Published: September 29th 2009September 28th 2009
Long-ish travel day. Started in Madrid with breakfast as usual, but left early for trip to Granada and our visit to the fabled La Alhambra in Granada. On the way south we drove through what seemed like endless groves of olive trees. The area from Madrid to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada is a sere plain. Although lack of experience precludes my making any definitive observations on all plains in Spain, I can absolutely assure one and all that the rain in Spain doe not stay on this particular plain. There are scattered vineyards, some wheat fields, and some cotton patches, but most of the land is give over to the ubiquitous olive trees. On the way down we drive through the Morena mountain district, home of Don Quixote, and saw some of the famous windmills.
Sitting on a hill at the end of the Sierra Nevada, Alhambra occupies that has probably been a fortified site since Roman time. However, the current palace dates from the reign of the last Islamic sultanate in Spain, dating from the mid-1200's. The Muslims occupied the site as early as the 900's, but the current stronghold/administrative center/sumptuous living quarters was begun in the
1200's. Most of the rooms in the various palaces are decorated in Moorish style with elaborate wall carvings, sometimes highlighted with background blue paint, and with decorated or "stalactite vault" ceilings. Much of the palace was designed to represent paradise on earth, and you can easily see that a valid attempt was made. Water, Moslem symbol of purity and life, flows from floor level fountains in most major rooms, so you would never be far from the sound of running water. Extensive use is made of wall tiles and of intricately formed plaster appliques, some conveying Muslim messages over and over again.Water was provided by a hidden aqueduct bringing water in from the mountains, thus powering the fountains and providing an emergency source in case of siege. The Generalife gardens are fragrant with orange blossoms and jessamine, and have inspired generations of artists and musicians, including being the inspiration for the first movement of Manuel de Falla's "Night in the Garden of Spain". After working for some time in Madrid, Washington Irving came her to do some research and was so entranced that he stayed in the palace for some time and wrote "Tales from the Alhambra", sometimes called his
Spanish sketches. Two of the short works included in that volume later inspired Alexander Pushkin's Tales of the Golden Cockerel, which then was turned into Rimsky-Korsakov's opera "The Golden Cockerel". The tesselated tile walls inspired some of the work of M.C. Escher.
Like Madrid, Granada sits at an elevation of over 2000 feet, and therefore serves as a cool retreat for hot coastal livers.
Following our visit, we sat in the inner courtyard of the nearby Hotel America and had a very late lunch of gazpacho and salads, plus of course the by now very necessary albariño wine. Then it was off to Sevilla in an uneventful and uninspiring drive of some three hours. Uneventful except the confusion about the hotel address.
There are more photos below