Today has been a great day. I've probably had one of the best experiences, if not THE best experience of the trip so far. My feet are also fucked up, which is usually a good sign. Me and Sam are currently on the terrace of the hostel again - Sam is currently designing a computer font (a bit random I know; I'll explain later), and I'm typing this shit right now. Hello!
I don't think I mentioned it yesterday, but the steps up to this terrace area are some scary shit. Firstly, there are some proper stairs to get up to the fourth floor, but they are slippery and get very thin at one stage, with nothing to hold on to but some very dodgy-looking poles which probably wouldn't support Sam's body weight. Although to be fair, not much would.
Then there are some extremely precarious-looking wooden steps. Bearing in mind that just before you ascend the steps, you see from a balcony how high up you are. The worst part of this is the top step - it is cracked straight down the middle.
It's a completely safe, child-friendly environment.
For the first time since we've been away, I actually looked up the weather forecast for back home. I kept hearing people moaning about the weather on Facebook, so I thought I'd see what we're missing. Apparently, there's meant to be rain tomorrow and for it to be 13 degrees; on Tuesday it's meant to be raining, 12 degrees and a 14 mph wind. What the fuck? I swear that's what the weather's like in February. I don't think I'll tell you what the weather's like here because it will depress you too much.
So anyway, compared to yesterday certainly, we've managed to do quite a lot in the beaming sunshine and 29 degree heat. We know a great deal more about what Granada is about, but we've still left more than enough to do tomorrow, so we're glad that we have almost a whole extra day here before leaving for Barcelona.
And we didn't get really lost at any stage too, so that was a bonus. It's always good when your map is actually representative of the place you are in.
There's quite a bit to get through, so I better get started on telling you what we did. I REALLY don't want to go to bed at some shit time like 4 o'clock again eating cookies to stay awake. Not a good habit!
We woke up at 10 o'clock. This was bad.
For some reason, we completely forgot last night that staying at our hostel includes free breakfast, which was the main reason why we decided to stay here.
However, it is only served from 7am to 10am. Fuck.
We considered quickly throwing on some clothes and running downstairs there to see if they were still willing to serve us breakfast, but we moved about an inch form where we were laying and then decided going all that way down one flight of stairs would be too much effort.
Luckily though, while I was in the shower Sam looked to see if there was any leftover food, and he came back with four corn muffins and about five slices of bread. Result!
We ate some of this stuff and also some fruit we had left over from yesterday while planning what we were going to do for the day. We decided that we were going to visit the Alhambra region of Granada. (With a tiny bit of help from Wikipedia and the leaflet sitting next to me) This is a 14th century fortress, which was built on a hill in Granada to be an independent city at the time, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you see some of the pictures you'll realise why.
So we set off, using our map to find the way towards the Alhambra.
We passed through some interesting tourist streets:
And found a fountain! The fountain has a Sam on it! Notice how the water is coming from stone shaped like a bull:
Granada, like many Andalucian settlements, is filled with these narrow streets with tall buildings, designed to create as much shade as possible to avoid the deadly summer sunlight.
We saw some typical Spanish rooftops when walking up a sloping path:
This is a typical Spanish scene:
Hello Mr Lizard.
A woman casually reading a newspaper on the bridge:
All of these photos were taken as we walked near the river, thinking that we were going towards the Alhambra. This last photo was taken at the point where we'd realised we went the wrong way, so we headed back down the street to see if we could find a way there.
As the Alhambra is located on a hill, we took a turn with some steps on it, thinking it would eventually get us there.
It didn't work.
But, we did find a quiet residential area which was fascinating in terms of the culture of the area, and we took some photos.
We found a tiny children's play park. It only had two things to play on. But we were both really interested by it, especially from an artistic point of view. There was so much you could read into it. See what you think:
I also wandered up some of the nearby alleyways. Here are some of the photos I took:
I got a nice view over the buildings at one point:
So we'd gone wrong twice. It's quite worrying that we've had so many problems with maps and I'm meant to be doing Geography at university in October...
But it was third time lucky, and we found the road up to the Alhambra.
After only a slight incline initially, we suddenly had to scale like a 30 degree slope. Look at the fucking bench!
We managed it in the end (luckily there were benches every 30m going up the hill haha), and we found what looked like an entrance gate to Alhambra.
So we went through the tower and ended up in an area with a palace (the Alcazaba) on the left and the Palacio de Carlos V on the right. We also saw a MASSIVE queue leading to behind the Palacio.. we couldn't find out what it was for, so we left it alone and entered the Palacio.
Here's what we saw:
It was a lovely building and one that is more complex than it originally seems.
In this building, there was also a temporary exhibition of abstract art by an artist called Sean Scully, inspired by the geometry, flow and colour of Islamic patterns in architecture. At first I didn't really understand it (it just looked like some badly painted coloured rectangles), but it was a very clever exhibition as the further you went into it, the more you became aware of, and when you revisited certain paintings you could understand where he was coming from.
Here's an example of one of his paintings and also some of his photography so you can see what he's doing (hopefully):
The photography is of shacks which incorporate the Islamic colour/geometry.
Seeing this exhibition really helped me to appreciate stuff later on.
After this, we headed out and got two white magnums from an ice-cream stand. While we were there, we saw people using electronic tickets to get into the Alcazaba on the left, but we hadn't seen anyone selling tickets.
I asked a man selling audioguides and he said that we'd taken the wrong entrance and we needed to go out, walk up a road a bit and then we would hit the ticket offices.
We did as he said, but we stopped by a sign that indicated what the prices were. There was no discount for students, so for one general admission it costed 12 euros.
At this point Sam had a bit of a headache, and his feet were hurting. He wasn't too keen on walking around slowly and looking at stuff, but he didn't want to stop me doing it if I wanted to. Also the price was quite expensive - it would have costed us 24 euros in total.
So we made this decision to split up.
We decided that we'd meet back at the hostel at 8 o'clock. I would go an look around the Alhambra region while Sam would go back to the hostel, sample some of the local coffee and look for some contemporary architecture.
It made sense because it gave us the freedom to do what we wanted without being held back, and also we both had maps so we could find our way back to the hostel.
So Sam gave me 20 euros, he headed off back towards town, and I headed to the ticket office for the Alhambra.
It didn't take me long to get there, but unfortunately the queues were quite long as there was only one desk open. As I was buying the tickets on the day, I was also in the low-priority queue too, as informed by this sign. See if you can spot the horrible grammatical error:
While I was waiting in the queue, a girl came up to me and asked me in Spanish if I'd been waiting long. I said that I'd been waiting for about 15 minutes, and we started talking about how the people with reserved tickets seemed to be taking ages, even though in theory they should take less time.
I didn't think that she sounded Spanish, so I asked her if she was and she said that she wasn't. I told her I was English and she was like "Oh we can talk in English then!"
The funny thing was that she was doing the same sort of thing that me and Sam are, albeit in a different way. I told her about the trip and that we're going to Barcelona next, and she said she lives near Barcelona and has been hitchhiking from there with her friends and hopes to get to Gibraltar.
She said that we will really enjoy Barcelona, so that's promising.
Eventually I was called to get my ticket, so we said goodbye and I headed off for the Alhambra. But it's amazing the people you meet when you do things like this. There is a really good atmosphere between travellers, which I've never experienced before as I've never done anything like this. You can relate to these people who are in your situation, and more often than not these people are willing to help you, which is great and gives you an ally incase you get into any trouble when travelling.
So I walked up the hill towards the fortress. On my ticket was printed my time for visiting the Nasrid Palaces, the main attraction of the Alhambra - this was at 5 o'clock. I was given a map of the area too when I got my leaflet, so I used this to work out my route to the palaces. At 4.40pm, I saw a sign that said 'Nasrid Palaces 20 min. walk'... how more perfect could that have been?!
The walk was lovely. There are some incredible gardens and buildings all around the Alhambra, and with the weather being so good, everything look perfect. Here are some pictures I took on this walk:
A nice bridge:
A nice building:
The beautiful building of a convent within Alhambra:
One side of the Palacio de Carlos V that we visited earlier:
A decorative archway:
For some reason, there are a lot of stray cats around Granada. When we were walking alongside the river, we saw about five of them sunbathing. It seems that they also like it around the Alhambra:
This is where I realised what that massive queue was all about earlier. It was people waiting to get in the Nasrid Palaces, as there are specific time slots for when you can go in. For my 5pm time slot, there was already a massive queue, so I had to wait for quite a while before I actually got in.
But it was well worth the wait. This place is incredible.
It incorporates typical Islamic decorative styles and merges them with gardens, arches, windows and much more. You can really see why it is so popular. There is only so much I tell you in words; I'll let the pictures do the rest.
The entrance to the palaces:
Islamic wall patterns/tiling:
A view over part of Granada:
A decorative door:
Three Islamic patterns:
Amazing wall/ceiling design:
The outside area of one of the palaces:
More decorative arches/window/doors/ceilings:
There was a balcony which gave a great view of the city:
Fountain and arches:
The last palace area:
After the Nasrid Palaces, the next area I wanted to visit was the Generalife, an area on the other side of the Alhambra region with gardens and beautiful buildings. It was built as recreation for the Kings of Granada.
To get there, I needed to walk through some more gardens and pass some of the watch towers of the Alhambra. Here's what I saw in between the Nasrid Palaces and Generalife:
A stunning palace:
A little fountain:
Two watch towers:
The gardens leading up to the Generalife:
I think I'll do another picture tour - my words alone are not good enough to describe this shit.
View if the Alcazaba from a balcony:
Intricate details around windows:
Another view over Granada:
A typical pond and water feature overlooking a building:
At this point, a Spanish man came up to me and asked me to take a photo of him. I took a couple and he said thank you, and then we started talking. I realised he was mentally disbaled, and although he had some difficulty speaking, I understood him perfectly. He asked me where I was from, and I said 'England'. He thought for a little while and then said 'London!'. I said, 'Yeah that's right, I live near London', and he went on to say he came from Valencia. He then said thank you again and went off to take some more photos.
Although this event may not seem terribly significant, it just reminded me of the importance of human interaction, and how much harder life can be without it. Here we had two people from two completely different walks of life, and yet we both left each other as better people thanks to that brief encounter.
When travelling like we are now, you are forced to communicate with other people, because f you don't then you won't get what you need to enjoy yourself or even survive. And this is probably one of the most important aspects of this trip because it opens your mind up to different ways of living, different attitudes and allows you to compare life where you are to life back home.
It develops your personal paradigms.
Sorry I just had to add that in there. Me and Sam always joke about how 'paradigm' is such a buzz word that people use completely out of context just to sound intelligent when in fact they are talking bullshit. Write that sentence in an essay and you pretty much automatically gain two marks.
Windowzzzz and archezzzzzzz:
A small drinking fountain:
More lovely gardens:
This was the end of the Generalife, so now there was only one more thing for me to do before meeting Sam - the Alcazaba.
This is a big fort-type thing on the same side of the Alhambra as the Nasrid Palaces (which meant that I had to walk all the way back to the other side of the hill again *sigh*).
I think it had four towers in total, each of which offered a spectacular view over the whole of Granada and the surrounding area. I didn't realise how big a city it is until visiting the Alcazaba; it's actually massive.
Ready for some more photos? Let's do this shit.
From the outside:
The fort itself...
Looking at two towers from another one:
Looking at the tallest tower:
The kind of walkway that massacres your feet:
The Plaza de las Armas, a former military camp:
The bell at the top of the largest tower:
Here are some of the incredible views over the city from the towers:
At this point it was about 7.40pm, so I needed to hurry up and get down to the hill so I could meet Sam! Luckily going down a 30 degree slope is much easier than going up it. I wouldn't have been surprised if Sam had just rolled down earlier.
I managed to find the hostel again and was only a couple of minutes late.
Sam said he had had a 1 hour nap, gone to a café by the cathedral to experience the Granada café culture, and had worked on a computer font while I was away. The font was based on the 'Territorio de Niños' writing that we'd seen earlier in that tiny children's play park. It's looking pretty good so far.
We went out for dinner pretty much straight after I got back (it was easy for Sam, I'd probably walked like 8 miles beforehand, I could have done with a rest). Sam said he'd seen an area with loads of restaurants, so he said he'd take me there.
In typical style though, Sam got lost. We were wandering around thse buildings smothered in graffiti and Sam was like 'Oh I think it's just down the road'. Yes. Because it's completely normal for there to be loads of posh restaurants in the fucking ghetto.
I asked him if he was sure we turned the right way out of the hostel, and he said 'Yeah, I'm completely sure'. And yet about half an hour later when we eventually found the place, IT WAS IN THE OTHER DIRECTION. Oh well.
We eventually decided to eat at this quite posh-looking restaurant, but in the end it only came to 30 euros which isn't too bad. I had a glorified version of chicken and chips while Sam had a pizza. Here's the meal:
It was really really good.
We headed back to the hostel happy with full stomachs.
So that more or less brings you up to date.
I am no longer on the terrace. Because if I was, I would have been there all night.
It's now 12.50pm here. I was writing the blog until 5am in the morning, and by that point I felt like I was gonna collapse, so I decided I'd finish it this morning. Sorry about that if you normally read the blog in the morning.
This post had a lot of content, particularly photos, which always slows down the process. I hope you enjoy them though; I hope they give you a good feel of the place.
Me and Sam are just about to visit the cathedral. Sam went out for a coffee and I was supposed to meet him 8 minutes ago... oops.
I CAN'T STOP WRITING!!!
Important news though: as me and Sam are getting the train hotel thing at 10.15pm tonight to Barcelona, I will do a blog post earlier tonight at about 9pm here, so that will be 8pm in the UK. That way you won't have to wait until tomorrow to find out what we did today, and I won't have to do another mega blog update telling you about two days worth of stuff. Fuck that would be hard. And I would be even more sleep deprived.
So check out the blog later on where I'll tell you about the cathedral, hopefully the old district of Granada and plenty of other stuff. I'll also try and fit in some stuff about the hostel where we'll be staying in Barcelona.
So thanks for reading, and I'll update again later today.
Jack - 4/6/12 - 13:01 in Madrid, 12:01 in the UK.