…and so continues my effort to finish blogging about my semester abroad as I sit in my warm room at home on Mercer Island.
Continuing from the last post, we arrived back in Barcelona from Lisbon at around midnight. The following morning we had to meet our professor back at the airport to catch our flight to Granada. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep that night, with all the packing and cleaning that had to be done. By that point however, we were all pretty used to not getting much sleep, so it worked out just fine.
After settling into our hotel, Sophia took us on a walk around Granada, ultimately ending up in the Albaicin. The Albaicin is the old Moorish quarter of the city, which sits up on a hill, offering the best views of La Alhambra, the main attraction of the city.
The weather was pretty bad, mostly overcast and rainy. We got to an Alhambra lookout point and stopped to do a quick sketch. It was almost pitch black at this point so our sketches turned out to be, well, sketchy.
On our way back down through the medina, it started to rain so we stopped into a small coffee shop for some hot drinks and snacks. It was nice and warm inside so we ended up staying and chatting quite some time. Eventually we made our way back to the hotel for a fairly early evening by our Barcelona standards.
The next morning we got up early to go visit the inside of the Alhambra. We had a specific 2 or 3 hour window that we could visit, since they limit the number of people who can be inside at one time.
The paths leading up to the palaces:
Just to give you an idea of how steep those paths actually were… this is a flat bench:
The Alhambra is the main reason people come to Granada. Generally speaking, it is a collection of fortified buildings that sit atop a hill overlooking the rest of the city. Construction started in the 14th century, with the main goal being to create a palace for the Moorish rulers that held power in the region at that time. Eventually it grew into a small and contained, but fully self-supportive, city. A portion of the Darro River was diverted several miles upstream so that a new man-made canal would provide the top of the hill with a constant supply of water. This allowed farming and gardens to be maintained within the Alhambra walls in a portion called the Generalife.
As power shifted hands and the Catholics took over in the late 15th century, more buildings were built within the walls. Most noticeably, unfortunately, is a giant square palace building for Carlos Quinto. Anyways, here are some pictures from inside some of the many rooms/courtyards:
Unfortunately, one of the most impressive spaces was under heavy renovations. The Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) is probably the most iconic image of the Alhambra. In the center of the main courtyard is traditionally where the Fountain of Lions is supposed to sit. However in order to preserve them, the lions were moved indoors to a place where you can’t take pictures. So you’ll just have to go visit and see them for yourself. But here’s a link to more info about it all – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_of_the_Lions. This is what it looked like during our visit:
Still very impressive, but not quite the same.
Everything about the art and architecture behind the Alhambra has a meaning to it. The organization and proportioning is based on mathematics and geometry. Some of the more simple ideas:
And these showed up everywhere. Here’s some detailing from one of the doors:
I sat down on the opposite side of this pool, to the side, and did a quick sketch. Drawing in freezing temperatures isn’t the easiest thing, especially with the occasional spray from the heavy rain pounding the marble floors right next to where I was sitting.
The view out over the Albaicin:
We then headed out to the gardens and the Generalife (all still within the walls of the Alhambra):
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the city, through the old markets and squares. None of which seemed very picture worthy after spending the morning at the Alhambra though.
The next day we visited some of the new buildings on the edges of the city. One of them was the Centro Cultural: Memoria de Andalucia – basically the history and culture of the southern region of Spain.
It was hugely monolithic, both in form and material (it was almost all concrete with a little bit of glass). None-the-less it was an interesting building with a cool interior courtyard with double-spiraling walkways, that of course were closed due to weather. The museum part was incredibly modern and interactive (admission was something like 3.50). We only had about an hour so we had to rush through it.
That afternoon we had a private lecture (in Spanish!) by a Spanish architect, Antonio Gamiz Gordo, who specializes in research and analysis of historical buildings of Andalusia, such as the Alhambra. It was a very informative and interesting lecture, but I think that my favorite part was the view from the school/library back at the Alhambra…
The next morning we set out, by train, for Cordoba. It was about a 2.5 hour ride, most of which was spent sleeping.
More on Cordoba and La Mezquita in the next post. Merida and Sevilla coming soon.