Granada of course is a city with more than just free tapas, it is a city to be explored, a city to wander, a city to get lost in.
“Quien no ha visto Granada, no ha visto nada” (Who hasn’t seen Granada hasn’t seen anything)
The Alhambra sits like a weight on the shoulders of the city, no matter where you go you are unable to escape it and people don’t want to. It is a magnificent building, enchanting from the outside and to most people equally as enchanting from within. For me, the inside wasn’t all that impressive, however one key ingredient was missing from ourexploration, and that was the Alhambra palace. The palace is the most beautiful part. The Alhambra has changed hands through the centuries, from the Moors to Christians; there was a fortress built, the Alcazaba by the Moors in the 9th century as a defense against the Christians; then in the 13th century during the Nasrid Dynasty the Moorish palace and surrounding grounds were added and finally the addition of Palace of Charles V in the 16th century after the Christians had conquered Granada.
In Anthony Bourdains words the Alhambra is “one of the most enchanted, inscrutable, maddeningly beautiful structures ever created by man.” I know we missed out on the most important part, but maybe my visit to the alcazar of Seville, which is similar in nature, but smaller in scale, desensitized me to the beauty of experiencing the Alhambra for the first time. I enjoyed more observing the Alhambra from afar and catching it at different angles and elevations; peaking at it for the first time through the narrow streets of Albaicin; witnessing it from below as we walked along the river; from above at the Mirador San Nicolas and the Mirador San Miguel Alto; catching it during the day with a cloudy sky; at midday with the sun shining upon it; at dusk just as the lights came on and the sky is fading to darkness; at night lit up like a trophy in a showcase and at daybreak just as the sun began to rise. Each changing condition bringing alive a new aspect of the Alhambra; to me, there was nothing more beautiful.
If you’re going to be visiting Granada and staying in there, you have to stay in the neighborhood known as Albaicin. Albaicin is the medieval Moorish district located on a hill facing the Alhambra; consisting of zigzagging narrowly small medieval streets Albaicin is labyrinth-like; a wonder to explore and get lost in. On two occasions Mitch and I wanted to refrain from using GPS and see if we could make it back to the hostel; we did! albeit with difficulty. At times, we didn’t know which direction we were heading, but brief glimpses of the Alhambra kept us on the right track. Walking around Albaicin feels as if you are in a small village, a rare aspect to have in a city as big as Granada. At times we couldn’t find and didn’t see anyone else on the streets. Apart from its historic and beautiful charm, Albaicin should be visited because of the amazing viewpoints of the Alhambra you can get, with the two most amazing being the Mirador San Nicolas and San Miguel. Our first day in Granada we took a free tour with the hostel that went through the neighborhood; the tour itself was literally the worst tour I have ever taken, the guide was a Argentinian who had been in Granadafor 3 weeks and he gave little to no information about anything relating to any aspect of Granada or Albaicin; he gave more useless information. On two occasions, one speaking about the Cathedral and another about some monastery, he said that we should visit them because they’re really beautiful, but he hasn’t gone inside them and he didn’t know when they were open. Sweet, thanks for the information! The only good think that came from it was that he took us to the two different Miradors; both of which we would visit again. Our first night there after a night out, we decided it would be a good idea to climb to the high mirador of San Miguel and wacth the sunrise; while exhausting, it was worth it, we had the chance to see Granada in a different light with not a soul in sight; well almost nobody, on the way down we ran into some Senegalese men making their way up to their cave homes and of course they stopped to ask us if we wanted to buy some weed; its exactly what we were looking for at 7:30 in the morning.
Cave homes…..? Yes. In the hillside above Granada lies the cave community of Sacramonte where an eclectic mix of people from all over the world live in houses dug into the surrounding mountain; some more crudely made then others, but from what I heard they all have electricity and water. Living in them are travelers, vagabonds, gypsies; some reside for a short period of time and others permanently. They’re more or less illegal squatters living on land that has been grandfathered in for generations, one of the reasons why the Andalusian government allows them to stay. It is a tourist attraction in its own right, but to me it seemed almost slum-like.
A trip is always enhanced when meeting new friends or seeing old ones, luckily this one had both. The hostel we stayed at was an interesting hostel with a bohemian-like feel composed of various kinds of people. Luckily, we were able to find a few to hang out with and have fun with. Our first night we met a bunch of people, some more unique than others, but we became the closest to two of them: Anie from CA and Megan from Scotland. We went out that night together; later the next day we hung out while we were all too tired to move; we saved them from these two extremely creepy dudes, one who wasn’t actually staying in the hostel but was there everyday because he was “friends” with the hostel staff; we introduced them to our falafel place, the place where Mitch and I ate every meal outside of our tapaendo experience; they also came to visit Jerez that Wednesday of Semana Santa because they were staying in Cadiz for a few nights.
Making new friends is always fun, but equally as fun is seeing old ones. Like I mentioned in my other post, my friend Maria is living in Granada teaching English. On Sunday we spent the whole day with her and her friend, she showed us around, we ate tapas and then we rejoined her later that night at her place to drink and go out (we also brought two new friends from the hostel). She took us to some pretty awesome bars: a bar with a large watering can-like drink that you poured into your mouth as you brought it away from you, a bar with euro shots (the tequila tasted like fire going down your throat), a wall street bar where the prices of drinks fluctuated according to their popularity, and to top it all off the club Mae West, a massive and very popular club. Because we went out on Monday ,most of the club wasn”t open, but we heard somebody say that it’s so big they’re still discovering new rooms they haven’t been in. No better way to end a weekend in Granada than staying out in the early morning with friends at one of the best clubs in the city. A memorable and perfect ending to a great weekend.