I don’t think that I can write well enough or extensively enough to do the Alhambra justice. A compound with three distinct sections dating to the Moorish period plus the buildings added after the fall of the city to the Christians make for a full days visit. I will warn you that it is ALWAYS crowded…as Angkor Wat is always streaming with bus loads of tourist so too is the Alhambra. They try to control it by timed admission tickets but this made me feel rushed along. The secret is to book ahead on line and get one of the first tickets in the morning.
The Alcazaba, the oldest buildings in the group, dates from the 11th century and are primarily the remains of the ramparts and several towers used for defensive purposes. The plain unadorned stone buildings reminded me of the crusader castles in Jordan…old but not terribly interesting. What these buildings do offer is some of the best views in Granada so it is worth it for a short visit.
The Generalife or the over-seer’s gardens is a delight. Ancient gardens filled with a soothing arraignment of pathways, patios, fountains, sculpted hedges, stately trees and flowers of every imaginable hue lured me in. Views of the Darro Valley framed by oleander hedges and cypress trees mede me find a bench to sit and try to imagine life in the 14th century in this garden.
The Palace Nazaries is the big draw here at the Alhambra. It is the pinnacle of 14th century Moorish design. The Courtyard of the Lions is a prime example of the complexity of Islamic Architecture…at its center is a fountain that channelled water through the mouths of 12 marble lions dating from the 11th century. The courtyard surrounding the fountain was laid out using the golden rule and the varied columns placed around it are symmetrical on numerous axis. I could see in a moment what is meant by a harmonious design…the placement and design of the architectural elements in the courtyards and patios struck a cord in me and I wished that I had a magic wand capable of making all the tourist disappear. To wander these rooms alone…free to study in detail the lay out, carvings, tile work and interior vista’s would be bliss
Surrounding the Palace and connecting the various out buildings are lush gardens filled with orange trees, rose gardens, reflecting pools and the perennial fountains. Coming from a place where fountains are rare and water is just meant to come out of faucets and garden hoses means that the Moorish fascination with water both amazes and delights me. The sound of trickling water in these lush oasis’s is the ultimate luxury…soothing, restful and at one with the surrounding architecture.
Also on the grounds is a Renaissance palace built by Charles V. A wing of the palace was razed to make room for this gem…However, it is totally out of place in the middle of the complex. Had it been built in the middle of the city or on park land surrounding the Alhambra it would have been perfection and instead the clash of styles is spectacular….and now it is a perfect reminder of the adage “to the victor belongs the spoils” Now that I have voiced my complaint, I will tell you that aside from its juxtaposition to the Alhambra the Palacio de Carlos V is a beautiful example of 15th century architecture. The building houses two museums…Museo de la Alhambra and Museo de Bellas Artes both of which I loved.
Spend a day on the grounds visiting the buildings and gardens, have lunch at one of several restaurants and sit in the gardens. If you have the stamina after you visit the palace complex you can walk down a step cobblestoned path, across the Darro River and up the hills on the other side of the valley to the Albayzin neighborhood to watch the sunset view of the Alhambra. For such a special treat..it’s worth the extra effort.
NEXT STOP BACK IN THE LAND OF BUDDHA’S AND FLIP FLOPS…THAILAND.