Architect’s Gardens). Generalife was the summer palace built in the early 14th century. There was a magnificent view of Granada from our perch on the hillside. Gabriela showed us the hydraulic system of the Sultan’s Canal before we entered the Maze.
All of the palaces are built around an interior patio. The patio was used for privacy and is still prevalent in a lot of Spanish homes today.
The Patio del Descabalgamiento (Patio for dismounting) has the signature Moorish arch in the doorway. The top of the arch has a symbol, a key to open Paradise.
There are many courts and we get our tickets checked numerous times. We ramble through until we arrive at the Palace of Charles V. The Palace was a wedding gift for Charles V’s wife, but it was never finished during their lifetimes. The outside of the palace is square and Italian in style. The inside patio of the palace is round. One of the students from South Dakota University sang Ave Maria in the center to demonstrate the amazing acoustics of the patio.
The ceilings of the Alhambra are gorgeous. Designed from wood or plaster, they are all intricate works of art. The plaster honeycomb design looks like stalactites.
After the long walk through the many palaces of the Alhambra, I boarded the bus back to the hotel instead of taking the Albaicín walking tour. Jaime, our driver, mentioned that we were the only tour of students he’d had who were not visiting the Costa del Sol. If we could convince the two other universities to agree to go, we could add it to the agenda.
I walk with Kevin across the street to the supermarket so that he can get some lunch (he ends up with a giant chocolate bar for lunch). It’s time for me to take a nap and I sleep until right before dinner. We have dinner at a Moroccan restaurant. The owner pulls almost all of his tables and chairs out to the patio for us. The sandwich was great minus the green olives (who knew I liked un-pickled beets on a sandwich?).
Rachel wanted pizza. We had the most difficult time ordering pizza. The front desk transposed the numbers of the pizza place. I found the correct number online, only to discover that we were in the wrong delivery area. The woman that answered gave me the number of the pizzeria for our area. I called that number to find out that while the pizzeria was still open, delivery was finished. Finally, Adela and I went walking through the plaza to find a cheese pizza for Rachel. Adela stops a group of young people and asks where to find pizza.
“Pitha?” one young man asked. (Castilian Spanish pronounces c and z like th.)
Adela explains again that she is looking for pizza.
“Pita?” he asks. In the end, a woman in their party tells him to stop being a smart-aleck and directs us to a nearby pizzeria. We return to the hotel with two small cheese pizzas and several of us congregate in Joe and Patrick’s living room to use the telephone to call home.