Wednesday 11 March 2015

So just to clear up the heading we are off to the City of Granada and the Bernsteins used that name for their chain of cinemas based in southern England and later for their bid for the northern ITV franchises originally offered, so there is a link between the two.  Granada is the Spanish for pomegranate which is also the symbol of the city.

An early start this morning as the outing has to be planned around the availability of the limited tickets for the Alhambra which was the last strong hold of Muslims in western Europe and is the main purpose of our visit.  Collected at 8am we drift off to sleep for much of the journey, with one 20 minute stop for refreshments we reach the unloading point in Granada around 10:20.

Our guide leads us into the city centre and indicates where the local attractions can be found within walking distance and the need to regroup at 12:20 to return to the coach to be taken to the Alhambra Palace – a red fort on top of the hill.

Much of the area we saw in Granada (which was limited) looked like typical 19th century construction and there was little of huge architectural merit in the buildings around the centre.  Exceptions to this are of course the Cathedral (but hemmed in by more buildings) and the architecture in the Arab market (which is tiny, with no more than five entrances); sadly the shops within the market area no longer reflect the Arab inheritance.

The highlight is the Alhambra Palaces and these were largely the construction of the Islamic Nasrid rulers largely developed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries when this was a great centre of Moorish power in the west which eventually succumbed to Spanish rule in 1492.  Thereafter the Islamic people were driven from the area by various degrees and use of force.

Once the Catholics had gained control they also ruled from here and changes were made to reflect the new religion without obliviating the Muslim writings already on the wall.  In that sense it follows what happened at Angkor Wat where the new religion coming did not remove the previous Hindu carvings, but merely added new to reflect the change to Buddhism.  At the Alhambra this is first seen at the Justice Gate where a statue of the Madonna and Jesus has been installed above the entrance.

Like many places we have seen there is no furniture or any other evidence of how the rulers lived within the palaces.  The guide taking us around was fairly clear in which were the male quarters and the female quarters but evidence and knowledge of what lies behind the decoration and how the palaces operated is simply non-existent.  And there is now no method for finding answers to those questions.

Within the palaces there are however some marvellous decoration, although much of the colours have faded with perhaps only the blue surviving.  Like the temples of Siem Reap the site fell into disuse and was only rediscovered in the nineteenth century and the restoration and reworking of parts of the buildings means that many ceilings are completely new and other changes have been made.

As ever I would refer your to Wikipedia for a far better description than mine of what we saw.

When sorted and labelled I will add a link to my Flickr photos of the Palaces.

Linked to the main Palaces but outside the walls is the Summer Palace which occupies a position on an adjacent hillside.  This was built later and in summer no doubt provides a cooler outlook on the world.  Later in the 1930’s a formal garden was designed and added to the outside of the Palace and this was extended in the 1960’s with a small amphitheatre for outdoor productions.  The entire area now needs a large number of maintenance staff to maintain the gardens.  Whilst simple the gardens and Summer Palace should not be missed; so save some of your strength as this always comes at the end of the tour.

We are collected at 16:30 and as we leave Granada we can see the snow laden hills of the Sierra Nevada in the distance.  In the old days probably not worth a photo, but with modern digitals we are all clicking away madly in the hope of getting a single good shot.  Manage to remain awake for much of the journey – which interestingly requires the coach engine to work hard as a brake as significant parts of the journey are downhill and it is all good motorway for much of the trip including some significant lengths of tunnelling.  We are back in Nerja before 6 – much faster than the outward journey and reflective no doubt of the slow climb of the hills.  No doubt the motorways are of modern construction which led me to wonder if say 30 years ago it would even have been possible to do the entire trip in a single day.

No special meals today, but uniquely we did consume ham and cheese in some form at each of our three meals today.