granada, spain

December 9, 2010 - Granada, Spain

our first full day in granada was spent at the alhambra palace, spain's most visited monument. in 1238, Ibn Ahmar, a prince of the Arab Nasrid tribe, established Granada as an independant kingdom. the Moors of Granada kept their independance for two and a half centuries, but by 1490 only the city itself remained in muslim hands. on janurary 2, 1492, the army of Ferdinand and Isabella captured Granada after a seven month seige, and th christian conquest of spain was complete. this was followed by the expulsion of jews from spain, and the presecution of its muslim population.

we took the alhambra bus from a stop near our hostel, which took us through the city and right to the entrance. we had boked tickets online earlier and our designated time for visiting the Palacios Nazaries was 1pm (they need to moniter the amount of people that pass through this section as they want to make sure it is not ruined) so we started our visit with the Gerneralife, which was the gardens and summer palace of the sultans. i really liked the gardens here, they had great views over Granada and towards the main parts of the alhambra : the Palacios Nazaries and Alcazaba.

at one pm it was our turn to see the Nazaries palaces (along with about 100 other people!) the guide book describes the palace as this: ' the buildings in the Palacios Nazaries - undoubtedly the alhabra's gem - show a brilliant use of light and space with ornamental stucco decoration, in rhytmic repitions of supreme beauty. elegant arabic inscriptions from the Koran cover the palace walls.'  the sultans had different rooms for diffrent purposes (bussiness and judicial, recieving distinguished guests, the harem - which formed their private living areas)  but to be honest they all looked very similar to me! they had the same decorations in all of the rooms, and it is beautiful, and there has deffinately been alot of time gone into them, but quite repetitive (as the book states)

next to the Nazaries palaces is a large renaissance building, the Palacio de Carlos V, built by Carles V (grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella). it has a circular courtyard, where bull fights once took place, and a wing of the Palacios Nazaries was demoliushed to make way for it (scandal!) the Alcazaba is the earliest and most ruined part of the fortress. it was this buildings colour that gave the complex its name - "al-Hambra"  means 'red' in arabic. we climbed to the top of the fortress towers, and got an excellent view of the city and the Albacin, the old arabic quarter that lies on a hill, full of cobblestone streets and white-washed houses.

we took a bus back down to the city centre (wouldve been a lovely walk through the greenery but all of a suddent we were on a bus!) and walked through the albacin to the Mirador de San Nicholas, high on the hill which offered really great views of the alhambra opposite (and the Sierra Nevada mountain backdrop) we stayed here until just before sunset, enjoying the view, the sunshine, the musicians and the dogs running around, and  then wandered back to the hostel (stopping off at the supermarket on the way) we cooked tomato and tuna spaghetti for dinner.

the next day, we had decided to go to Sacromonte, a neighbourhood of granada populated by a gypsy community with caves and flamenco performances. it's recommended online as a good  place to see in granada. we had caught one bus and were waiting for another when Sami said that he didn't want to go because the caves were dangerous, as they had a lot of druggies etc. so there was then a lot of confusion about who wanted to go, why it was recommended by touirst websites if it was so dangerous, and why this wasn't brought up last night (before we had left!) quite annoying, but instead we wandered around the main part of the city, looking at a few markets and souvineer shops. scott found a shop FULL of the biggest knives i have ever seen. not the longest, but the widest! bigger than my two hands put together. i think he wanted to make a few purchases but im not sure that it wouldve gone down well in airport security. hahahaha.

we decided to drive to the Sierra Nevada mountains, as we had missed Sacromonte, so we set off with enough time to get back before dark. it was a windy drive up, and took about 1-2 hours to get there. we arrived at a ski resort, which had quite a few people milling about as there was enough snow for it. the wind was very cold up there, of course, and we weren't exactly dressed properly, so we stayed long enough to eat lunch, throw snowballs at each other and admire the sunset, then drove back to granada.

the traffic was pretty shocking coming back to granada, and being lost didn't help. after exiting the highway for the city centre, it took an hour and a half to get to the hostel. so everyone was frustrated and just wanted to sit down, do nothing and cook dinner.

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