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Published: December 4th 2007
We caught the Renfe
train from Ronda to Granada
, which was a wonderful wonderful thing to do. If we hadn't done so we would never have experienced the sweeping mountain scapes; the seemingly brown barren land that sprouted grove upon grove upon grove of blackest olives; the glimpses of everyday village life such as the highly charged soccer match right next to one of the local train stations; the abandoned industrial estates; or the surreal wind farm that stretched as far as Andrew could see (I had been rocked into a deep sleep by then)...
Granada is nestled at the foot of the great Sierra Nevada mountain range, and lives in the shadow of the great Alhambra. It is a beautiful town with more 'old grandness' than you can poke a stick at... huge cathedrals, over the top castles and old walls that dwarf everything in sight. However it is the vibrant street culture that captured us here more than the architecture, art or history.
Here’s a glimpse of how our days were spent - walking through the labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets in the Albayzin (old Arab quarter)...sitting in squares watching people in animated conversation or in companionable
silence...visiting little taverns to have tapas and local wine...ending a meal at an Arabic tea house with chai and honey sweets...listening to the wisps of guitar drifting in from the main square. Ok - it wasn't always that sickly romantic - there were large crowds to navigate, grumpy motorists to avoid and the curses of the gypsy beggars to deflect, but you get the idea. 😊
We made the pilgrimage to the Alhambra - a 13th century Arabic fortress/palace/medina complex which turned into a Christian church/convent, which then turned into Napoleonic barracks. We started out very very early in the morning to beat the zillions of tour buses that descend like locusts around 10am. Most people catch the bus to the top of the hill, however we decided to walk from our hotel and eventually navigated our way there through very very narrow winding uphill lanes and only got lost twice - we were very proud. To say the Alhambra is beautiful is an understatement and like many other castles, cathedrals and monuments in Spain, I just cannot describe its grandeur or scale, or significance or effect. It is such an exquisitely personal experience. We could have easily lost
ourselves in that complex for the whole day, but after a few hours the large-group tourists started bugging us. The walk back down to town was fast paced -we were very hungry, but we also couldn't get away from the loud and obnoxious tourist groups fast enough!
We kept being drawn back to the Albayzin, and spent many many hours exploring the wonderful market stalls, inhaling lots of secondary clove cigarette smoke and listening to local musicians. The rest of our time was spent trying out cafes and bars in the newer part of town, tasting the local wine and enjoying the accompanying free tapas, yes I said FREE tapas. The only downside of the free tapas was that it encouraged way too much drinking during the day. 😄
We loved this town so much that we decided to spend an additional day here than originally intended. However, if I had a magic wand the one thing I would change about Granada and I suppose the rest of Spain is the smoking in cafes and restaurants. I know we are thoroughly spoilt in Australia with our anti-smoking legislation, but having your waiters smoke while they serve you is
just too much!
On a broader note - I have never experienced such a unique blend of Jewish, Islamic and Christian cultures in one (smallish) place. There is no detectable hierarchy of culture or religion, they all co-exist under one big Spanish umbrella and are proudly Andalucían amongst other labels. The rest of the world can learn a lot from this little town. But then again I was experiencing all this through a very thick I-love-Spain-very-very-much-induced haze. 😊 Highlights:
Sipping a cafe con leche
on top of the Alcazaba walls in the Alhambra; Tapas and vino at Bodegas Castaneda
; Falafel from Al Andalus
Loud tour bus tourists at the Alhambra; Sleazy old laundromat guy who touched all my clothes. 😞 Next stop:
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