My scheduled visit time to the Nasrid Palaces is midday so I need to be in the Alhambra complex well before then to have had time to walk to these palaces; apparently times are strictly enforced and if I am late, I miss out. The entrance to the complex, perhaps 4km or more from my hotel, is up a series of wind backs on a steep hill. I have already decided to dispense with walking, to dispense with a combination of walking and a bus, and to take a taxi. The Alhambra is massive, and I will be walking and walking and walking some more, and in the one day of my visit I won’t have time to see it all – so taking a taxi there and a taxi back to Elvira street at the end of the day for more Arabic food seems like a good option. Then, maybe I will walk back to my hotel depending on what my feet are telling me.
Now back at the hotel earlier than expected. I took a taxi to the Alhambra, a local bus back to the city before walking to the hotel a little later.
Cordoba’s Calahorra Tower ‘revelations’ sold me a pup. Today I found that Granada’s Alhambra didn’t thrill me. Firstly, in Cordoba I had the story that an Islamic leader and Christian King decided to get on and accept each other’s religion and all live happily ever after. In Granada I learnt that the King duped the Islamic community- all was well for two months and then the King reneged and began the expulsion of Muslims if they didn’t convert to Christianity. Last night I was outside the site of the church which used to be a mosque and then, when the persecution started, those Muslims who converted were still made to walk the ‘street of shame’ and drink wine and eat pork while doing so in public. Just one example of the awful situation back then – circa 15th century. Everything centred around the Alhambra including the fact that the Christian King built his palaces within the Islamic buildings at the complex. It was impossible as an outsider to tell, when I was in a particular space, whether it was used for Christian or Islamic purposes – just by looking. Without the audio guide giving me a few pieces of history, I could not make a determination.
People who have been to Spain strongly recommend visiting Granada for the Alhambra. If a traveller can’t/doesn’t see the Mesquita in Cordoba and the Real Alcazar in Seville, then I feel sure they will swoon over the Alhambra. But for me it was an anticlimax. There will be some who will gasp audibly when I say that, in the main, I was bored. Parts of the buildings were stunning; however, I had seen so much that was similar before – and in my view better.
Today, while I saw and marvelled at new tile patterns, new ceiling structures, and variations on arches and windows, only the decorative wall plaster work seemed more varied and creative than that which I had previously seen. The size of the Alhambra complex is huge and the range of structures and their history diverse. However, it left me with a dead feeling. Perhaps I have seen too much and need time out to digest all the ideas whirling in my head. Perhaps I need the simplicity of out of city experiences.
When I had a discussion with a tourism officer about what else I could experience in Granada or its surrounds other than churches, she made some suggestions which I will follow tomorrow. I also asked whether there would be any special events for tomorrow’s national holiday; I found nothing was expected except that a lot of shops will be shut. I imagine the centre of Granada might be empty except for ‘lost’ tourists. I tried to book myself on a day trip with a small group to explore a bit of the Sierra Nevada but that didn’t work out. Then I tried for another trip to deserts and caves and archaeological sites outside Granada. I actually booked that one, but the operators came back telling me they needed to move that trip to Saturday. By then I will be in Barcelona heading for the airport to fly to Japan. It seems to me as if tomorrow will be a settling down, getting ready to leave sort of day interspersed with some walking into new suburbs such as the Jewish quarter.
Okay – the Alhambra. What to say and what to show.The stunning snow on the Sierra Nevada glowed as a backdrop.