Granada, Spain: Land of the Moors

This blog post is the first since my revival of Adventures of a Traveler’s Heart for my New Year’s Eve resolution. My first goal is to finish writing about the trips I took while studying abroad in 2015, when I put blogging on hiatus towards the end of the semester as I attempted to soak up every last second of Spanish life before I had to return to the US. Fortunately, I did still keep a travel journal during that time, so I have my in-the-moment reactions and reflections to look back on. Since I just finished my first week of a new semester of classes and teaching, writing about a city in Spain with Spanish music in the background sounds like the perfect way to relax on a Saturday evening. So, without further ado, allow me to transport you back to a beautiful weekend in 2015.

My travel mate, Emma, had already been to Granada, but the city is so beautiful that she was more than happy to return with me, a feeling I now completely understand. Located in Andalucía, about three hours east of our home base of Sevilla, Granada was the final city held by the Moors until King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel expelled them from Spain in 1492. The long-lasting Moorish influence is clear in the architecture, the food, and the city layout–wandering the hilly, narrow streets, I felt as if I were back in Chefchaouen, Morocco, all over again. The fusion of Arab and European culture in Spain has long fascinated me, and Granada was the perfect place to fuel that fascination.

After a delicious lunch of Moroccan food and a tea called “mil y uno noches” (“A Thousand and One Nights,” for you bookworms out there), Emma and I joined our hostel for a walking tour of the street art that covers the city. One street is dedicated to the work of an artist known as “el Niño de las Pinturas,” or “the boy of the paintings.” One of his murals particularly stood out to me. It read (in Spanish), “I was tired of not finding answers, so I decided to change my questions.” As I look back now, this quote explains my Spanish experience and post-study abroad life perfectly. Too often, I have observed myself and others getting stuck, feeling like they cannot seem to find a fulfilling and passion-fueling career or life balance. As this artist in Granada articulates, in such situations, we must summon up the courage to ask new and difficult questions if we are to rediscover a way of life that energizes us.

Our trek across the city continued toward a “fountain of youth,” from which we drank the freshest, coldest, most delicious spring water that I have ever tasted. Inscribed around the fountain were the words, “I want to drink from this fountain in your neighborhood so I can feel your kiss.” The old romantic in me loved it. Granada is just FULL of art and beautiful words.

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At this point, our “city walk” quickly transformed into a somewhat treacherous hike on narrow, plant-covered paths with sharp rocks and a loooong way to fall. It was totally worth it, however, to see an old monastery down in the valley and the Sierra Nevada in the distance. Ascending the mountains again, we arrived in Sacremonte, the gypsy quarter that historically was not considered part of Granada since the gypsies were expelled from the city at night after coming in to conduct trade. Today, homes and businesses in Sacremonte are still built into small, whitewashed caves, and we stopped here for some café con leche and a breathtaking view of the mountains and the city. After such a long walk/hike, Emma and I were certainly ready for some tapas, especially since in Granada you can get free tapas with your sangria purchase! (Aside: Buying Americanized tapas and sangria in the US for triple the Spanish prices is the WORST).

The better part of day two in Granada, I ventured solo to the famous Alhambra, a massive Moorish palace and the last one to be captured by the Christians in 1492. The amount of detailed artistry that went into the design of this palace is mind-boggling. Tile and engravings in Arabic cover the walls and ceilings, fountains dot the mazes of rose bushes, and as you climb higher and higher up the mountain, you can see the whole city below. I recommend starting your Alhambra visit early in the day, both because it attracts large crowds and because you could happily lose yourself in the palace grounds for hours (also, buy your ticket at least a day in advance online).

This short trip made it very clear why Emma did not hesitate for a second to return to Granada–I cannot wait to come back for a lengthier visit!

-Steph

 

 

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