For the history buff, head to Granada

Anyone interested in the history of Spain – or just history in general – should see Granada at least once. Of course, this is the location of the renowned Alhambra, which draws thousands of visitors annually. While most websites advise you to book your tickets to view the Alhambra well in advance, I took a chance and wandered up the steep streets to wait in line for an hour and a half one morning. I lucked out and got a ticket for one of the afternoon entrances. Some of the grounds are free to enter, but if you want to go through the palace gardens, the various towers, and the three palaces, these require a ticket. There are essentially two tickets, one for the gardens and grounds, and the other for the three palaces. My advice is to get the two-day ticket, which would allow one visit to the grounds, and save the second day for the palaces. I did not do this, and by the end I was completely exhausted and not really taking in what I was seeing. There is so much! But you should allow yourself enough time to really enjoy and appreciate the place. The combination of Moorish and Christian architectures is brilliant, and then add to that the gorgeous vistas across the Sierra Nevada mountains, and well, photos don’t do it justice, but here are just a few to give you an idea.

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Natural light filters down into the baths, which were designed to access water running down from the mountains.

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The water staircase was built to make use of the natural water flowing down from the mountains to cool the inner rooms and provide fresh water for the baths.

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The famous lions fountain was reinstalled this year, after having been closed off for restoration. 

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Originally built as a palace and fortress by the Moorish kings, the Alhambra looks out over the Albayzín barrio just below the imposing walls.

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I waited a long time to get this photo of a walkway into the courtyard of the women’s chambers when there weren’t other tourists wandering through. There are 6,000 people going through this UNESCO heritage site per day, making it a bit daunting to get any image that captures the possible serenity of this place.

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One of my favourite photos captures the Alhambra as it dominates the landscape above the city in the late afternoon. The quality of the light turns the fortress from pale gold to a deep red as the sun moves toward setting.

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My other favourite view of the Alhambra is this night shot taken from below on the street that runs along the Darro River. 

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Granada itself is a small city, easily manoeuvred on foot. I spent many days walking through the Albayzín, the old Moorish neighbourhood that winds up into the hills that lead to the foot of the Alhambra. The old, windy cobbled streets initially take you back to a time that predates any sense of modernity – and evokes that Romanticized view that tourism capitalizes upon.

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If you’re observant, though, you can see the traces of the contemporary world insisting upon the idyllic urban landscape. Like the rest of Spain, the Andalusia region where Granada is located continues to feel the tensions of the economic crisis. Much of the Albayzín is falling into disrepair, as the buildings are so very old. The cost of restoring and maintaining them has become prohibitive, and many have been abandoned by their previous owners, and the municipality has condemned them as inhabitable. At the same time, there is a lack of adequate housing, especially for those at lower income levels. This image captures the sentiment of many in this barrio.

The translation of the graffiti is “homes without people, people without homes”.

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In fact, it was not at all difficult to find abandoned homes fallen into decay, with the doors bolted and/or chained, but the broken windows sadly testifying to the current state of things. 

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That Spain has much to do to persevere in the current economic situation is no secret. I just hope that its people will be able to maintain the resolve they keep having to demonstrate.

With its Moorish past constantly imposing itself through the culture and the architecture, Granada’s Catholicism remains equally important to the region. At the end of my visit I stumbled upon this demonstration of dance during the beginning of the festival of Corpus Cristi.

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There is so much more to Granada that just the Alhambra, although that is certainly worth a visit. The caves in the Sacramonte hills, the Monastery of San Jeronimo, and the Cathedral are equally delightful if you’re at all interested in things historical. And like other parts of Spain that I’ve visited, the people were lovely and helpful, especially as I struggled to speak Spanish in a marginally comprehensible way. 

Each time I find something more about Spain to love. The south has an entirely different flavour from Madrid or Barcelona, and next time I hope to visit the north. Bilbao seems to be calling. 🙂

 

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8 thoughts on “For the history buff, head to Granada

  1. Hi Janne! Great to hear from you. Nice to see the travel blog still going! So, next stop Bilbao? Fill us in! How was Liechenstein? What’s it like being back home? What’s the news on the job front? My news is hot off the press. Eventually went for an interview in Wiltshire last week and I got the job!! Its the job I told you I was applying for. It’s 15 minutes away from Stonehenge. The countryside down there is fabulous! I can get away from home at last! Not yet sure when I’m to start. It will be either next Monday or the Monday after. A new beginning. I’ll be coming home at the weekends initially but I’ll be finding my own place as soon as I can. Its a 4-hour drive away from St.Helens. Its all getting a bit real now having talked about it for so long! My big regret is that I’ll be leaving my beloved Sue behind too. Still don’t know where that relationship is headed. She is the most difficult person to read that I know. I know she’s been badly hurt in the past but she just won’t lower her defensive barriers. I’ll keep plugging away! I’m sure she knows how I feel. Time will tell. She’s understandably all tied up with her son’s wedding at the moment so I can’t give her any added pressure. Anyway, don’t want to get too sentimental as I’ve just come in from a great night out. My eldest – Adam – has just graduated today! He got a 1st class Hons in Advertising & Marketing. We’ve been out for a nice meal and a glass of wine or two to celebrate! Be in touch soon Ray x PS Love to Mum x

    Date: Wed, 17 Jul 2013 15:30:23 +0000 To: gorbutt@hotmail.com

    • well, Bilboa may have to wait a bit, but I will definitely be heading there on my next trip to Spain. congrats to your son. that is lovely news. and to you on the job! so exciting. i expect to hear full reports with photos. never know when i might turn up there as well :). xx

    • glad you like it Lorna. it really is an amazing place, and yes that image haunts me as well. what really inspires me is the resolve i saw everywhere to get through what is now just generally known as ‘the crisis’. we take hope.

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