La Alhambra

After visiting good old Ferdy and Izzy’s tombs, we went to the Alhambra, one of the most popular sites in all of Spain. And let me say, it was more than I had imagined and indescribably beautiful. Also known as the “Red Castle,” La Alhmabra was a Moorish fortress and palace. We walked around for hours with our mouths hanging open, gazing at the intricacy and beauty of the massive building. Like I said, indescribable, so I’ll let my pictures do the talking (I completely maxed out my camera’s 4GB memory card in Granada):

Even the wooden doorsSuper Zoomed InOne of the few with color

Yaaayyyy colorful mosaics!All the walls are covered in this stuffExtending into eternity!This is a ceiling.
More color!So intricate!
One of the last remaining stained glassArabic script
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Granada: Day 2

Sorry for my long hiatus! August was an action-packed month for me. But I’m back! And so are my anecdotes about Spain. Here’s more about Granada! 
On Saturday we took an early morning stroll to see more of what Granada has to offer. We went to the Arab baths and learned about its social importance to the Moors who ruled in Granada for 8 centuries until 1492. In 1492, the last Sultan surrendered the city to Queen Isabel of Castilla-Leon and King Ferdinand of Aragon, and led his people out of the city. There’s actually a spot outside of the city known as “The Moor’s Sigh,” where the Sultan supposedly turned to look at Granada one last time and sighed sadly. According to legend, his mother said to him, “You weep like a woman for the city you could not defend as a man.” Ouch, that one must’ve stung!
Then, we headed to the royal chapel where Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand are buried. This was a huge deal to me. I’m such a history nerd! This couple, known as the Catholic Monarchs, led Spain into its golden age. Prior to their marriage, Spain had been divided in 4 separate kingdoms. With their union, they united the country as well and made it one kingdom. They also expelled all the Jews and Moors from the country and made it a Catholic nation (This lovely period of time was called the Spanish Inquisition and is best known for its religious extremism and violence. Yaaayyy!). Granada was the last Moorish stronghold in Spain. Only after Granada had been reconquered by the Spaniards did the Catholic Monarchs start to pay attention to this one guy by the name of Christopher Columbus. According to the lore, Queen Isabel sold her own jewels in order to fund his excursion to “India.” And the rest, as they say, is history (pun intended).
Her crown & scepter; His sword

BTW: The Spaniards LOVE Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón), and Spain claims him as one of its own (despite the fact that he specifically requested not to be buried under Spanish soil). Time after time I was given the impression that Spain takes great pride in their role of the discovery of the American continent, since it was the Spanish who funded and manned his voyage, and Columbus set sail from Spain. He planted the Spanish flag and claimed all new territories in the name of Isabel & Ferdinand.  That also explains why he called the land “Hispaniola” when he first landed in the Dominican Republic. The word is similar to the Roman origins of the word España (came from the Latin “Hispania”).

One of my favorite fun facts I learned while I was there was that Ferdinand was the warrior, but Isabel was the brains of the outfit. That’s why, on their tomb, her pillows look like they are sunken more than his are. It’s a sign that her head is “heavier” because of her intelligence. Hee-hee!

Isabel's head rests on her sunken pillow
Can you tell which one is Isabel? 🙂

Oh, Granada

My favorite view of the city

What can I say about you? You’re beautiful, charming, seductive, romantic. You inspire art, creativity, music. No wonder many famous writers and artists throughout history have come to spend some time with you.

Granada is beautiful by day, but absolutely captivating by night. After the Flamenco performance by the Spanish Gypsies we all made a trek back down the mountain. But we went down a different way than the path we’d used to climb, and our group leader took us to a small plaza that had this spectacular view of the Alhambra and Granada. When I first caught a glimpse of the sight, my breath caught in my throat. I walked to the low wall surrounding the plaza, as did my companions, and we all just sat there, quietly gazing at the scene that had been presented to us. I immediately whipped out my iPhone and started snapping pictures, trying to capture the moment, but they don’t do it justice.

The air was cold. My breaths were visible as little cloud puffs. The Alhambra was glowing, and the city was a blanket of twinkling lights much like the stars high above. The night was very clear, and I was able to see Orion and other constellations. It was serene and beautiful, and as my friend described it, “romantic in every sense of the word.”

I then claimed that if a hobo were to propose to me at that very moment I would have no choice but to say, “YES!” Laughs were shared. We eventually, reluctantly, had to leave, but those few minutes when we sat on a wall drinking in the beauty of Granada has been embedded into my memory as one of the greatest moments of my time in Spain so far.

Granada’s Gypsy Flamenco

Too. Cool.
First of all, the location was already incredible. We made a long trek up a mountain to get to the caves where the Gitanos live, and on the hike up there we had stunning views of the Alhambra and the city of Granada below. When we finally arrived, there were groups of Gypsies lounging outside of the cave dwellings, strumming their guitars and smoking their cigarrillos, no doubt preparing for their performances. They all had tan skin with long, dark hair, just as I had imagined. The “caves” actually have smooth, white walls, but they are called caves because these rooms have been carved into the side of the mountain. We all crammed into this long, skinny room, and the excitement in the air was palpable.

Pomegranate! Err, I mean, GRANADA!!!

Beautiful cathedralThe pomegranate is the symbol of Granada

*Journal Entry: Feb. 19, 2012*

GRANADA: DAY 1

I went on a trip with my program this past Friday & Saturday to Granada! It was about a 3-hour bus ride there, and the scenery and landscapes that I saw as we drove were beautiful. Forget strawberries! Olive fields forever. As we neared Granada there were more and more mountains, and then we started catching glimpses of snow-capped ones as well. Granada started out as a fortress, so that’s why it was built at a high altitude (like Toledo and Gibraltar).

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