Saturday, 21 December 2013

Glorious Granada!

I can't believe I almost skipped this city and am so glad Otavio encouraged me to come.  I met Simone at the crack of dawn (for all essential purposes) at our hostel where a swede named Freddie gave us a vibrant descriptions of the city.  I love when he added audio enhancement to his descriptions, mimicking the cha-cha-cha of the ticket printer, the wail of gypsies, drum beats of the flamenco dancers and the battle cries of the crusaders.  Simone, the couchsurfer that I'm staying with is absolutely hilarious.  She's born and raised in Jersey, with the attitude and accent to prove it (when she got her earring stuck in her scarf, she joked "jersey girl problems") but both her parents are Greek and she's currently in Athens teaching rich kids English on a Fulbright.  She's definitely immersed in the culture too- she complimented me on my gloves at one point, and when I lost one, she thought it must be the case of the "evil eye".  In Greek culture, light-eyed people are often the target of envious glares which lead to a day of headaches until cured with burning cotton balls in oil and mixing water and oil.  Or something.  Fortunately, I found my mitten and don't have a headache!

Simone and I with nice view of the city and Alhambra

Anyway, she's a little energizer bunny, up for anything, even after three planes and a bus ride so we took off armed with a bad map and the spirit of exploration.  And there was much to see!  We poked our head into cathedrals, wandered around the Jewish section where we found a minuscule semantic museum in some hidden neighborhood and she invited us to a Hanukkah music concert tomorrow (I doubt we could purposefully find the museum again), had tea in the Arabic section which where hookah pipes and Turkish lanterns spilled into the streets and pet cats at another randomly amazing museum on some painter who liked to collect Asian things.  
Typical Granada street with snow covered Sierra Nevada mountains in the background

The whole day we planned to visit St. Martin Alto for sunset which ended up being a day long epic adventure.  Between our bad maps, tendency to veer off course to investigate interesting looking things and our preference for standing in sunshine (Simone joked "I'm solar powered!  I only function when the sun is out"), it seriously took all day to get there.  We hiked through gypsy territory where ladies tried to put tree branches in my hand and mumble madness about "hijos, amor, vida larga".  We saw people living in mini caves with teensy horses eating grass under garbage outdoors.  We climbed a billion steps to the top of the city to reach our vantage point to enjoy the view- the Alhambra glowing orange, distinct personalities of different neighborhoods and the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance.  Definitely worth the hike, especially since rolling down the mountain ended up being a lot more direct.
Sunset from San Miguel Alto

 Friday night, we met up with some locals for tapas in a Valencia-style and some perreo latino (Latin dance).  My British couchsurfers complained how Americans dance so dirty, grinding up on each other and told me they don't do that in Europe.  It was strange to see Spaniards dance to very, sexual Latin music because they do it in a rather spacious more formal way.  But good times were had by all, dancing well into the night!
Famous Court of the Lions at Alhambra
On Saturday, we toured the famous Alhambra palace complex, which they've compared to Taj Mahal and the Acropolis in Greece.  It was absolutely massive- at least three palaces, three giant churches and elaborate gardens.  I think all of the palaces were built by the moors so the palace was covered in colorful mosaics, intricately carved plaster and ornate calligraphy.  Definitely more of a middle eastern vibe that's infinitely more interesting to be than standard European architecture. This city has made me so excited for my trip to Turkey to February because like Istanbul, like Grenada is a city where Jewish, Catholic and Muslim cultures collide and I just love walking down a street selling hookah pipes, spices and tea from the orient then being suddenly surrounded by Stars of David then in front of a huge cathedral.  Grenada also has gypsies in the mix (we're hopefully going to a flamenco show tonight) and the free, elaborate tapas with a 2 euro beverage don't hurt either! Anyway, Simone and I had another lovely day of getting lost, tapas with four locals and perusing the markets.  Nap time now. More later!