Thursday, February 12, 2009


Greetings from beautiful Granada, where the sun is shining brightly. Yesterday I went to the Alhambra, definitely a highlight of Spain,. Begun in the 9th century by Arab rulers, it was taken over by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, just as Columbus made his landing in what became known as the new world. The moorish influence is strong with mosaic tiles, reflecting pools, arches, intricate carvings and ceilings decorating the corridors, rooms, entrances to the various courtyards.

I will definitely include photos of the Alhambra when I return home. Those of you who have visited the Alhambra know what I am talking about. For the rest, this is a treat in one´s travels. I was getting a bit jaded on all the cathedrals and special tourist sites, but the Alhambra has reawakend the excitement.

The site is set at the top of a steep hill. The walls and fortress protected ancient Granada. Inside are the castles of Caliphs, Kings and Queens. The entire hillside is crowned with gardens. The hike up is fairly steep, but worth every step. I took the bus, along with a woman I met from England on my first trip. We walked back down. From the ramparts of the guard tower, the Sierra Nevada´s (yes, early Spaniards gave the snowy range in California the same name) provide a dramatic backdrop to the city and are currently covered in plenty of fresh snow. It is cool in town, but clear and sunny. Perfect exploring weather, except that I must spend part of today dealing with my next lodgings . I have a confirmed reservation with reservation number for Saturday night. Now they send me an email saying they made a mistake and don´t have a room.

I made the reservation thru the site for hostals which includes both the standard youth hostel, otherwise known as backpacker hostels and for some of the inexpensive hostals, which are simple lodgings, a step below what they call a hotel. I have stayed in several of these and they have been pleasant, in good locations for exploring, and reasonably priced. They have a reservation system which easily shows what kinds of lodgings are available, cost, and availability. The place I reserved had a private room, with shared bath, and it was available for the one night I needed between my other two bookings. A few hours after I booked, my confirmation arrived. But this morning there was an email, in Spanish (I couldn´t figure all of it out, so I got help from someone here at the backpackers hostel) who confirmed what I got as the general meaning, ¨we are sorry, but we made a mistake and no room is available.¨ I have had no problems getting lodgings during the week, but Friday and Saturdays is harder and this is valentines weekend.

If I can not resolve this today, I will simply use Saturday to move to my next location, leaving Granada a day early, and ask for help from the tourist information folks. I may pay more for a room, but something will have to be available. Ah, the joys of independent travel.

Maybe this is all for the good. Instead of returning to the Alhambra, I am taking it easier, physically. I still haven´t managed to beat my cold. So, since I´ve killed a good part of the day dealing with this issue, I will use the rest to read, drink tea, relax. Go on a tapas tour tonight and return the the Alhambra tomorrow to see what I missed yesterday.

Notes after returning home: I returned to the Alhambra and discovered whole areas missed earlier. Choosing which photos to share of this exquisite place with my readers is tough. Much of the Alhambra shows the Moorish traditions, the arches, the arabic inscriptions, the lattice windows to shield the women, the courtyards with fountains and bathing pools, the mosaics, the intricate plaster work. The early Christian royalty used this part of the palace too, but eventually a round one, along the lines of the coloseum was built. The grounds and buildings show influences of hundreds of years of occupancy by different cultures.
In the early days of Christianity southern Spain had a thriving, diverse community of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Among some of the early Christian kings, schools and libraries preserved Hebrew, Arabic, and Latin. The Torah, Koran, and New Testiment were transcribed so their texts could be shared. But that came to an end. The Arabic leaders were routed. With the acendency of Ferdinand and Isabella, non Christians (as well as Christians who didn't pass the tests and tortures) were driven underground, forced to flee or were killed. Today there are hardly enough Jews in Granada to form a minyan. In recent years there has been a migration of people from Morocco back into Spain. In Granada, the narrow street leading to my hostel was called Arabic Street and was lined with tea houses, shops selling items from Morocco. I didn't shop since I was going to the souks and medinas myself, later on. But I did sample tea and pastries.
here is a gallery of photos from inside the Alhambra walls.

In the evening I walked the steep hill streets for an evening view of the Alhambra. That view is at the top of this post. But it was also a fun time to see people enjoying a relatively warm evening, playing in the plaza, and seeing more of the architecture of an old part of the city.

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