Friday, June 22, 2012

Granada, Spain - June 2012

The city of Granada, Spain is well known for two things - the Alhambra, which is a huge red fort on an equally huge hill, and Alhambra beer...which is particularly good after climbing a huge hill and wandering around a huge red fort called the Alhambra!
I can honestly attest that Zack and I walked our keisters off.  Our conquest of the Alhambra began at night when we climbed a hill across the steep and narrow valley to get a bird's eye view of the fort.  We were impressed by two things:
      (1) the size and beauty of the Alhambra and how majestically imposing it looked under the full moon.  I could only imagine that if I were a sergeant who had been given the order to, "Take the fort!" how I would have reacted to my captain:
Captain:  Good news, Sergeant Bursi.  We want you to storm the Alhambra!
Me :  You want me to do what??
Captain:  Storm the Alhambra.  Get your men and go get those evil Moors off that hill.
Me:  Have you seen the Alhambra, sir?
Captain:  I've read about it.
Me:  Have you seen it, sir?
Captain:  I've seen it on a map.  It looks like it's on a hill.  Must be a nice view, eh?
Me:  Permission to speak freely, sir!  (big salute)
Captain:  Of course, Sergeant Bursi.  At ease.  You know that I value your opinion.
Me:  Thank you, sir.  The Alhambra is a fort with 40 foot walls on top of a hill that is over 1,000 feet high.  For us to attack would be insane.  We would get slaughtered.  We'd have to use both hands just to hold on to the rocks as we climb the mountain.  It's that steep!
Captain:  Hmmmmm.  I'd like to change my mind, Sergeant...from now on... when I ask your opinion... I'll tell you what it is!
Me:  I understand Sir. In the meantime, I'll just go rot in your brig while I await the invention of the airplane.

 (2)  The second impressive thing we saw during our climbing of the adjacent hill was a little outdoor cafe.  We were the only customers for awhile until a man showed up with a dog.  As he passed a table, he sat down as if he were going to eat and his dog sat on the ground as if he was waiting to be shown to a seat.  So the man said, "Siento! and pointed to an empty chair across the table.  Up jumped the dog on to the seat.  But here's the best part.

 Our waiter was laughing and talking to the man and then he came to us and told us about the man and dog.  Apparently, the man and dog are a tag team "statue entertainers" that you see in the park.  He's known as "La Plata" or the Man in Silver, because he paints himself in complete silver as a knight.  His "act" is that he stands over his dog with both hands holding a sword over his head, acting as if he is going to stab his dog, who is lying motionless on his side with his tongue out.  They do this for 3 hours at a time!  The thought of the black lab lying with his tongue out  as the vanquished foe for three hours had us and the waiter laughing uncontrollably.

The next morning we set out to conquer the hill and the fort, knowing that we'd be climbing the hill when it would be over 100 degrees.  There is no way you could have convinced me to attack that hill in 1492, when the fort fell to the Spaniards.  Funny, how we Americans equate 1492 to Columbus, and how the Moors remember it as a resounding defeat for their empire.  When the Alahambra fell, that was it for the Muslims/Arabs/Moors reign in Spain.  They returned to Africa leaving beautiful architecture and a bunch of dead soldiers.  Amazing history.  We think of Spain as Latin/Catholic but the Muslims were there for over 700 years!!  The Latin/Catholic have been around for about the same amount of time.  Makes me wonder what happens in the next 700 years.  Someone else will most likely have to write about that.

After the Catholics retook Spain and the Alhambra, the old fort was left empty and began to deteriorate until the 1831, when an American, Washington Irving, wrote about it in "Tales of the Alhambra" .  Boom!  Money poured in and it was restored.  Again, I think someone said:
Engineer - We want you to restore the Alhambra
Carpenter - Excellent idea.  Let's wait a few more years, so that when the helicopter is invented, we can have the 2x4's delivered.

Our ascent to the top of the hill was as steep as I remembered from the night before.  The roads presented many an obstacle as they were extremely narrow, which turned out to be a good thing as it forced the cars to slow down to just "break neck" speed. Rarely did we see a car in this part of Granada that didn't have scrapes on the sides of it's mirrors or doors.  
     Call me naive, but I'm thinking that if I owned a car in Granada, it would be a motorcycle or a 20 years old junker.

At times we were met by:
 vicious dragons
    evil minotaurs
          unknown beast...

       such as this fellow

Upon reaching the top, and sweating profusely, we reached the gates to the Alhambra, which meant that we only had another 1/2 hour to walk uphill, but at least it was through some English gardens.

Once inside the palace/fort/church, we marveled at the Arabesque architecture.  I like all the curly-ques and ornate detail to each square inch of the building.  Once the Catholics took over in 1492, Spain experienced a cleansing which included the infamous Inquisition Period and the Muslims and Jews were "asked to leave" from many cities.  Others were made to convert.  Still, others, were made to die.

My favorite section of the Alhambra was an "added-on" section of the fort which was a complete circle of marble arches, steps, and floors.  It looked like a mini-Colosseum.

When Zack is impressed by a building, I know it's an impressive building.  It was an amazing feat to build such a monster on such a monstrous hill.  To give an idea of what the Alhambra meant to the Arabs, Granada was the last stronghold of Arabs in Europe.  It lasted 250 years after the previous capital of the Moors/Arabs fell.  250 years!!
That is longer than the USA has been a country!
The Alhambra was a great visit because it gave us an inclination as to how insignificant we are.  That it can be built and exist for hundreds of years... and merely be a footnote in a history book, is amazing.  What will people 500 years from now remember about the last 50-60 years?? It won't be whether or not I look dorky in my gray socks and short pants, will it?
Zack says it will!