Granada


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Europe » Spain » Andalusia » Granada
April 28th 2017
Published: May 1st 2017
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The trip from Sevilla to Granada took about 3.5 hours; approximately 2 hours were by train but then we had to switch to a bus for the final part of the journey due to track improvement / upgrade works (which seem to have been going since about 2015 according to various blog posts). After arriving in Granada we walked about 20 minutes until we reached our AirBNB which was in the old city of Granada, adjacent to the Albayzin neighbourhood.

Granada, which was previously inhabited by the Romans and Visigoths, was conquered by the Moors in 755 AD. In the 11th century, following a civil war, a Berber chief established an independent kingdom called the Taifa of Granada in the region. The Almoravids ruled Granada from 1090 followed by the Almohad dynasty from 1166 until 1238 when it was conquered by the Nasrid dynasty. Granada was ruled by the Nasrid dynasty until it was conquered by the Catholic monarchs Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon in 1492. Granada was the last empire on the Iberian peninsula to be conquered by the Catholics.


After checking into our AirBNB we headed out to grab some empanadas for lunch. We then returned to our hotel to relax on the rooftop terrace before joining our walking tour of the Albayzin area at 6pm.

The Albayzin is a neighbourhood of Granada which was founded by Muslims on the hill opposite the Alhambra. It's population swelled as muslim refugees from others parts of Spain relocated to Granada as the Catholics conquered the majority of Spanish territory. The Catholics tolerated the Muslim tolerance in the Albayzin area initially, however as the Spanish Inquisition progressed the numbers dwindled.

Our tour commenced in Plaza Nueva; from there we walked up the hill opposite the Albayzin so we could have a view of the neighbourhood. We then gradually made our way up the Albayzin hillside through the narrow streets and past ancient wells, mosques which had been converted to churches, market squares and viewing points. We finished the tour at a university garden contained within a traditional house with fantastic views over the Alhambra. Our guide was excellent and the tour was interesting.

After the tour we set out in search of dinner. Granada is famous for serving generous sized tapas dishes for free when you order a drink. We sat down at a restaurant recommended by our AirBNB host, ordered a drink each and selected a tapas (octopus for Scott, spinach and cheese croquettes for me). After we finished our food and drinks we moved to another restaurant where we ordered another drink and received our tapas (meatballs for Scott and chicken stew for me). We then ordered some dishes off the menu so that we'd be full before calling it a night.

The following morning we had a fairly lazy start, but then decided to go for a walk through the Sacromonte neighbourhood. Sacromonte was founded by gypsys after the Catholic conquest of Granada. It consists of cave houses with whitewashed facades. It is thought to be one of the three birth places of flamenco culture.

We set off from our AirBNB up a big hill, through Albayzin and then on to Sacromonte. We then continued walking up the hill past the whitewashed buildings admiring the lovely views over Granada. We spent a few hours wandering around before heading back to our AirBNB to relax on the terrace with our books.


For dinner we ventured to a restaurant we had spotted on our return from Sacromonte. We both ordered a rice dish (not paella but similar). Both were nice but not as nice as the paella we'd had in Barcelona. We finished the meal with leche frito (fried milk) which is a traditional Spanish dessert.

The following day we decided to do a walk from the village Beas de Granada all the way back to the city. We caught the bus for about half an hour, picked up some snacks and water in the village and then set off on the walking trail following the directions we had found on the internet. After not that long we were surrounded by olive plantations and farmland.

We suspect we didn't exactly follow the trail, but nevertheless we had an enjoyable approximately 17 km walk (mostly) along the ridgeline without too many horribly steep hills. We had fabulous views over farms and the beautiful mountains of the Sierra Nevada national park the entire way. We eventually ended up on an exercise circuit which we followed until we ended up back in Granada. The final section of the walk was along the Darro river which is one of two rivers which runs through Granada.

That night for dinner we ended up at a restaurant which was recommended by the restaurant we had planned to eat at (they were fully booked). The serves were quite generous and the food was yummy. We started off with a zucchini soup appetizer, then chicken salad which was a strange but nice mix of fruits and vegetables. I then ordered some vegetable croquettes and Scott ordered an ox burger.

The following morning we went for a walk to the Genil river (the other river which runs through Granada) before having an early lunch. We then caught the bus up to the Alhambra to meet up with our tour group.

The Alhambra, which is a fortified royal palace complex, is one of the most famous tourist sites in Spain. It was constructed by the Nasrid dynasty in the 13th century. It was added to over time by Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon (it became their royal court and is where Christopher Colombus received royal endorsement for his expedition to the New World) as well as by Charles V. At it's peak the Alhambra was home to about 5000 people.

Tickets for the Alhambra can sell out months in advance. We had issues with purchasing tickets using our Australian credit cards from Australia so ended up having to buy tickets for a group tour so that we wouldn't miss out on visiting it. This actually turned out to be fortunate as we both thoroughly enjoyed the tour and learnt a lot about the building, the history of the region and culture.

Once all our group had arrived we headed over to a model which showed how the Alhambra complex has evolved over time. It started out as a small fortress but over time its walls were expanded and buildings were added. After hearing about the evolution of the complex over time we then headed down the hill a bit to the Puerta de la Justicia which was the main gate of the complex.

After walking through the Puerta de la Justicia we arrived in the area which used to be a Souq or marketplace. We then headed into the original fortifications, of which only the outer walls, towers and ramparts remain. Some of the towers are circular whereas others are square; the square ones are older as they weren't concerned about weak spots which would be vulnerable to (more accurate) canon fire as only catapults were in use at the time of their construction.

We then headed into the Nasrid palaces. The areas we visited included the Mexuar, the Oatory, the Gilded Room, the Court of the Myrtles, the Comares Palace (the king's official residence), the Hall of the Boat, the Hall of the Ambassadors (where official receptions by the king took place), the Palace of the Lions (private chambers of the royal family), the Hall of Mocarabes, the Patio of the Lions, the Hall of the Abencerrajes, the Harem and the Hall of Kings.The palaces were beautiful and ornate with lovely architecture and landscaping throughout. The more private the buildings were the more ornately decorated they were. It was interesting to see how they had been modified by the Catholics to be more Christian.

From the Nasrid palaces we walked to one of the Arab baths where we stopped for a quick look. We then walked through the lovely gardens to Generalife, which was like a holiday home for the king to escape the hustle and bustle of the main part of the Alhambra. After walking through the buildings and courtyards we walked up a beautiful garden staircase (with water running through the stone handrails). Our tour finished at the garden at the top of the stairs which was about 3.5 hours after it started; we both enjoyed every minute of it and thought it was well worth doing a tour of the Alhambra.

After the tour ended we walked back through the gardens until we reached the hotel complex which is contained within the Alhamba grounds. We stopped in briefly to see the original resting place of Isabella I of Castile before making our way out of the Alhambra grounds.

We then headed back down the hill and into the city to pack our bags ready to leave the following morning before heading out for dinner. We had a lovely meal of chickpea salad followed by fish for Scott and apple, goats cheese and Pedro Ximenez sauce dish for me which was absolutely delicious. We then headed back to our AirBNB to get a relatively early night as the following morning we had to catch a 6:45 am train to our next destination, Ronda.


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10th May 2017

Granada
We enjoy reading your blogs because you weave a bit of history into your travels and it helps us understand the location better. Thank you.

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