Dwight Peck's personal website

We flee South in the winter

Two weeks in Andalucia, December 2011

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

The Alhambra

I always thought that The Alhambra was a night club in the San Gabriel Valley, and now I'm better informed about that.

We scoped the scene out yesterday and now we're here overcast and early to spend the day with the Nasrids.

Seen from the city below, the Alhambra looms imposingly, but as you walk through the gardens of the complex at the top of the hill, it's a little hard at first to see what all the fuss is about. But once you've got through the entrance (above, from the inside), it's another world.

Kristin in the Mexuar or council chambre of some sort, just inside the present entrance

Leading to the Patio del Cuarto Dorado (or Golden Room), nicely got up, probably where the Nasrid emirs mingled with their subjects about grievances and what not.

And at the far end, the entrance into the Comares Palace, the most important palace within the complex. The era of the greatest extent of the Moorish hegemony over the Iberian peninsula, from the 8th to the early 13th centuries, was long over when the Nasrid dynasty carved out the Golden Age of Granada's own little corner of the world, i.e., most of southern Spain, as vassals of the Christian kings of Castile.

This is the Patio de los Arrayanes, Courtyard of the Myrtles. The Nasrid Palaces were built in stages over time, but the bulk of it was done under the emirs Yusuf I and Mohammed V in the mid-14th century.

The long pool is famous, and those are probably myrtles (for all I know). That's the Torre de Comares on the horizon.

Looking the other way, above the galleries, that's the vasty bulk of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V's big palace plopped down in the middle of it a couple of centuries later.

The Hall of Ambassadors (Embajadores) in the Comares Tower: bravo, high marks!

Kristin's darting over the little bridge to get into the Washington Irving room. No kidding. Apparently, the place was an abandoned wreck in his day, and he camped out here to really come to terms with its subtle grandeur.

A little garden in the middle of things, the Jardin de Lindaraja, as we're pretty much lost in the maze now.

This is somewhere in the family's living quarters and looks (in general) like the courtyard in our hotel.

The excellent Sala de Dos Hermanas, or Two Sisters' Hall (don't ask), leading out to the . . . Courtyard of Lions

The Moorish architects' devotion to flowing water was (along with their strange geometries) one of their artistic hallmarks, and the Patio de los Leones is one of their greatest legacies, though . . .

. . . it's presently getting its plumbing sorted out.

This must be really something without the plastic shrouds. Now, from this evocative scene, we turn and go through another door, through a closet, across a tiny corridor and up a step, and whoops! we're out on the street again and staring at Christian contrasts.

Ferdinand and Isabella (the "Catholic Monarchs"), well known to Americans for sending Columbus along to get us a running start in North America, were also two of the most black-hearted brutal bigots in history, and they stormed in here in 1492 (the "Reconquista"!) to make a deal with the then emir Boabdil (called the "Alhambra Decree") to take over the Granada Emirate in return for complete freedom of worship for the Moslems and Jews, etc. They changed their minds, however, nine years later and stomped all over everybody (for the greater glory of Himself and so on). Think Inquisition!

As Kristin is discovering on her audio guide with a chortle, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V -- the son of Joanna the Mad (Queen of Castile, Aragon, Sardinia, Sicily, Naples, Burgundy, much of the Netherlands, and the Americas, ugly but never "mad") and the Habsburg Philip the Handsome (which he wasn't!) -- decided that the Moorish Alhambra would look better with some monumental Christian Renaissance touches as well, and in 1527 he knocked down a few Nasrid bits and bobs and graced posterity with his own palace in the middle of it, built by a disciple of Michelangelo and a brilliant construction in its own right, even if this might not be the best place for it.

Whilst we were there, an extremely wonderful Escher exhibition was on show in the Charles V Palace.

A zoom view from Charles V's Palace at the Albayzin neighborhood across the Darro

Kristin is pushing her way through the crowds of tourists at the Puerta del Vino, or Wine Gateway, to get to the business end of the Alhambra complex -- the fortress Alcazaba.

Long predating the Nasrid palaces, the Alcazaba (al-qasbah, walled fortification)(not to be confused with an "Alcázar", or walled fortification) is the fortress end of the Alhambra complex, overlooking the bluffs above the old city.

From the Alcazaba watchtower, we're looking towards the hills behind the Alhambra. (The Generalife is just behind the farthest square tower; hold that thought.)

That huge thing looming over the Moorish refinements is the Palace of Charles V.

The old Moorish neighborhood across the river, the Albayzín, or Albaicín, or Albaycin, or whatever, and the Sacromonte regions above it.


A zoom view of the Abadía (or abbey) del Sacromonte, far out on the Sacromonte. Kristin's determined: we're going there!

Kristin taking in the view from the castle-keep of the Alcazaba

For example, our hotel down below, on the banks of the Darro

Sacromonte, with its historic gypsy traditions at the outer edges of it (in the caves, actually)

The Sierra Nevada mountains to the southeast

A tourist enjoying the 'baths of the mosque' in the Alhambra

Albayzín in the afternoon

We're not finished. That's the nearby Generalife (which I thought referred to a life insurance company, like mine: SwissLife). It's another sultan's pleasure retreat.

In the Generalife ("noble gardens", evidently), we're in the Patio de la Acequia -- here the emirs and his "special friends" could be carried up the hill by enslaved persons from the stressful workaday world of the Alhambra, and just relax. With a lavender sherbet.

The emirs had a hard life.

The mirador of the Generalife looking out over the city.

We've completed our mission here, and after a long, edifying day at the Alhambra, we're ready to start back down the hill . . .

. . . with an appreciative nod to Washington Irving on the way down.

The Plaza Nueva at dusk -- we've just got time to look in at the church of Santa Ana as we head home to dress for dinner.

The Santa Ana church doors -- we're not too late to get our Christmas lottery tickets!!

That was fun. Now if we can just find a wineshop still open.

The next day, on the way to the Shawarma King for breakfast, we're snatched up short by a vision, as it were, of Christopher Columbus explaining to Queen Isabella I of Castile about how he's got a really good plan for getting to China.

Down in the cathedral of Granada now -- this is a really hasty shot, they had security people patrolling everywhere. I was dying to get a photo in the Royal Chapel here of the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, as well as of their daughter Joanna the Crazy Person and her unsympathetic husband Philip the Handsome, but there were no opportunities to sneak one.

Outside the cathedral, Kristin's checking out the spice market.

The cathedral's huge bell tower

Still outside the cathedral, Kristin's checking out some more spice markets.

The front of the cathedral. I'm trying to snap off a few shots as we're hurrying past looking for some pointed-toe shoes.

The Plaza Bib-Rambia near the cathedral, with a Christmas market that will liven up as the day progresses.

"Addiction" is the new catch-phrase for all kinds of behavioral issues.

OMG, at last. Four days here, and we've found our pointy-toed shoes, and more of them for all the members of the family. (The fashion for pointy-toed shoes in the 14th century was a constant target of shrill abuse from the pulpits and satirists all over northern Europe, and when the Demonic Dancers during the dancing madness of 1374 roamed in bands from town to town, dancing hysterically and writhing on the ground, etc., the churchmen fixed on pointy-toed shoes as the Mark of Satan.)
(Just saying . . . )

Kristin carrying pointy-toed shoes home through the Plaza Nueva. Blue vehicles on the left in front of the Chancellería.

"Occupy Granada". A demonstration outside the halls of justice. The banner says "Stop Des.....os", so your guess is as good as mine.

This is a more relaxed police presence than "Occupy Wall Street" or "Occupy Oakland" ran into, but it isn't the USA, after all.

The anarcho-revolutionaries are being pretty civil about it all as well.

Tomorrow, in prospect: a march out to the Abadía del Sacromonte, some gypsy flamenco dens, and random walks up the hill in Abayzín's crowded alleys.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 20 January 2012.

Spain, 2011