I had a morning ticket for the Alhambra, a complex which includes Moorish palaces and defences that were their last stronghold before Christian control of all of Spain. It was only just beginning to get light as I left the hostel. The weather report said it was 2 degrees, but it felt warmer than 2 degrees felt in Edinburgh. It was a steep climb up and the entrance was at the furthest end. Once through the gates and doubling back above where I had walked up, there was a peaceful view over the white walled part of town called the Albaicin tinged faintly pink with soft blue hills behind.
I made for the Nasrid Palaces as they have restricted entrance times to deal with the crowds. They’re ornate rooms, gardens, and water features, and were partly knocked down by one of the later Christian kings to build a bullfighting ring. The tiles and carvings (or were they moulded?) that covered floors, walls and ceilings got a little too much for me. There was something in the aesthetics that I didn’t get. It just seemed like an excuse to make as much a show of wealth as possible in the time. I did appreciate coming out of a dark room into a large open courtyard with the just risen sun turning the pale terracotta gold. I also liked reading the bit about how in some of the rooms off a court with a water feature, damp had damaged the tiles. About a hundred years ago someone came up with a good stop gap solution, so the ore complete solution that came later has honoured the first restoration by using some of the same techniques. They’ve also used a fluorescent dye so they can tell which are the new tiles and which are the old.
I wound back around to the defence part of the palaces and climbed up the watch tower. A group of kids ran around playing something like tag among the pillars and rooms. It didn’t become a public space until the 1950s and the bell at the top is still used on particular occasions. Out in the gardens I met a young Argentine woman trying to take a photo of herself. We wandered the rest together so we could take a few photos of each other and to have someone to chat with. Her parents had told her they didn’t want her going to Morocco on her own so she had planned a trip to Italy instead. I wondered what I might be getting myself into in the following week.
I walked up into Albaicin. I was looking for a big wall I’d seen from the Alhambra, but wasn’t really sure where it was and got turned around on my map. I happily wandered around, up and down narrow cobbled streets. Wondered at blue, green and white plates stuck on the outside walls of houses. Spied a cat eating from a bowl poked through a hole in a street wall and enjoyed the view over the city and towards the mountains as I came back down.
Pottering around the next morning meant that by the time I got out and had lunch, the museum I wanted to go to was closed for siesta, which I’d forgotten about again. There was a little museum about Granada nearby and open, so I stopped in there instead. It’s in a building that was built by a warrior family and there are remains of images on the walls. One has a giant warrior swinging a heavily spiked club and an unseen enemy, the head and beak of a bird poking out from behind his hips. In another room, a matching carpet has been put down over a section of the old tiles to preserve them.
After this I eventually found the remaining Moorish gate in town. It has similar features to what’s in the Alhambra, more on a scale that I could appreciate. Grape vines grew up the pillars in the square beyond the gate, then on wires towards the centre. Tourist tack shops clustered outside. Not far away is the cathedral of Granada. It’s painted white inside and more light and airy than the ones I went into in England and Paris. A statue of a musketeer type was my favourite bit.
Buildings in the part of town were more colourful. Dark pink, blue, olive green. I passed through a square filled with people and their talking and music. A mustard yellow wall behind palm trees and children’s play equipment. I liked the space and wanted to stay there longer, so I’ve tried to keep in it my head instead. I’d been trying to figure out some of the differences between here and Barcelona. Perhaps the windows were bigger. Certainly they tended to have more decoration around them. Sometimes three dimensional, sometimes paintings of three dimensional designs. I came across more small squares, and the pharmacies had marble topped benches. Heading back along the main street to collect my backpack, there was a clear contrast between the buildings off the main street. On my left were the shorter white buildings of the Albaicin side from the day before, on my right were the coloured buildings of this afternoon.
I left Granada on the train to Algeciras so I could get the ferry across to Morocco. Olive groves patchworked the hills until a spectacular sunset. At two stations, the train driver walked the length of the train to drive out of the station the same way we came in. Maybe we really did change directions on my trip down from Barcelona. A few more words on the trains in Spain before I leave them behind. They’re good. I think this one was the same as the ones I caught to Barcelona. There were power points at every seat, lots of elbow room, clear displays and they were in good repair. This one delivered me to Algeciras on time. I liked the station and wanted a few photos but was hurried out by staff wanting to go home for the night.