Granada is located in southern Spain, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Granada is famous for its Jewish and Islamic heritage between the ninth and fifteenth centuries. It has a very unique history, and is very rich in tradition. Granada is much smaller than Valencia, and is very peaceful. However, the city still comes alive at night, as it is known for its traditions such as tapas bars and flamenco.
On Friday night, we visited the Sacromonte caves, which have been home to gypsies and bohemians for centuries. There are shows in these caves, featuring traditional flamenco music and dancing. The performers are very passionate about what they do, and are very intense. Flamenco is extremely noisy, with a lot of loud singing, clapping, and stomping. We went to a show at Cueva de La Rocio and had a lot of fun.
Following the show, we walked to dinner. However, before we could even get to a restaurant, my friend and I were completely mesmerized by all of the Gypsy shops we passed. We ended up in a really cool shop, where I bought an amazing hand-beaded tapestry that I will hang in my new apartment. Of course, I had to buy the pretty handmade rug that matched! My goal for my time abroad is to only spend money on souvenirs that are unique and cannot be found in the United States, and these pieces of art are definitely one of a kind. After resisting the impulse to buy every single thing in this store, we made our way to dinner. It was the best bang for my buck yet. In Granada, you receive tapas with any drink you order. However, in Granada, the tapas are more like full meals. When I ordered a glass of wine for only two euros, I received a big sandwich and a plate of french fries with it. If you order additional drinks at the same place, they bring you more tapas with each one, but never repeat what they serve you. It's a really cool concept that I wish we had in America!
I also saw one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen on Friday night (Which by the way, was Friday the 13th). I saw the full moon ("Strawberry Moon") from the Mirador San Nicolás, a lookout with unbeatable views of the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada. The panoramic view of the full moon over the mountains and the castle was something I will never forget.
On Saturday, we woke up bright and early for a guided walking tour of the Albaycin, which is the old Moorish Quarter. The Albaycin is like a different world within Granada. This is due to the strong Muslim influence in this area. There are narrow winding streets made of cobblestone, and spectacular views wherever you look. The Mirador San Nicolás is found in this part of town, as well as many original Moorish homes. Our tour ended in the newer part of Granada, where we visited the Cathedral of Granda. This cathedral is huge, and very impressive. Inside, you can see displays of treasures belonging to the Spanish monarchy, as well as the tombs of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Saturday night, we (attempted) to visit the traditional Arab baths. We had appointments for baths and massages, but sadly, our cab driver dropped us off in the wrong place and we missed them. We were so lost. Somehow, we ended up on top of a huge hill in the middle of nowhere. However, it wasn't so bad, because we had an amazing view of the sunset overlooking the entire city. Getting back was a little scary because we were in such a desolate area. There were no taxis around, and we had to make our way down the mountain on narrow dirt paths using our phones as flashlights. Sorry, Mom… At least we made it back in one piece!
Sunday was the best day of all. We spent the day exploring the Alhambra, which has a castle and a fortress, a royal palace and a town, and amazing gardens. It is the most visited monument in Spain. First, we visited the Generalife gardens. "Generalife" means "garden of the architect." The Generalife is composed of a series of large gardens, where every corner holds a beautiful surprise. The tall, green, bushes are perfectly trimmed into big archways, each acting as a window to a beautiful landscape. It was hard not take pictures of every single place I looked. El Patio de la Acequia (The Patio of the Irrigation Ditch) is the most important part of the Generalife. There is a channel that carries the water from the irrigation ditch of the Alhambra, along with ancient pavilions and beautiful plants.
The Alhambra was named for its reddish walls. In Arabic, it translates to "Red Castle." It is located on top of a hill, with a view over the whole city and the meadow. It is difficult to give a brief description of the Alhambra, because it consists of so many different things, but its main attraction is the Nasrid Palaces. There are three independent areas in the Nasrid Palaces: The Mexuar, which was for justice administration and State affairs; the Comares Palace which was the official residence of the king; and the Palace of the Lions, which was the private area of the palace, where the Harem. Not only were these areas different because of their functions, but also because of their artistic characteristics. The Comares Palace was decorated in a typically Muslim way, but the Palace of the Lions presents Christian influences. There are many more famous patios, halls, and rooms, but if I wrote about all of them, you'd be reading this forever! In short, it was undoubtedly the most impressive thing I have ever seen.
I apologize for writing so much, but incase you can't tell, I love Granada! Unlike last weekend in Madrid, everyone speaks Spanish. I even received compliments on my Spanish from locals, so that was a bonus! The people are so friendly, and they go around chanting, "No pasa nada, estamos en Granada!" "No pasa nada" is an extremely popular phrase in Spain, which means, "No worries." In other words, it's the Spanish version of "Hakuna matata." It is not just a phrase in Granada, but a way of life.
P.S. Granada gets snow in the winter, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains are a big skiing/snowboarding attraction. Who knew it snowed in southern Spain?!
P.P.S. I apologize for the poor quality of the first few photos. They're from my phone!