The Alhambra Bamba
01 October 2010 | Caleta de Velez (Torre del Mar), Spain
We went to the Alhambra yesterday, and man what an experience! I mean, I know traveling in a foreign country has its challenges - particularly when traveling hundreds of miles. Nor do I claim to being the sharpest tool in the shed. But I have to tell you, idiocy is not all that great either!!
I'll try to bore you the details or this could turn into another 'War and Peace'. But suffice to say it took us only six hours to get there, and our return was a mere five and a half hour trek. Let's see....doing the math that works out to an 11.5 hour odyssey for three hours at the point of interest! Wonderfully done, Peter! Success at last!
It started when ole "Bozo-head" never even considered the idea that we might be able to rent a car and drive to the friggin' monument. No, that would alllll have to be done with buses, transfers, more buses, and more transfers. Then ole "Brilliance-brain" figured out (on his own, without any help!) that the 'shortcut' was to take the bus an hour away from where we wanted to go so we could double-back later. This, from a guy who can get a boat from America to Spain, but gets lost crossing the street!!
On the return, we had one, count it -- one, landmark to help us find our boat (a hotel whose name I had gotten wrong!). By the grace of God we found the thing in the middle of the night and lived to tell about it. Purely amazing! Hence the title of this blog....as in Alhambra Bomb-a!!! There were a few good choices made, however, like the choice of day to go.
You see, you can only get into Alhambra by reservation. No reservation, no entry. Well, apparently someone in Spain decided to call a general strike for the day before yesterday (the 29th). For no other apparent reason, all of Spain stopped. No bues, no trains, no banks, no Alhambra. We heard of one couple (and I am sure there are thousands just like them) that traveled all the way from Perth, Australia to see the Alhambra. Only it was closed because of this strike! These people are literally on the outside looking in. "Um, sorry. Come back next week and maybe we can let you in then!" Not!!
But I digress - the Alhambra...
The Alhambra, located on a hill overlooking Granada in the interior of Spain, is (or was), I believe, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Not sure about that, but if it wasn't then it should've been! It is a sprawling, architectural mélange of palaces, fortresses, and gardens built over a relatively short period of time at the end of the middle ages (15-16th century). What happens to most of these incredible monuments is that different civilizations don't destroy these things as they conquer them, but rather make a few remodeling changes and add on to them. So by the time the last emperor decides the place is uninhabitable or for some other reason doesn't want to live there you have, well, Alhambra!
Alhambra was the western capital of the Moorish empire before it fell into the hands of the Christians. And because of this east-west influence, I immediately started to draw comparisons to Turkey. I must say that I expected it to be like Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. That palace, used by nearly all of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire was quite opulent with richly brocade thrones, royal gowns, tapestries, gems, and the like. The Alhambra, on the other hand, had none of this. But what Topkapi lacked in architecture, Alhambra more than made up for.
It has some incredible, arched doorways, rooms, and entire buildings and patios that in its heyday must have been the envy of every ruler of the world. The Moors (and Arabs in general) use a technique of intricate carvings in either soft limestone or plaster to yield a baroque-ish effect on the walls and ceilings that is both awe-inspiring as well as spiritually inspiring. By carving Islamic messages in Arabic into these carvings, the visitor and occupant are reminded constantly of the source of all this good life.
One other common trait of the Moors and Turks (and undoubtedly all or most of the Arabic world) is the use of complex and repetitive designs painted in bright colors on the tiles. It reminds me of Salvadore Dali, but without the fish transforming into birds in flight, if you know what I mean. The effect is both illuminating (with the bright colors painted on usually a white field) and calming (with the repetition). Very unique.
The centerpiece (or at least one of them!) of the Alhambra is the Lion' Fountain (for which they would not allow any pictures). This fountain has 8 carved marble lions holding up a large basin of water on their backs while a stream of water comes out of each of their mouths. It isn't entirely clear to me how they were able to pressurize the water to do this, but obviously they figured it out because one of the gardens had a pool with a beautiful and extensive array of water spouts providing both a visual and aural ambiance.
The gardens of Alhambra are exquisite and include a wide variety of plants, flowers and trees - some of which are hundreds of years old. I saw my first pomegranate tree ('Granada' is Spanish for pomegranate), a yew tree that would knock your socks off, and rose gardens with manicured hedges like the type you expect to see in England or Victoria Gardens.
King Carlos V added a magnificent, two-story round palace to the grounds sometime in the late 16th century that I really took to. I need one for our house. I just need to figure out how to annex a couple hundred more acres to our postage-stamp of a lot and then we are only about 250 million dollars away from having one of our own! A couple of cathedrals and a few other touches give a hint to the 'changing of the guard' to a Christian dynasty, but make no mistake -- Alhambra's magnificence is firmly set in Moorish architecture and magnificence.
The photo for today is from the outside of the Lion's Palace, where the Lion's Fountain is presently housed. All around the exterior of the building are these beautiful bronze rings held there by either lion heads or eagle heads. They look like giant door knockers. Upon seeing it, I surprised even myself with how quickly the words flowed out of my mouth, "Well, will ya look at the knockers on that one!!" Perhaps it was because my mind was already in the gutter looking at all the beautiful Spanish women. Spanish women are, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful women of the Mediterranean. Not that I have taken much notice, of course!
It was Will's 14th birthday a couple of days ago (28th). We had a quiet day of it and ended up loading the boy up with too many gifts, I am afraid. I think Ruth and I were scared we wouldn't think of anything for him, and over time ended up coming up with too many ideas. The big item was another camera, but this one is waterproof to 3 meters. So when we get to the Caribbean he will be able to take (and post on the blog!) some underwater pictures of fishies and the like.
And the weather has started to turn cold! We are starting to use the heater on board Time Warp again. Time to head south. From here we head to Gibraltar to hook up with Juno for a couple of days, then Ceuta, Spain to haul out, then back to Gib to pick up crew for the ARC.