|Granada was one of the last Moorish bastions – it withstood Christian re-conquest for two centuries longer than any other location. When we drove into town we were not impressed with the basic urban sprawl that presented itself to us. The traffic was thick, the buildings were dismally erected 70’s-style edifices, and the shops seemed terribly commercial. We were lost in snarled city grid for about 45 minutes until we finally stumbled upon the Alhambra and the Generalife Gardens. A light rain was falling, but that didn’t seem to deter the large crowd lined up for entry.|
|We slogged through the line and finally entered the fortress-palace that means “The Red One” in Arabic. The Alhambra and the Generalife Gardens were supposed to be the most extravagant and artistically profound Moorish fortress-palace ever, a true paradise on Earth. When it was conquered, Ferdinand and Isabella held court at the Alhambra and eventually chose to be buried in Granada.
We had about an hour to kill before we could enter the Casas Reales so we wandered through the Generalife Gardens, which were considered a luxurious hideaway for members of the Nasrid Dynasty. We passed through the Jardines Bajos (lower gardens) and then the Patio del Generalife (interesting configuration of topiaries, fruit trees and a geometric pool).
Once inside we meandered through the Patio de Acequia (enclosed Asian garden surrounding a long rectangular pool), the Sala Regia (offers views of the Albaicín across the Río Darro), the Patio de los Cipreses (lover’s lane), the Escalera del Agua (water runs down the stairwell, which is probably refreshing in the summertime), and the Jardines Altos. The entire site is very tranquil and apparently the dynasty members were fond of it because they could be a little closer to heaven. It still seems to have a religious draw because a gaggle of nuns were touring the gardens and chatting up a storm with a plain-clothed companion.
Eventually we wandered down to the Palace of Charles V, which was large and fairly unimpressive next to all the other good stuff. Then we tromped up the stairs of the Alcazaba, which is the oldest building on the property. Visitors used to enter the Alhambra from the gates below the Alcazaba, but not any longer. The view from up top is terrific, gave us a good sense of the layout of town, and offered up some good people-watching – a poodle in full tartan regalia, an obese woman in a Mickey Mouse poncho, and the nuns who had been tittering in the gardens earlier. They even approached Suzie (not sure what they said).
In the Alhambra proper, we toured the Patio del Mexuar (council chamber), the Patio de Machuca (more gardens and by this time we were starving so who really cares), the Salón de Embajadores (throne room with an awe-inspiring ceiling that represents the seven heavens of the Muslim cosmos), the Patio de Arrayanes (cool courtyard that probably reflects better when the sun is out), the Patio de los Leones (fountain with a circle of lions facing outward that reminded me of the gold cows that are in Mormon temples), the Sala de los Albencerrajes (intricate room with a geometrical ceiling pattern inspired by the Pythagorean theorem – and weird to think that a family was massacred here while eating dinner; one of my favorites), the Sala de los Dos Hermanas, the Sala de los Reyes (banquet hall with coffered ceilings; Ferdinand and Isabelle purportedly sealed the deal with Christopher Columbus here),
Washington Irving’s Apartments (access to his apartment was unavailable), the Jardín de Lindaraja (we’d seen so many gardens by now, who knew what was good anymore), and the Palacio del Partal (one of the older buildings in the Alhambra that was closed off for renovation, but the shallow pool looked cool with the arched portico).