It has been five years since I last visited Europe, and six years since my first, and thus far only, visit to Spain. I visited with a friend in April, 2011, and flew into Barcelona for two days, which was not enough time by half. The Catalonian capital was enchanting enough, and the unseasonably warm weather instilled us with high hopes for how the rest of the trip would go.
Alas, eight days of late-season rainfall swept in a few days later, dampening our spirits (no pun intended) to the point that we hightailed it out of Spain one week earlier than expected. We finished the trip in Paris, which is a delight to visit in any climate and which was greeted by an early summer. One city we did visit in Spain before the worst of the weather moved in was Granada, a mid-sized Andalucían borough with roughly 235,000 people. As regards tourism, Granada has one mainstay, the massive, UNESCO-protected Alhambra.
Portions of the Alhambra date back some 1200 years when, circa 889 AD (according to Wikipedia, the internet’s much-relied-upon cheat sheet), a small fortress was constructed by Mohammed I of Córdoba atop the ruins of another fortress, this one built by the Romans and lost to the ages.
Much of the Alhambra’s construction was done under Moorish rule. Once the city fell back under Spanish rule, its palaces were reconstructed in Renaissance style to more comfortably house Spain’s Royal Court. Still, some of the palaces, such as Palacio Nazaries, above, never completely shed their Islamic architectural motifs.
Interior atrium of Palacio Nazaries, with its embossed walls and ceiling. For context, this ceiling is the literal high point of the palace in the exterior photo above this image.
Arabic (Moorish) detail up close, mathematical in theme and dizzying to look at.
The Escalera del Agua is one ornamental feature of the gardens that connect Palacio Nazaries to the even more impressive Palacio del Generalife,
Notice the jumping fountains in front of and ever-darkening sky behind el Palacio.
Yet another palace on the sprawling grounds, the ruined foundations of the Palacio de los Abencerrajes.
The considerable acreage between buildings is taken up by floral gardens. Not much was in bloom so early in the season, but I was able to capture these spring blooms in the picture above.
Evocative gateway, above, to the Alcazaba, a fortress-within-a-fortress and one of the oldest sections of the entire complex.
“Alhambra” means “The Red One” in Arabic, and the imposing sandstone walls of the Alcazaba (citadel) lend themselves to that name.
It was overcast, with intermittent misty rain, when this photo of a shade-giving tree in the Alcazaba’s courtyard was taken. These tourists are either taking a respite from the rain or simply resting their feet; a thorough site visit takes several hours and will leave even the heartiest visitor knackered.
The citadel offers views across the the gully to Plaza San Nicolás. The crowd in the photo above was watching or participating in a Semana Santa – Holy Week – procession during the days leading up to Easter Sunday.
Close-up of the procession. Those KKK-esque masks, worn by “Nazarenos” (people from Biblical Nazareth) are actually hoods worn by sinners, hiding their faces in shame and penance. These hooded masks are a costume component of Semana Santa processions all around the world, but they can raise a few eyebrows.
This cat was more interested in what I was doing than in what was going on in the plaza.
View of the Alhambra from the aforementioned Plaza San Nicolás. Photo taken at roughly 1 a.m.
Washington Irving statue on the Alhambra grounds. The American author’s Tales of the Alhambra, published in 1832, was written on location; Irving originally sailed to Spain to write a biography of Christopher Columbus.
Misleading depth perception, courtesy of DSLR lens trickery.
It is a long way from street level, city center Granada to the Alhambra entrance, accessible via the triumphal arch in the above pic. The center, which also merits a few hours of your time, includes the requisite cathedral, a bullring, several tapas bars, and a hamam (bath house).
Harems, churches, palaces, gardens, museums, towers, ruins, bath houses, fountains…the Alhambra has it all.
All pictures were taken with a Nikon DSLR camera. All images are the property of GringoPotpourri unless credited otherwise, and should be used with permission only.