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Published: December 13th 2006
I caught the early morning train to Granada. We rolled through some gorgeous scenery on the way. The first part of the trip took us through almost complete desert, very reminiscent of the southwest. I'm not the only one to notice this, parts of several of the "spaghetti westerns" were filmed in this area. As we slowly climbed in elevation, the scenery began to get greener and after some time, the mountains came into view. I'd heard that the Sierra's can have snow on them, and I was ecstatic to see the high peaks were snowcapped when they finally came into view.
The train took us all the way around the range to the far side, where Granada sits. This meant that I got to see both sides of these really beautiful peaks. Granada sits at about 600 meters in elevation, and the highest peaks in the Sierras are around 3400 meters. This creates a backdrop that I found to be amazingly similar to Denver's. Denver is at 1600 meters, and Mt Evans is about 4400 meters, so it's very similar visually.
Granada was noticibly colder than Almería. People had red noses, and I could see my breath as
I walked from the train station. Fall had finally caught up with me, and for the first time the weather actually seemed to match the time of the year.
I walked to the tourist office and got a map, plus directions to the Oasis hostel. It's in a area of the city with narrow, twisting alleyways, and without the signs they have put up it would have been pretty hard to find even with a map. I got there and tried to book three nights. I got two, and they told me to come down in the morning to try to get the third. Apparently, there are two Spanish holidays (wednesday and friday) and people bridge them plus the weekend and turn it into a nice vacation, so accomodation can be hard to find all over Spain.
I headed up to my room, where I met Matt and Jess, both from north of Sydney. We got to talking, and after a bit we all decided to go see the Alhambra since the weather was absolutely fantastic. We walked through town and up through trees with yellow and gold leaves (Fall, finally!) before reaching the hilltop fortress. We bought
our tickets, which were stamped with a time window that we didn't really look at closely.
We went on in and headed for the first of the three parts of the complex -- the gardens and summer palace. The gardens are immaculate, and you have sweeping views of the city from the hilltop vantage. The palace was also quite pretty with nice courtyards and a lot of flowing water.
After a bit we headed towards the actual fortress, stopping to take photos of the beautiful mountains as we went. When we got to the fortress, the guy at the door explained that the timestamp was for the main palace, and we needed to hurry over since we were already late for it. We ran over, and they made a bit of a fuss about us being late, but they did let us in. Wow, I would have been disappointed if they hadn't because it was stunning inside.
The palace is huge, and everywhere you turn, your jaw drops further towards the floor. I was in awe, even with tons of restoration work going on. I mean, many of the rooms were missing all the original paint --
Small example of detail inside the palace
you could see traces of it in places, but they were still stunning with their intricately carved wood and stone decorations. I can't imagine how fantastic it would have been with color. The palace really is an experience that is not to be missed. It would be a shame for someone to come to Granada and not see it. Normally I'm a bit wary of paying 10€ for stuff like this, but this was well worth it.
After the palace, we went into the fort, which is really just a tower with amazing views of the city and the surrounding countryside. There was an annoying layer of haze in the air that was obscuring the views a bit. It was pretty easy to see it's source, unfortunately. Just outside the city were a number of smoke plumes coming from farmers burning something.
We eventually had our fill of the views, and we headed back to the hostel. After a little bit we set off for the supermarket to get beer and some snacks. The hostel offers dinner every other night for 3.50€ (including sangria), which is a great deal, but it doesn't start until 9 so we needed
something to munch on. We picked up a bit of beer and headed back to the hostel. I had my snack (frozen lasagna) and sat down to watch some tv. By some amazing stroke of luck, the Broncos game (from the day before) was on. I haven't been following the Broncos really closely this season, so I had no idea about the outcome of the game and so I watched the entire thing -- including seeing them lose, crap.
Oh well, at least the dinner was nice. It was a pasta with a white sauce and vegetables. I had a huge bowl and after dinner we all hung out for a while before heading to bed.
The next morning we decided to go on the free city tour. The tour guide took us all over the city, although she didn't really stop to say much. She made up for that, though, when we got to the "graffiti", which turned out to be some amazing artwork on walls and houses. It was truly beautiful and I've included some photos of the cooler stuff.
After the art, we headed back and stopped in a church on the way. It
was completely plain on the outside, but on the inside it was one of the most ornately decorated I've ever seen. I would have never known from looking at it. We stopped to get food at a falafel place near the hostel that was fantastic. One of the best falafel's I've had. After eating we went up the hill to a courtyard with a great view of the city and the mountains. There were all sorts of hippies in the sqaure selling stuff, and playing music. I think Granada reminds me more of Boulder than Denver, actually.
After a while, a Polish guy and I walked over to the "caves". They're actually houses that have been dug out of a hillside where a lot of the hippy community lives. There doesn't appear to be running water or electricity, and they're are wild dogs running around everywhere, so it was an interesting experience.
After making it safely down (some people said they were followed by dogs when they went), we headed back to the hostel. I was starving so I went and picked up another falafel and took it back, where I met up with Jess and Matt. The
evening's activity was going to be a tapas tour, but we wanted to get some beer beforehand. So, the three of us went to the convenience store. On the way there we met up with Eleanor, who was also staying at the hostel. The four of us got beer and took it back to the hostel and we all sat on the terrace drinking and chatting.
The four of us joined the tapas tour around 9. The first place we went to was packed, and we were excited to take advantage of something that is completely unique to Granada: free tapas. It's really simple, you buy a drink and then you get to pick a tapa off the menu. They let the four of us pick two tapas and the first round we got hamburgers and prawns. The first set was ok, but I wanted to try more. When we ordered our second round of drinks we picked empandas and something else I've forgotten. The empanadas were so good that I wish we had tried them first. I just can't believe they give it away. I mean, the drinks here are no more expensive than at other tapas bars
where the food is not free.
After the second round the tour moved on to another bar. It had started raining, and we were all kind of full, so the four of us decided to ditch the tour and head back. We stopped at the convenience store and managed to get some more beer although the guy kept saying he wasn't supposed to sell after 10 even as he rang us up, so we thanked him and were on our way. We took the stuff back to the hostel and spent the evening playing drinking games and we all got pretty trashed.
The next morning I got up early and secured another night. Matt and Jess left before I got up to catch their early bus to Sevilla. However, we were hoping to meet up again in Madrid. Around 10 Eleanor came down, and after she checked out the two of us walked around for a couple hours until it was time for her to catch a bus to Málaga to meet up with some friends from home. We sat down and decided to go to Cordoba together and then on to Madrid where I would go on to Barcelona and she was going to head to Lisboa. So, we arranged to meet up in Málaga the next day.
After she left, I spent the rest of the day wandering around town a bit. In the evening I had the hostel dinner again, which was a vegetable curry. I don't eat a lot of veggies even when I'm at home, so it was nice to get so many in one shot! Afterwards I watched a movie on tv before heading to bed early to get some sleep before my 7am train.
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