Tuesday, July 22, 2008

First 12 Hours

"Granada likes its ice-cream," I note, arriving a little after midnight. The main hubbub at that time in the evening isn’t around a bar, but in and around the ice-cream parlour on Calle Gran Via de Colón. My initial approach to the city had been greeted with a firework display, and I have to conclude that arrivals don’t get much better than pyrotechnics and frozen dessert. I potter round for a couple of hours, getting my bearings and exploring backstreets and enjoying the pleasing contrast to the rather seedy Malaga, before deciding to find my hostel in order to crash out.

En-route, I meet a lady who, having seen my rucksack, asks me where I have arrived from. We chat a bit and she, apparently, has just been to Britain and knows the place I’m staying at, and offers to walk me there. This all seems rather agreeable to me – an evening stroll through a foreign city with a friendly and attractive native – so I consent. Soon, however, we are climbing up dank and deserted backstreets, and I begin to suspect a dastardly trap is being laid. I check I have my fake wallet to hand – a £3 wallet bought from a market, stuffed with a couple of 5 Euro notes and assorted foreign currency which is of little uses to me anymore (including 10,000 South Korean Won), alongside an expired young person’s railcard and a number of those fake credit cards you get sent in the post in an attempt at temptation, all of which I have found provides a level of satisfaction in handing over that far outweighs any sense of moral self-righteousness that putting up a fuss and having your face sliced open for your valiant efforts can offer – and I decide to check her back story.
"Where in Britain did you visit?" I tentatively enquire.
"Staffordshire," she replies, matter-of-factly.
I am satisfied. No-one, I conclude, would make up that they went to Staffordshire.

At about 5am, a sound wakes me, and I make my way to my balcony overlooking the city and discover the source of the sound.
“Swifts like Granada,” I muse, as I watch thousands of birds wheeling and screaming in the glow of dawn.

I stand and watch colour seep across the city as the sun climbs above the snow capped Sierra Nevada to the east and bathes everything with new-found energy.

Wide-eyed by all before me, I know I can’t return to bed, so I shower and dress and head out. Fresh out of bed, out on the street I encounter people still on their way home from their night out, and I feel like a bit of a loser. Soon afterwards, I see a cat, and this cheers me up: cats always cheer me up. I soon see many more, and realise that they are stray and ill-kept, and this makes me a bit glum again.

I walk aimlessly for a while, before deciding I might as well head up to the Alhambra, it still being early enough to beat any queues. The Alhambra (or Azkaban, as one Australian I later meet accidentally calls it), should you not know, is a pink fortress, citadel, and palace that perches on a hill overlooking Granada, a sprawling complex of intricate design built by the Moors during their occupation of the Iberian peninsula. Catholic monarchs united to eventually drive the Muslims out of Spain at the end of the 1400s during the conclusion of the Reconquista, with those Jews and Moors who remained being forced in the coming years to convert to Christianity, only to then face the Inquisition. By and large, the Alhambra was spared though, unlike the city’s mosque, which took some 500 years to replace, or indeed the contents of the palace’s library, from which tens of thousands of books were burnt.

Originating from arid lands, the Moors insured their masterpiece incorporated water and shade to make the palace as luxurious as they could. I welcome this as the sun starts to rise in the sky as I arrive, and I’m also starting to feel the effects of only a couple of hours sleep. I duck a few swifts that tumble through the courtyards, and slowly amble round, dipping my hands in the fountains but steering clear of the ponds, which look a little murky.

A stream, running down a bannister. Genius!

By midday, I’ve already had a long day and the heat has become surprisingly overwhelming. I trudge back down to the city: siesta time.


Chris Cope said...

The whole time I'm reading this, I'm thinking: "When's Huw gonna mention the invasion?" and "Ooh, that's an old building -- surprising it wasn't damaged in the invasion."

I was, of course, thinking of Grenada. Not Granada.

Curly said...

Pretty spectacular!

Listening to the majority of peoples descriptions and experiences of Spain, I've never harboured an interest to go. This post makes it all sound rather nice!

Will said...

Sounds cool - but I got distracted by the brilliance of the fake wallet idea. I might make one and carry it always (until I get mugged. Fingers crossed).

Huw said...

The danger of the Fake Wallet is that you actually want to get mugged.

deanne said...

Ooo - I want to go there. Just the place with the water (I like the banister).

I had a chuckle over 'Azkaban'.

Shane said...

You have reminded me of a very good film, In the Name of the Rose.

Otherly, as Curly suggests, you are good for the Iberians.

Monica said...

I can't believe I quoted you back to you this weekend. Rather than be angry at me for not recalling the authorship, is there anyway I can convince you to be flattered, as it's one of my favorite blog comments of the past four years?