My Only Day In Granada

Yesterday, I made my 11:55 train without incident.  There are no Rapido’s to Granada.  In fact the line from Seville all the way to Almería is not electrified.  It was a three hour train ride with many stops but it was really interesting to see the landscape change. I’ll post a couple of the pictures I took out of the train window so you can see for yourself.

When I arrived in Granada the train station was really empty and at first I thought I got off at the wrong station.  However, I got off at the correct station.  When I glanced outside of the station Granada wasn’t like I pictured it especially after reading about it in guide books.  I didn’t see a bus stop near by and there was no tourist information so I just purchased my ticket for my trip to Madrid tomorrow and went outside where there was one taxi.  I thought maybe there is no public transport here so I took the taxi to my hotel.

Boy was I wrong.  Granada is this beautiful, medium sized I would say, city that is bustling.  It feels more affluent that Seville and maybe even Cordoba and while Seville is bearly above sea level, Granada is surrounded by mountains and Granada is only an hour’s drive by car, maybe less by train, to the Almería and the Mediterranean Sea.  Sounds like a nice place to retire.  Additionally it was cool when I got here.  I’l bet it still can get pretty hot but last evening it went down to about 59 degrees and right now it is a pleasant 87 degrees.

I really only had time to do one thing, since I am only here for one day and that was a visit to The Alhambra and The Generalife.  But first a little information about Granada.

Granada began life as an Iberian settlement in the Albayzín district. Muslim forces took over from the Visigoths in 711, with the aid of the Jewish community around the foot of the Alhambra hill in what was called Garnata al Jahud, from which the name Granada derives; Granada also happens to be Spanish for pomegranate, the fruit on the city’s coat of arms.

After the fall of Córdoba in 1236 and Seville in 1248, Muslims sought refuge in Granada, where Mohammed ibn Yusuf ibn Nasr had set up an independent emirate. Stretching from the Strait of Gibraltar to east of Almería, this ‘Nasrid’ emirate became the final remnant of Al-Andalus, and ruled from the increasingly lavish Alhambra palace for 250 years. Granada became one of the richest cities in medieval Europe.

However, in the 15th century the economy stagnated and violent rivalry developed over the succession. One faction supported the emir, Abu al-Hasan, and his harem favourite Zoraya. The other faction backed Boabdil, Abu al-Hasan’s son by his wife Aixa. In 1482 Boabdil rebelled, setting off a confused civil war. The Christian armies invading the emirate took advantage, besieging towns and devastating the country­side, and in 1491 they finally laid siege to Granada. After eight months, Boabdil agreed to surrender the city in return for the Alpujarras and 30,000 gold coins, plus political and religious freedom for his subjects. On January 2, 1492 the conquering Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, entered Granada ceremonially in Muslim dress. They set up court in the Alhambra for several years.

Jews and Muslims were persecuted, and both groups had been expelled by the 17th century. Granada sank into a deep decline until the Romantics revived interest in its Islamic heritage during the 1830s, when tourism took hold.

Here is a little history of Alhambra.  It takes its name from the Arabic al-qala’a al-hamra (the Red Castle). The first palace on the site was built by Samuel Ha-Nagid, the Jewish grand vizier of one of Granada’s 11th-century Zirid sultans. In the 13th and 14th centuries the Nasrid emirs turned the area into a fortress-palace complex, adjoined by a village of which only ruins remain. After the Reconquista (Christian reconquest), the Alhambra’s mosque was replaced with a church, and the Convento de San Francisco (now the Parador de Granada) was built. Carlos I (also known as the Habsburg emperor Charles V), grandson of the Catholic Monarchs, had a wing of the palaces destroyed to make space for his huge Renaissance work, the Palacio de Carlos V. During the Napoleonic occupation the Alhambra was used as a barracks and nearly blown up. What one see’s today has been heavily but “respectfully" restored.

The Alhambra and the Generalife is a huge sightseeing undertaking.  You need at lease an entire day to see everything without rushing through.  I spent over seven hours there.  One major watch out is this complex is very crowded seven days a week especially during the summer months.  If you plan on visiting here make a reservation.  It will save you a lot of time waiting in line since even though its very crowded the number of people allowed in the complex at one time is strictly controlled.  So when you get there and you pick up your ticket you will be told exactly when you can enter the comples and exactly when you can enter Palacios Nazaries.  They give you a 15 minute window to get through the line and if you miss your appointed time you are SOL.  I made sure I was there on time.

A little bit about Generalife.  I know it sounds like an insurance company but the name is derived from Yannat al-arid, meaning “most nobal of gardens”.  Generalife is an arrangement of pathways, patios, pools, fountains, tall trees and, in season, flowers of every imaginable type and color. To reach the complex you must pass through the Alhambra walls.  At the north end is the emir’s summer palace , a whitewashed structure on the hillside facing the Alhambra. The courtyards here are soothing and graceful.

After a long but invigorating day I got back to my hotel and am writing this sitting on my little deck outside my room enjoying the pleasent temperatures and clear skys.  

Now it’s time to eat since it is 8:45 PM here and then back to to post this and pack for I have a 9:10 train to Madrid tomorrow morning.  By the way there is public transportation and there is a bus that will take me to the station tomorrow.

I’m using the Lonely Planet Guide To Spain and the Michelin Guide To Andalucia for my facts. © Louis M. Skypala 2014