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Day 6 : Alhambra

 One thing to note, is that because Granada is home to a rather famous and ancient university, it's nothing but young folks about. At the bars, in the streets, at the museums. I didn't see a lot of families, per se. A few, not alot. I guess reasonable parents take their kids to an all inclusive resort or Universal Studios or something that's not a historical voyage into medieval Spain.

The jewel of the city, Alhambra. A formerly Muslim palace/castle/stronghold defeated after a two year siege by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in 1492. It's our day to visit. A magnificent castle you an see from most of Grenada and is never far from your mind.

We are still running on tidbits of advice from our first taxi driver, take a taxi up, and walk down. The only thing is, as much as I understand the evils and eroding effects of Uber/Lyft on the local economy, it's just so dang convenient, so I've forgotten, how, exactly, to get a cab. 

We wander down the main road and finally spot one coming the wrong way down the street. North American tourist that I am, and slightly panicky about missing our tour, I cross the busy street as the cab pulls to the side for us. There was no need, he was already pulling over, but, again, rather clueless as to how these old timey, actually beholden to safety regulations, likely give their drivers a living wage 'taxis' work.

We get in, and it's clearly a no-small talk drive. Ideal, really. But eerie. This is a short drive that I'm sure he makes dozens of times a day. Uphill, importantly, a walk we wanted to save our legs from before a 4 hour walking tour.

We arrive and our tour guide is someone who has been doing this for a while. She huffs up the stairs and makes those of us less fit not feel so bad about having to take a breather after going up a staircase, or a slight incline for longer than, say, 5 or so steps. She loops back on facts and topics again and again. To some extent, it's a little annoying. Yes, I know the waters here come from the mountains, yes, I know water is a symbol of power. On the other hand, there might be very reasonable reasons for this:

- repetition, we really are learning things

- she's almost in this trance with her facts and tour, there's a rhythm, for sure, maybe it's a continuity thing

- not everyone listens all the time. Ok, I listen all the time but I also like plaques quite a bit and maybe this is for the normal follks who's attention can wane, to hit them with that salient fact a 4 time, they'll get for the first 3 times they were gawping at the architecture.

Our first visit is to a palace inside Alhambra that was never finished. Key details had never been completed, like a dome to cover most of the interior. It was made for Isabella and Franz's grandchild, and is unique in that the outside is a square, and the inside is a circle. It contains the Museum for Alhambra, a collection of pottery and architectural details, many with wonderful plaques, others, just with a display ID and little else. It's austere and well spaced but one gets a sense that only the alpha nerds bother with the museum. Ahem.

Then we get into Alhambra proper, the old palace, the concubines quarters, the political palace. These are all deeply detailed with Muslim art and motifs. It's shocking how much detail is in each square foot of a wall. The story is that when Ferdinand and Isabella took the fortress, they were so impressed by the workmanship, they simply covered over the walls with Christian tapestries, rather than destroy it. It's all stucco detail (alabaster, plaster... and a third ingredient that extensive googling will not remind me) but everywhere, very surface it seems.

There is so much geometrical beauty, the Islamic world being a refuge and reservoir of much of the knowledge that was lost in the Dark Ages is really on display here. You see impossible structures in the ceiling, and really, the first thing you think is 'math'. Or that's my first thought. That's my first thought any time I see something really amazing. Rocket launching then returning autonomously? Math. Thousands of people flying through the air all the time on massive metal tubes of exploding fuel? Math. Super rad geometrical patterns on a medieval Islamic roof? Math.

Most of the devotional works in Islamic culture is either in words and script or in geometrical patterns, as Islam takes the third commandment rather rigourously. One cool thing the guide taught us was this was script, which I had not the slightest inkling:

We are guided through the various chambers or areas. The most impressive was the throne room, where, high above, is the original, 10th century cedar roof, inlaid with ivory. You can almost hear the elephant's screams...

At one point we find a part of the castle that was inhabited by an American writer in the 1830's. An American, in the 1830's, I mean, the US was brand spanking new then. I wonder if they used air quotes when they said American back then. Like, yeah, we'll call you this until you are British subjects again. I don't know. He wrote some masterworks about the stories of medieval Alhambra there, in any case, and his section is properly plaqued.

There was also a garden, which was famous for the execution of 37 people. The sultana was having an affair with someone from this family. The Sultan, in a display of power or of really poor deductive abilities, executed the entire family since he didn't know which one. One would assume the 87 year old grandmother and 4 year old child were probably innocent. 

We finish the tour, and clamber to the top of a the bell tower for a final view. The climb is one of those steep medieval staircases that you can just imagine featuring a pitched battle. Heavy going and difficlut going up, a rapid and quick descent down. At the top all of Grenada is laid out below, Albaicin, La Sacramonte, the cave houses, it's quite spectacular. 

On our way back we've promised our kids churros, since there are many churrerrias spotted on our many walking tours. And my concern is also with my 15 year old son, who's appetite seems like something that would be featured in a cautionary Greek tale about a mortal hungry enough to eat the world or something. There are no leftovers after our meals, is what I'm saying. So I'm determined to get him some sandwiches from a place that looks like it's probably been blacklisted by the American Heart Association.

The thing about churros in Spain, or the ones we had, is that they are unsweetened, you have to buy a separate very thick hot chocolate to dip the churros in. Something we learned after we had purchased were ready to eat them in our room. It was still delicious, the worldwide refrained tradition of fried bread is repeated for a reason. The feeling of your arteries quickly clogging tastes delicious.

These were the sandwiches we got:

Most everyone else got the thinner, more elegant thinkly sliced pork, I got the large patty of.. loin? Of course halfway through I had to trade with my son, who was hungrily eyeing my choice. At my age I certainly do not need the extra calories. And at his age I could probably hook him up to a cookie dough machine and he'd probably still be a little bit peckish afterwards.

Our last dinner in Granada is at a small, quiet restaurant. The servers/owner knows enough English, but when I went into an overly long question he noped out of that. The cook would often deliver the dishes, however, speak absolutely no English, but just emphatically gesticulate enough to get across some joke he wanted to say. We mostly didn't get it, but his good nature was infectious. 

Moorish Chicken

And that is all for Grenada, tomorrow, Seville.



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