Chris and I both agree that this is going to be a hard post to write. Visiting the Alhambra in Granada was the highlight of the visit and explaining it in words seems beyond me.
I’ll start with the easy stuff. We stayed in a camp site just outside Granada called Camping Beas de Granada. It was perfectly located as a bus( more like a luxury coach actually) stopped right outside and it was a comfortable 30 min air-conditioned ride into town. The camp site had a beautiful view of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the sunset light painted the sky in orange. The staff very helpfully booked us tickets to the Alhambra, apparently not such an easy task on the weekend and in season, apparently one sometimes has to wait days to get a ticket. We were lucky and got one for the next day! You can enter the complex early and then you have a specific time(ours was 6.30pm) to go into the Royal Palace itself.
The city itself was lovely, wide open boulevards surrounding the usual historic cobbled old town part. We chose to visit the Royal Chapel of Granada, where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella are buried. It was an interesting tour although strictly no photos, so you will have to take my word for it. We had hand held audio guides but Chris thought the guy rambled on too much, especially when he asked him to “take a moment to feel the spirituality”. Hard to do with thousands of other people crowding behind you! But it was a good tour and worth the 6 euros each.
I can’t say we had the time to explore a lot of Granada the city and I definitely think its worth a return visit. We did find a spot to sit on the pavement and have a glass of vino and shared an interesting dish which is popular in this area. Huevos Rotos, which is potatoes, with ham and then a fried egg or 2 on top. The waiter slices into the eggs at your table and the result is scrumptious. There was just time for an ice cream and then up the very steep hill to the beginning of the Alhambra complex. Then another very steep hill through the lovely shady gardens to the entrance to collect our audio guide and enter. Let me tell you the queues for the audio guide was one guy, and the entrance guy scanning ticket was one guy. The crowd was big enough to fill Green Point stadium so you get the picture?
I am not going to take you through the entire visit , as it was hours long and really I don’t think I can do it justice, so we will give you a photo editorial instead. Chris and I spent ages choosing the pics to share, but let me tell you these are probable only 50% of them.
A quick history lesson and another perspective from Chris
Chris: Some of you (oldies) might remember the Alhambra Cinema & Theatre in the Cape Town CBD; all plush velvet, gilded mirrors and, my favourite, the twinkly starlights in the ceiling. Every visit filled me with a sense of wonderment and joy, a euphoria at the opulence and beauty of it all.
Visiting the (real)Alhambra in Granada transported me back, I was left spellbound, breathless and in awe.
During the 13th c Moorish emir Mohammed Ben Al-Ahmar began construction on the site of an old 9th c Roman fort, creating a masterpiece of moorish and Islamic architecture.
In the late 15th c the Christian Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella had taken up residence and modified it with renaissance flourishes. Subsequently it fell into disrepair and for centuries was virtually forgotten, even serving as a home for squatters. Following the defeat of Napoleon it was re-discovered initially by British intellectuals.
It is now probably Spain’s greatest tourist attraction, exhibiting the country’s most significant Islamic architecture along with 16th c and later Christian buildings and gardens. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The whole complex set amidst magnificent gardens has four main areas to visit. The original Alcazaba (citadel), the Palace of Carlos V ( Charles V) the Palácio de Generalife from the Muslim Jennat al Arif and the Royal Complex (Plaza de Nazaríes) or Nasrid Palace.
The Alcazaba and Carlos V Palace are worth a quick visit, but the gardens, Generalife and Nazaríes Palace are what the excitement is all about.
A few thoughts before I encourage you to view the pictures and decide when you will visit in person.
We spent well over three hours in the gardens and touring the palaces, one could spend longer but I don’t think one is able to absorb for much longer.
The water that is an essential part of the whole design; water fountains, reflecting pools, running in the pathways and down the staircases create a wonderful calmness, serenity and coolness.
We often forget or don’t realize the influence brought by the Moors from Africa to the Iberian Peninsula and beyond.
In a phrase, “I was blown away.”