Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Five and a half hours at the Alhambra – Day Two

Spain does seem to be quite expensive, more so that we had imagined before we arrived. Perhaps we are suffering from general inflation, the fall of the £ against the € and a somewhat rosy view of costs in the past. Granada is not overrun by tourists staying in the town (coaches bring in a large number each day to see the Alhambra and take them out again) and prices in the area we are staying in do not seem to be set with them in  mind. Never-the-less, a can of coke in a small backstreet cafe costs£1.50, two scoops of ice cream £2.60, a lunch time meal for two with beer, around £28.

Visiting the Alhambra

The Alhambra consists of a number of different palaces, castles and churches. The Spanish have instituted a very controlled system of making sure that this very popular tourist site does not get overrun with tourists and therefore knowing that during the summer season you stand the risk of turning up and not being able to buy a ticket we ordered our tickets over the internet a few months before hand.

We have tickets to visit the Palacios Nazaries (the most popular of the sites) for 9 am and we have constantly been told that we have to be there on time or we will not be allowed in. So 8 am sees us trudging up the hill towards the entrance and we are through the gates by 8.30 am walking down the “Street of Kings” (a path bordered by huge yew hedges) towards the Palace. Entry to many places is controlled by an official with a computerised hand held scanner which records your ticket details and confirms that you are on time and that you have not visited this part of the site before.

The whole complex dates back to 800AD and has had numerous developments since then and therefore the historical context of what you are looking at changes quite often.

Amongst our favourite places were the bath house used for washing before praying in the mosque (now buried under a Christian church)

Bathhouse 1

Bathhouse 2

Bathhouse 3

The Palacio Carlos V which although started by him in XXX was not finished until the 1930 because it was to be paid from a tax levy which proved somewhat unpopular in the 1500s. Although square on the

Charles Palace Door

outside, having gone through the door and then through some internal rooms, you come into an enormous open to the sky circular space, a bit like a circular arena inside the palace. There is also a small museum inside showing some of the artefacts discovered onsite, I was particularly impressed by a portable sundial made from pottery, you stick a stick into a hole on the sundial, align it and you have the time! (on a sunny day). A bit big to wear on the wrist but very ingenious.

Wine Gate

The inscriptions over the Wine Gate were typically impressive – in ancient times, the main road from the town into the palace went through this gate. And inside the Palacio Nazaries itself:

Carvings over an archway

Carvings over a door – very reminiscent of similar we saw in India a few years ago


A wonderful ceiling

Court of Myrtles

Court of Myrtles (with a flock of swifts diving and circling looking for flies to eat)

Cool Courtyard

A very cool courtyard, kept so by shade and running water

Carving showing original paint

intricate carvings, showing some of the original colours

Carving Details

View of Albaicin from Alhambra

A view of the Albaicin district from a balcony in the Alhambra – this is the reverse of the view we saw yesterday

Cool courtyard 2

Another cool courtyard with running water from the fountain

Cool pool and gazebo

A cooling pool with a gazebo providing views over the valley

View of Nazaries (left) and Carlos (right) Palaces

A view of the Pacacio Nazaries (left) and the Palacio Carlos V (right)

Poolin the Generalife

A pool in the Generalife section of the Alhambra

Rose 1

Rose 2

Some roses which smelt like old fashioned roses used to

After five and a half hours in the complex we left, somewhat weary but feeing that it was very worthwhile. By now, the place seems heaving with visitors and in particular, numerous school groups who are making their presence felt.

In the evening, we set off into one of the areas of town lived in by locals (as against a tourist hotel area) and find the “Taberna de Baco” in Campo del Principe where a mixed tapas and beers costs us only 18€. After an ice cream, it was time for bed.


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