But before today’s feature presentation, I have an announcement and a question:
-You seem to prefer parenthesis to footnotes, so I’m going to keep using parenthesis.
-Is there anything that you would like to hear about that I’m not writing about? Or that you would like to hear more about? I don’t promise to write about everything you suggest, but I’ll keep it in mind. I probably have another entry about food sometime in the not-so-distant future. But not right now. Now is: GRANADA.
The spanish word for pomegranate is granada, and the heraldic symbol for the city is a pomegranate. There’s also a pomegranate at the bottom of most of the Spanish coats of arms, to symbolize the fact that Granada was the last Kingdom/Sultanate to be united under the same rules as the rest of Spain. They’re very fond of pomegranates there. Also of keys, which is another symbolic thing dating back to the conquest. Kona thought that it would be cool to eat a granada in Granada, so in our last hour in the city, we found a grocery store and bought a pomegranate. Most of the pomegranates were pretty sorry-looking (I don’t know what their season is, but I’m willing to bet that this isn’t it), but we found one that was red instead of yellow, and while it wasn’t the best pomegranate I’ve ever eaten, I enjoyed it.
Granada is a two and a half or three hour bus ride from Córdoba. We left at 8:00 in the morning, which seemed pretty early to most of us. I, at least, went to bed at a decent hour the night before (though I didn’t sleep all that well, which meant that I was kind of tired all day), but I know for a fact that some of the people on the trip had been out clubbing until five o’clock de la madrugada the
night before morning of.
The first thing we saw was the Capilla Real y Museo (The Royal Chapel and Museum, maybe?). It was supposed to be just a simple little chapel for Isabel I to be buried in, but her husband and son had other ideas, and I found it to be just as grandly overdecorated as many of the other gold-encrusted atrocities that are considered preciosa here (preciosa has crept into my vocabulary. I find it mildly appalling, but I didn’t like the Capilla Real very much, so I must still be somewhat safe.). We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the Capilla, but that was okay because I had no particular desire to. There was some fancy stonework and some fancy gilded woodwork laden with significance. I did like the next room better, which had textiles and a book and more fancy metalwork. Also, lots of paintings, and I had fun costume spotting with those.
This is not the Capilla Real. This is the cathedral, which I liked very much. AND we could take pictures. I’m afraid that I didn’t pay much attention to the guide during this part, because I was busy staring at the building and taking pictures of it, but I did catch that it was a gothic cathedral because Isabel liked gothic architecture, but that it could also be considered the first renacentista (renaissance)cathedral because Fernando liked renacentisa and the requisite gold-covered bit in the middle was renacentista. I ignored the gold bit and just liked the columns and the light.
This cathedral isn’t nearly as big as the one in Sevilla, but it is made of white stone, and has fewer stained glass windows so that the light is better. It was a beautiful sunny day, and this is all natural lighting. And my pictures, for the most part, actually came out! I’m very happy about them.
I was in the cathedral, in case you haven’t figured that out from all the pictures I took of it. Also, this purple scarf that I’m wearing is the typical Spanish scarf (although purple is not the most common color); everyone has one, men and women alike. They’re square, and they fold them into a triangle and wear them with the pointy bit down and then the long ends wrapped behind their necks and hanging down on the sides. There are several variations of pattern, but it’s always black or grey with another color, often white. I had it in mind that I shouldn’t leave Spain without getting one, and then I saw this purple one for three euros at the mercadillo (giant outdoor street market) a week and a half ago, so I got it.
There was a picture of the giant choir music that I intended to post, but I seem not to have uploaded it. I’ll do so later if I remember.
Anyway, this is one of the streetlights on the Gran Via de Colon. I found them really fascinating and beautiful. If I lived in Granada I would take pictures of them most of the time.
This is the plaza where a bishop in 15-something or other had 80,000 books from the city university library burned as part of a forced conversion process for the Muslims remaining in the city. They performed cataract surgery in Granada in the 15th century – and he burned the books! And then we wonder why Europe experienced dark ages.
Looks pretty innocuous, though, doesn’t it?
We passed this fountain several times while wandering around the city. I promised Kelly that I would send her a copy of this picture for her collection of Marvin the Pigeon’s Guide to Famous Spanish Monuments (Marvin the Pigeon lives outside her window; she’s become very fond of him). I just love the way the light was hitting the fountain.
The bus took us to The Alhambra.
The Alhambra was the private palace and last stronghold of the Sultan of Granada until 1492, when the city fell to the forces of Isabel and Fernando. The materials used are not as rich as some of those that were common to earlier periods when the Islamic kingdoms had more prominence (or when there was a Caliph in Quorduba, modern-day Córdoba), but it is, on the whole, in an excellent state of preservation, and it is still incredibly beautiful. Here is some tilework in the outer palace, the least rich of the three.
I found myself fascinated by the fancy windows and the contrasts between indoor and out. On the whole, my camera was less fascinated; I believe that I’ve mentioned that it doesn’t do well in high-contrast. This one came out decently, though.
Every doorway was formed into these fantastic crystalline shapes, or into elegant arches. The detail work was made with plaster mixed with marble dust which was created in molds and adhered to the walls when it was set.
There were several rooms with these gorgeous airy star-ceilings. I would have loved to take a single picture of the entire room from the floor up in a sort of ginormous hemisphere, but had to make do with regular flat shots.
There was a courtyard with fountain supported by twelve lions, one of the few instances of representation in Muslim art, but the lions were all being restored so I couldn’t take any pictures of them, and I didn’t want to photograph the fountain without the lions, because it looked terribly sad and lonely (and was, besides, inside a giant construction box which was not at all attractive). But this is one of the fancy bits on the border of the lion courtyard.
One of the last bits in the Palace proper was the Sultan’s private garden, which was overlooked by balconies.
(Mom: It occurs to me that we may need to get tickets ahead of time to see La Alhambra. It’s a very heavily visted site. Do you want me to look into that?)
The palace had a fabulous view of the neighborhood on the hill across the way. It’s been declared Patrimonio de la humanidad, a human heritage site, by UNESCO, for being a historic Muslim neighborhood. I was amused to notice that the characteristics that our guide cited as being historically Muslim would perfectly describe the judería “the old Jewish quarter,” in Córdoba.
While La Alhambra is a palace, it looks like a castle from the outside (or even from across the way). This is a reminder that it was a palace in wartime, and our guide said that it was also like that to keep the populace properly subdued (or maybe so that they didn’t see the luxury their leaders lived in. I didn’t quite catch that bit).
This was Genralife, or something like that, which was the summer palace in the palace complex where the royalty would go when they got tired of the pressures of being royalty in the regular palace. It was smaller, but still gracious and beautiful.
After the tour, we had the option to walk back down to the city. I was up for it, but didn’t want to do it on my own, and was surprised when a whole group of people wanted to walk. The program director told us that it would take an hour to walk back to the hotel, and we thought we were ready for it.
We followed a stream through a park-like area; it reminded me a bit of the Wissahickon, only more trained and restrained – and not in the middle of autumn. We then discovered that we had walked right into the middle of the water exhibit for which there were signs for everywhere; it was this giant set of folding screens with very large pictures related to water (or lack thereof). They were really good pictures, from all over the world, and we had a lot of fun walking down looking at them.
We then wandered through the town, poking at pretty scarves in shops and buying cheap postcards. We stopped at an ice creamery (a note on the ice cream: Ice cream here is not just a taste experience, it is a visual one, as well. A good ice creamery has elaborate carved fruit with the ice cream, or curled sheets of chocolate, or cinnamon sticks, or other appropriately themed food-related items displayed in a pleasing manner. I’m going to come back to the states and wonder why all the ice cream is displayed so boringly. I should take a picture of a good ice creamery before I leave. Too bad most of them are closed because it’s getting cold). It wasn’t really warm enough for ice cream, but we got some anyway, and the rache, hazelnut and chocolate, that I got was amazing. We arrived back at the hotel tired but happy, and realized that our dawdling walk to the hotel had taken a mere 35 minutes. If we were properly booking it, we could have made it in 15 or 20.
That evening we went out for Mexican food. It wasn’t my choice, but I was too tired to care at that point, and wasn’t even aware of being hungry; I just went because I thought that eating supper was probably a good thing, and if I trailed along with them I didn’t have to figure out somewhere to eat on my own. It’s a good thing that I wasn’t very hungry; the restaurant was terrible. It was not only not Mexican food, which I suppose isn’t that surprising, it was one of the worst restaurants I have ever been to in my life. My quesadillas were edible, if not exactly quesadillas, but the rice that came with them was hard and had a very strange flavor. The waitress messed up our order two different ways, the food did not arrive at anything like the same time, some of the other people’s dishes were downright gross – and the vegetarians were convinced that there was meat or meat flavor in the vegetarian burritos. One of the other girls concurred, and while I couldn’t promise you that there was meat, it seemed pretty likely to me. Also, people kept coming through the restaurant and trying to sell us contraband goods. It was weird.
On the way back, we were all really tired, and got particularly giggly after a brief citywide power outage left us temporarily without illumination altogether. It should be mentioned that there was no alcohol present at this meal whatsoever, but we were all in a stage of tired-tipsyness nonetheless. And then we couldn’t find the hostel where we were dropping of Danielle’s friend . . .
But we eventually found it and got back to the hotel, and I just went right to sleep.
The next morning we went to Fuente Vaqueros and the house of Frederico García Lorca. If you don’t know about Lorca, he was a poet and a dramaturgue and an author and many other things who was killed during the Spanish Civil War for being all kinds of undesirable, at least from the point of view of the military right. He’s considered one of the great Spanish authors. The house was interesting, in a turn of the century house kind of way. I particularly liked the room upstairs with all the books and drawings. We could only take pictures in the patio, though.
That afternoon Vanessa and Kona and I wandered around the city looking at parks and architecture and stuff. There are some interesting features in Granada, including giant door knockers at a convenient height for nine feet tall people.
And then we at pomegranates and took the bus back to Córdoba.