Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Alhambra: Granada, Spain

Frazee, Minnesota has it's giant Turkey. The Autopista from Malaga to Sevilla/Cordoba/Granada has it's Bull: And reminders for your 200km journey (headed to Granada) to mind your distance:
Those pic's were taken on the return trip. We started out Sunday morning at 7am in the dark - cold and raining - to reach our destination in a timely fashion. Through the hotel, we were set up to join an English tour of the Alhambra. They suggested driving from our locale (Estepona/Marbella area) and meeting the tour vs taking the bus tour group. That gave us a bit more flexibility time-wise and allowed us toilet/coffee break when we arrived before the meeting time.
The drive was very smooth, albeit wet, thanks to a holiday weekend in Spain AND it was 7am on a Sunday. This is a country that, on average, is eating dinner at 9pm (most restaurants don't open before 7:30 and don't fill up before 9)on a Saturday night so most people weren't out and about at that time.
I have to say it's always a bit surreal when driving a long distance in a foreign place in the dark. For one, the signs are in a different language (naturally) and two, you notice 'different' things like - cars pulling little trailers with dogs in them. So we start wondering if it's a law to transport pets in a separate container in Spain? Many of the dogs looked similar in type so were they going to the dog races?????
Once the sky lightened up, we could see that the landscape was similar to CA. And then the Eagles were stuck in my head "On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair........" - hummed that (I'm sure the the annoyance of Bart) for the rest of the day! Thanks to a high school chapel assembly in which this song was labelled bad, bad, bad for me - I carry a smidgen of guilt while singing it (result of said assembly was everyone memorizing the lyrics). But I've tasted pink champagne and it didn't draw me into the depths, sooooo.... I digress.
We did not find Hotel California (even though we were by the Sierra Nevadas!) but we did find:
Once we arrived, we were a bit perturbed! at the length of time it took for the tour operator to get things going (stood and waited for 1 hour). It was not our guides fault - he was great. The downside of it being a holiday weekend is that there were a LOT of tourists there - they had a lot of groups to arrange for.
I should backtrack a little: We opted for a guided tour as the Alhambra is a large facility and we didn't want to wander around uninformed as it's typically crowded. They only sell a certain number of tickets per day and it's advisable to purchase your tickets via internet or La Caixa (bank/authorized ticket sales) by phone in advance. All ended up well as we ended up being the last(!) group to start their tour but we were the smallest - a benefit on a guided tour.
Our guide (through Granavision) was very informative, looked a little like Martin Short and talked very fast! I'm bouncing around trying to take pic's and listen all at the same time - tiring. :) The Alhambra was completed in the 14th Century by the Muslim ruling dynasty (Sultans Yusuf I and his son Mohammad V) at the time, later seized by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel of Spain in the 15th Cent. and had changes of hand/fortunes (including much destruction at the hands of Napoleon's armies who used it as barracks) until the 19th Century when restoration work to preserve this small city/fortress began.
The history is too complex for me to indulge in here. Based on the guide's discussions and closing remarks I will relay this: those who appreciate their history of the Alhambra wish others to remember it as it was in the 14th Century when Muslims, Christians and Jews lived side by side with little turmoil in this part of the world. There is little focus on the later expulsion of the Jews and Muslims (Moors) during the Inquisition period. And the guide book (the pictoral In Focus book we purchased) deals mostly with the building/original inhabitants of the Alhambra and very little regarding the Monarchs who claimed it later. Interesting contradictions all over the place.
It is a work of art in it's entirety. The way the buildings are situated. The form. The water features which include running water/fountains in most rooms. The views. The gardens.
View of the main palace from the upper gardens:
Courtyard in the Generalife (relaxing garden retreat above the Main Palace (Palacios Nazaries - and multiple other names over the years. I've chosen Main Palace to keep it simple for purposes of the blog) ):
The North Gallery and it's reflective pool at the Main Palace:
View of the Main Palace from the Generalife and Granada beyond:
View through covered 2nd floor walkway in the Generalife:
Another courtyard in the Generalife (I think I liked this part of the complex the best - all the gardens/water):
Mosaic tiles (found all throughout the Alhambra - most based on mathematics and some with religious significance):
The stucco work was incredible:
Hall of the Ambassadors: Where Columbus came and was granted financing for the America's trip - my lens couldn't catch it all (didn't bring the wide-angle with me).
I take a lot of ceiling pictures and took quite a few here. These are a few samples:

Gardens again. I love the way they are symmetrically laid out - everything placed with a purpose. Beautiful.

There were parts of the Alhambra that were not included with the tour: the Museum, the Bathhouse, the Royal Chapel and other parts of the gardens/Generalife. One could spend an entire day here. If you don't have all day, a tour is great. If you have all day to wander around - by all means do! And wear comfortable shoes - all the outdoor paths are varying degrees of inlaid stone/rock and after a couple hours your feet start to feel it.
Hope you enjoyed - we did.


Jennifer said...

wow! Truly amazing! Thanks for sharing.

Sammy said...

Wow! These pictures are amazing. It's so pretty, I'd love to see these gardens for myself!

Katherine said...

Wow, beautiful, thanks. The Courtyard in the Generalife photo looks SO similar to the layout of a courtyard inside Mont Saint Michel in Northern France - have you been there?