In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to write about my new love: Granada. This past weekend I traveled to Granada and spent three-ish marvelous days soaking up Granada’s culture and “studying” for my final exam by only speaking spanish. I truly became enamored with this city and cannot wait to go back again. One thing I particularly loved: the abundance of orange trees. (Although the fruit is too bitter to eat, unfortunately.) Here’s a little watercolor sketch I did of one:
The very first thing that strikes you as you step into the streets of Granada is the light. It can be almost blinding. Nearly all of the houses and buildings are painted white, and the light was reflected off of the walls, right into my wish-I-had-my-sunglasses eyes. I spent most of my first day there squinting, but don’t worry, I could still clearly see how gorgeous and vibrant Granada is. Try to picture it: The backdrop was a clear blue sky. The next layer was the glistening white, snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountain range. Then there was the Alhambra peering down from the top of a large hill. Below this hill was the sea of white buildings. And up close and center was the charming little plaza where a man strummed his guitar. Tourists and locals alike sat outside eating their tapas and drinking their cañas (short glasses of beer), all bundled up because it was freezing, but enjoying their time spent in direct sunlight. Yes, it may have been the morning, but in Andalucía people start drinking anytime they feel like it. And each drink comes with a free tapa, so I guess that soaks up the alcohol pretty well…
Here are some pictures to show you what I mean:
The city itself is clear and white, but the people and the arts scene in Granada are very colorful and a little grungy. I think a bit of this can be attributed to the Muslim influence that is much more visible in Andalucía than central Spain. The percentage of Granada’s population rocking a head full of dreadlocks, facial piercings, and Aladdin pants was remarkably high. The hippy/grungy culture was fully on display one particular day we spent mostly sitting and enjoying the various rag-tag street bands that were playing right next to the artisans selling their wares. One band was traveling from Latvia and they sang a few American classics like “House of the Rising Sun.” The second was all Spanish and the songs they were singing must have been Spanish classics too, because everyone in the crowd seemed to be singing along. The third was a group of middle-aged to elderly women all dressed up in these bright green and yellow costumes, singing/chanting very catchy and humorous tunes. Later that night, we were invited to sit in on a funk/jazz band practice of one of our Granadan hosts. They were called BeFunkBop, which I thought was a kind of humorous name, but maybe the Spaniards think it sounds cool… Anyways, it was a group of 20-something-year-old guys playing alto, tenor and baritone sax, tuba, trumpet, and drums. They were all super into the music, and the one guy that kept playing all of the solos was awesome. It really made me yearn for my middle school jazz band days when I played the alto sax. The music scene in Granada is alive and thriving, but I also had two other forms of artistic experiences in Granada. The first was when we were walking among the street vendors. I happened to look down and saw a man giving away free poems (and asking for a donation, of course). I thought this was an absolutely fabulous idea and I took one. It said: “Necesito llorar, y una sombra dónde,/ la ausencia de mis amigos,/en esta soledad.” This roughly translates to: I need to cry,/ and a shadow where the absence of my friends,/ in this solitude. So, this poem is pretty sad, but honestly I was having such an awesome day that I paid no mind to it’s ominous tone. The other artistic encounter was during the final drive out of the city. Before I went to Granada, my mother had sent me a link to an article proclaiming that Granada was home to some of the world’s best street art. We drove down this winding road leading out of the city, and suddenly there they were: almost all of the pictures of graffiti and street art from the article were here on this wall. One image flowed into the next: a colorful trail of portraits, names and other beautiful paintings. It’s a shame I couldn’t get any pictures because we were driving in the car, but trust me, Granada is definitely the place to be for musicians and artists.
Here is: 1. the band from Latvia, 2. a lady in a green wig accompanied by a falcon and a dog, 3. the third band/choir
On the final day, we woke up very very early (8:30 AM) to go to the Alhambra. We walked through the main entrance gates and I immediately began taking pictures. The gardens are so pretty with blooming lilacs! And look, there’s a stone castle tower! About three hours later, I could look back and realize how silly I was at first… this little walk into the grounds was nothing compared to the spectacular full Alhambra tour. It was overwhelmingly grand, yet breathtakingly intricate. (Oh, and I’ve never been so cold in my life.) I won’t even attempt to give you a history lesson about the Alhambra because first off, that wasn’t really the focus of the visit for me, and secondly, all I know was taught to me in spanish by some people that may or may not have known exactly what they were talking about. I suggest you wikipedia it or something. What struck me most about the Alhambra was the level of craftsmanship displayed in every doorway, ceiling, tile wall, stone walkway, and pillar. The Muslim artistry blew me away. Eventually I had to just stop taking pictures and let myself enjoy the moment because if I took the time to take a photo of every pretty design I think I’d have to set up camp there for a few months. The tile patterns and Arabic writing carved into the walls weren’t the only impressive parts, though. The architecture and landscaping were beautiful and notable as well. One of the most surreal moments I’ve ever experienced happened just after we passed through the first garden labyrinth. All of the sudden I stood staring at this long, narrow fountain that led to one of the most well-known structures of the Alhambra. Almost immediately, I recognized this sight and was overcome with déjà vu. This was the exact image I had drawn from a picture I found on the internet when I was a junior in high school. As cliché as this sounds, standing there with the real-life version in front of me, I definitely had an omg-I’m-actually-doing-it moment. I’ve wanted to come study in Spain since the sixth grade when I started learning spanish. Now my time is here. It reminded me that I need to be grateful for this experience, learn all that I can, and just be present in the moment.
The following pictures are: 1.-3. some of my favorite Alhambra sights, and 4. the spot I drew back in the day