Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Water and the Heat, Sangria and Gelato (Granada)

Now with photos at the bottom of post!

I'm in Granada as I write, staying one more night and leaving tomorrow evening. I've been here since Monday afternoon. I've been enjoying it here. The hostel I'm staying at, Oasis Backpacker's, is excellent: 15 Euro a night for a dorm bed, with fridges in the rooms, lots of space, a roof-top terrace, backyard patio, good size kitchen, free breakfast, free internet. Basically everything a hostel can do right, which is why I had to book in advance to be able to stay here. They even put on events at the hostel, like dinner parties that cost 3.50 Euro for a three-course meal, of which I have partaken and been well-pleased.

Today I've been taking it easy, just spent the afternoon strolling around town with Andrea from Montreal and we stopped for drinks at one place and then gelato at another. A nifty thing about Spain is that you sometimes (always in Granada) get tapas (snacks) for free with your drinks. So not only do you not feel rushed away from your table like you often do in Canada when you don't order a whole meal, you actually feel welcomed to stay because they've brought you food. It also slows down the pace of people's drinking, I think, so that you don't get that problem with drunkeness that plagues other cities in the world.

The gelato here is like fluffy ice cream. It's soft, but it's not like soft serve ice cream because it still has the graininess to it that hard serve ice cream does. Whatever it is, it's real good.

It's a different schedule and pace of life entirely, and I must say that it's pleasant. Shops in Granada actually do close down for a siesta period in the afternoons, opening again in the evening. People go out into the streets and the squares later in the evening to chat with others, and often stay out quite late. In Madrid, the busiest I saw the streets was at midnight. People are everywhere at night, and it's not like they're all out drunk, they're just having dinner or sitting around. It's people of all ages out at night too, not just the young folk.

I asked some of the Spanish folk at Vaughan Town about the siesta break that they get from work - do they actually sleep, for example? I asked specifically about people who have to travel to get to work so that it wouldn't be feasible for them to travel home to take a rest, so I wondered if they slept at their offices. From what I gathered, many people do go home and take a nap, but those who are unable to go home don't sleep. So how people in Spain have the stamina to stay up to the wee hours of the night and then go to work for 9am day after day is still a bit of a mystery to me. I know I couldn't do it without a nap sometime.

I went to the Alhambra yesterday with a California girl, Shannon. We had to wait in line for almost two hours to get our tickets, and we arrived there at 7:45am. The wait wasn't too bad because we had each other to talk to and also some fellows from South Africa in the queue behind us. The worst part was that we had dressed for the usual 27-or-so degree weather and it was more like 12 degrees, so we felt cold.

Anyway, once in the gates Shannon and I checked out the gardens, the palace, and the fortress. Now, before I go on further, I should explain something. I never really had any interest in visiting Spain at all until I read a book called The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. Kay is described as a historical fantasy writer, in that he writes books that have some fantasy element to them (often not much) and they are very much inspired by some period in Earth's history, but they are not set on Earth but an alternative world. That may sound a bit out there, but really they do follow the history that inspired them quite well, or at least the spirit of it.

So the book I mentioned is set in a version of Moorish Spain in the days before the Christian Reconquest. The description of "Spain" in this book is what caught my interest in the country - of the land in the north versus the south, the intense heat in parts and the farming country elsewhere. Some of the characters are royalty, and so there are many scenes in palaces and gardens just like the Alhambra.

I mention all this because the Alhambra could just be viewed as "another palace" said with a groan, because although it's gardens are quite beautiful, and the palace interiors are decorated with coloured tiles and carvings in every stone service, after a few rooms of that it could get sort of boring. If I hadn't read The Lions of Al-Rassan, I probably wouldn't have been overly impressed by the palace and grounds, other than the fact that there was an awful lot of work put into that place and the wealth was tremendous. But I did read the book, so I was also imagining the people who would have once lived their and the events that would have taken place. So that made it have a little extra to me. What really grabbed me about the place, besides the obvious wealth involved, was the focus on water. Every courtyard, every garden, had at least one fountain or pool. In a place that can experience droughts, I suppose this could have just been another way of showing off wealth. However, referring back to my reading experience, I recalled descriptions of the intense heat of southern Spain (that I'm experiencing just a taste of now) and how the people in the novel really felt the relief and sustenance of water from its presence in gardens. You can still see that focus on water today in southern Portugal and Spain, where city squares often consist of benches around a fountain.

All these photos are from the Alhambra. If you want a photo of the fortress itself, I suggest you Google Image search it, because you'll find ones taken from better vantage points and with better cameras than mine.

I like mosaics. Europe is full of them.

I like the symmetry here.

This looked pretty.
Yep, a post.

Besides seeing the town, I've been having a great time talking to the other travellers at my hostel. I've come to realize that meeting other people is often more enjoyable for me than the places I see. I need to find a job where I'm always meeting new people - I guess the hotel trade was a good one, but then the hours are pretty intense as well. Anyone have any ideas?

Going to head back to the hostel and shower before the free Spanish lesson that's being offered - I figure anything will be of help! No more deleting blogs accidentally for me.
The very dry river and bank. Just thought the wall looked cool.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To the people that want to travel to Spain and especially Andaluc√≠a I give you a good tip. There is a great hostel where you can crash! In the White Nest Hostel in Granada, recently opened, you can find a young international group of like minded people, in fresh vibrant surroundings. You will have a great time to remember your entire life…..Based at the foot of the Alambra, the area is both central and historical.Full of tapas` bars really close and everywhere!!. I recommend you to stay in Hostels Granada and experience the life of Albayzin, Sacromonte and the heart of Granada itself.