The second week in January we planned a trip to see the Alhambra in Granada, Fort
Bravo near the town of Tabernas and the Mezquita in Córdoba. Along the way we discovered
cave homes in Guadix and a complete 14th C. castle in Almodóvar that was open for
It was a four hour trip on secondary roads to get to the city of Granada. It sits
in a large fertile plain overseen by a huge Moorish complex on the ridge. This is
the Alhambra, a complex of castles, forts and gardens that are in very good shape.
We arrived in the middle of the afternoon and tried to get to our chosen hotel on
a plaza in the old town. The GPS had figured out a route, only it wanted me to turn
onto a street that was for "authorized" vehicles only and had a post in the middle
of the road to prevent others from using it. (The post is a metal post about 8"
in diameter and 2' high and raises and lowers by a remote control carried by "authorized"
drivers. We have seen these is several places in Europe.) After trying several
other routes, including driving down a road turned into pedestrian mall, we were
back at the no entry corner. This time I followed a scooter around the post and
drove the two blocks to the hotel, which was on an approved road (but I couldn't
find my way to it). This hotel had a garage nearby that gave security to the bike,
was in old town and relatively cheap, all features that we wanted.
That afternoon we wandered around through the narrow lanes and streets of the old
town and toured the cathedral. The cathedral was all white and gold inside and had
windows up high giving it a very light and airy atmosphere, unusual in Catholic Cathedrals. The
altar is at the far end and the two large gold structures on the walls are the pipe
organ tubes. The seating extends for at least a hundred feet behind where I took
the picture from. The outside picture shows how huge the cathedral is. The picture
was taken from the Moorish fort, the Alcazaba.
We wandered around until after dark and then had dinner about 8:00, early by Spanish
standards. After dinner we wandered some more and then had wine and tapas at a bar
near the hotel. The next morning we got up early and were at the bus stop for the
Alhambra bus at 8:00 in the morning. There are only 6300 tickets sold for any one
day and 75% are sold over the internet in advance, we wanted to be sure and get two
of the remaining tickets so we were there before they opened at 8:30. Later in the
day there were several tour groups wandering around, mostly Orientals. By being
that early we saw most things before they were over-run by the crowds.
The Alhambra is a complex of buildings and gardens built over several centuries along
a ridge above a wide river valley. Like much of Europe's monuments it was falling
into disrepair and was a source of building material for the town. That is until
Washington Irving, the American writer, moved into empty rooms and wrote his Tales
of the Alhambra. This sparked interest in it and tourists started coming. The Spaniards
made it a national monument and started to restore it.
The ridge points east and the buildings on the point of the ridge are called the
Alcazaba. This is the Moorish fort with high walls, towers and barracks for soldiers. Next,
to the east, is an open area with a wall and gate, then more open area and then along
the north side of the ridge are the royal Moorish palaces, the Palacios Nazaries. Right
in the center of the ridge is the palace of the Christian king Carlos V who was the
grandson of Ferdinand and Isabel (of Columbus's fame). He wanted to live where previous
kings had lived and tore down a large part of the Moorish palaces and built a monstrosity
right in the middle. To the east of this was a park and then the vegetable gardens. Lastly
to the northeast against a large hill was an extensive garden, called the Generalife,
built around a palace that was the private living quarters of the royalty. The main
palaces were for receiving dignitaries and official business, this area was private. The
whole complex and all it's fountains was fed by a river that was diverted 8 kilometers
away and brought to the Alhambra through canals and aqueducts.
The Alcazaba fort looking east from the tower on the point of the ridge. The maze
like wall bases are the remains of the soldiers quarters. The outside picture of
the cathedral was taken from here facing the other way.
The famous Patio de los Leones (Patio of the Lions) in the heart of the harem area
is one of many courtyards in the Palacios Nazaries. And the large reflecting pool
was outside the Salón de Embajadores (Ambassador's Hall)
All this is set off with fine Moorish art carved into almost every surface. Moorish
art is always geometric or quotes from the Koran (their Holy book). The Koran forbids
images of animals or people in building decorations. There is a large use of tiles
and relief carvings as shown in this doorway arch. The ceiling and wall on the right
are heavily carved. The Arabic phrase, best seen on the at the bottom of the right
picture where it is repeated twice, is Wa-la ghaliba illa-Llah and translates as
"There is no Conqueror but God". It is repeated all over the Moorish palaces endlessly
as it is between the windows in the third picture.
Set right in the middle of the whole complex is the palace started by Carlos V in
1526 but not finished. It is a huge square with a big circular courtyard right in
the center surrounded by a pillared gallery. On the outside, between the windows,
are huge bronze rings held by lion and eagle heads. I have no idea what they could
have been used for, they're too high and big to tie your horse to.
The Generalife was a huge garden complex with a palace in it. It could be seen from
many parts of the Alcazaba and Palacios. In the foreground are the vegetable gardens,
across the wall the creek and then the terraced gardens and castle of the Generalife. The
castle is on the left and a garden of cypress and water features is on the right
on the same level.
The cypress gardens had many fountains and reflecting pools. The one on the left
is the Patio de la Sultana where Sultana Zoraya is suspected to have met her lover
Hamet, the chief of another branch of Moors. It is a large area (think football
field) of sculpted cypresses with archways, paths, pools and cu-de-sacs. And as
the right-hand picture shows, the castle had its share of ponds and gardens too.
We spent eight hours touring everything and then walked back down the hill to town
for a dinner and another glass of wine at the bar near our hotel. The next morning
we collected the bike and headed on eastwards towards Spanish Hollywood known as