In my childhood as a novice philatelist, I had often come across postage stamps of Granada. There was almost no other information available about this place. Years later, one became foggily aware of diplomatic fracas between UK and US after US engineered coup d etat to overthrow a Marxist leaning government in Granada. However, it was only now when I was planning a trip to Spain that I truly became aware of the full magnitude of the grandeur of the name Granada. Of course, the Granada I was hitherto aware of was a tiny island in the Atlantic named after the city in Spain. This fact took its own time to make itself apparent. When I told friends and family that I would be going to Granada, I had to clarify not the Atlantic Island but the city in Spain. Apparently, this did not help matters much! I had to explain what is the claim to fame of both the Granadas!
|Gigantic Bull cutouts|
|View of Granada from Alhambra|
|Sancho Panza from Don Quixote|
This is singularly unfortunate. Because at one point in history, Granada (Spain) was the prima Donna among the cities of the old-world rivaling Istanbul, Cairo and Delhi. It was the centre of Islamic culture and was at the forefront of medieval scientific thought, seemingly puny today but having the seeds of the Renaissance. Under Moslem Spain (Andalus), Granada served as the capital and was de facto nerve centre of the caliphate. Like all good things, it also ended with the Reconquista and its glamour and influence gradually faded. Nevertheless, what remains today is grand enough. Its a scenic hill top location that offered a vantage point during its heydays. Today it offers stunning sunset sights, Bill Clinton is said to have remarked that the his favourite sunsets are in Granada.
|Gardens of Alhambra|
Despite all this, there is no easy way of getting to Granada from Madrid. While one can always take an expensive direct flight, there are no direct trains. The buses take more than five hours for the 420 odd kilometres and are not very frequent. After much research, I took the ALSA bus from Madrid to Granada. It was on the day Indian General Election results were being declared. A strong 3G network all along the way helped me keep track of the things back home The bus journey does give a glimpse of the stunning Spanish landscape of low hills and vast plains. Occasionally one could spot gigantic cut outs of bulls and I presumed them to farms on which the bulls were bred for bull-fighting. Granada itself is one hill top and navigating the city on foot means stiff climbs. I took a precipitous bus to Alhambra, the Islamic citadel and a world heritage site. It always prudent to book the tickets online in advance because long serpentine queues greet one at the entrance. In addition, the Nasrid Palace allows only limited number of visitors per day and we missed seeing it as the tickets were sold out. Alhambra is nothing like the world outside its walls. Built in the Islamic style much reminiscent of Delhi, the gardens and the fort are impressive to say the least. They offer stunning view of the city of Granada below and much beyond. The fort ramparts are a fun place particularly for kids to explore and it looks a make-believe world. Yet, one is left with a tinge of sadness as everywhere one can see evidence of past glory which is today preserved tenuously. The other part of the Alhambra has the vast Generalife gardens and requires a separate ticket (though slightly more easily available). The gardens like everything else are set to rigid geometric designs and patterns. The edge of Generalife has small Queens Palace which offers stunning views of the Sierra Nevada mountains which perhaps delighted Mr Clinton so much! Water flows through the garden from fountains in neat patterns and one is inclined to think that the makers of this wonder would possibly have led disciplined lives. The gardens are laid with flowers. After all they could instill so much discipline into trees, fountains and water channels! Generalife is not a place to visit but a place to live. One cannot just say that they have visited it because it is life in motion. The sights and the surroundings are meant to stimulate thought and ideas. Sadly, we do not have time for the thoughts and our feet are tired and the children are hassled. Nevertheless, we decided to walk downhill through a sylvan path and trudge through the narrow lanes of the town hunting for our hotel. Google Maps comes to the rescue and we hit our hotel.
|Orderly symmetry at Generalife|
|Fountains at work in Generalife|
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